Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again too few to mention. I did what I had to do, and saw it through without exemption.
From “My Way”, a song written by Paul Anka made popular by Frank Sinatra
As far as Italian Americans in popular culture go, Frank Sinatra is an icon, a hero that generations of us have looked up to. He is almost a myth, with a life of such scope and accomplishment, it’s difficult for a regular guy like me to comprehend living as large as the Chairman of the Board.
Being a fan for a long time, I’ve got plenty of favorite Sinatra songs, and have always admired the lyrics of My Way, especially the above lyric where Frank seemingly shuns any regret in his life. The song is one of reflection of a life well lived, a life lived with integrity in dealing with the highs and lows that everyone will experience. Little wonder why it was so popular, as it was (and is) a song capable of vast connection.
Regrets are something I never really thought of when I was younger. In my teens and twenties, I lived my life as I chose, without really looking back or thinking anything about that pang of regret that might be felt as you get older and more reflective.
A weblog author I admire, Leo Babauta, wrote a great article that made me think of the Sinatra lyric, and at the same time had me thinking of things that I might have done differently. The post, 20 Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out In Life, is a great read for Leo’s attitude toward these things he wished he knew, but also for the striking similiarities to things I look back on with a little…regret.
1. Being more proactive in my career choices. I worked in the family restaurant business for many years, with a countless number of 12 to 14 hour days, most of them without a thought of what I could do differently to improve myself or better provide for my family. Those long days took me away from my wife and baby daughter consistently, and at times I felt powerless to do anything about it. Later on down the road, I held a sales job in an extremely toxic work environment. I stayed there for three years, hoping things would change. I don’t like to complain, but I wouldn’t send my dog to work there. And I was stupid to stay. Eventually I got out, and learned that you always have the power to change anything, especially work related stuff. I wish I had learned that sooner.
2. Being grateful for what I have. Although I may have the “attitude of gratitude” now, it wasn’t always so. As a teen, I could be angry enough to cause someone a real problem, and as I got older, some nuisances of everyday life could light that spark of anger again. It took me a long time to realize that this issue was not going to get me places, so I make real efforts consistently to focus on all that is right with my life: beautiful wife, wonderful kids, great family and friends, a roof over my head, and plenty of food to eat. When I start to stray from that, my mind always drifts to people that are having real problems. And I thank God for what I have, and what I will be given.
3. Sticking with my dreams. When I was young I wanted to be an actor, a paleontology guy, a singer, a bass player, a comic strip artist, center fielder for the Yankees, and a writer. Can someone give me one damn good reason why I am not one of those now? Bartending was a great gig, but in the 2nd grade my goal in life was not to mix martinis. I wanted to play baseball! And as a salesguy, hey I get the bills paid, but seriously…is it anybody’s dream?
I’m 46 now. And I am going to chase the dream. Whatever it is. I will write, will post on this blog, I will begin writing that book. Although my dreams may not be the same as in my pre-teen years from this point on, I will run them down. I’m 46 now. I wish I started sooner.
4. Lost time with family and friends. I’ve lost more time with my family than I care to admit. My kids are growing up, and that time is racing by faster. I have friends, cousins, uncles and aunts that I wish I spent more time with, but now I can’t. They’re gone, and they’re not coming back. And that’s the worst regret. I will never be able to change that. But I can work on what I’ve still got. I’ll be having dinner with a couple of friends this week that I haven’t seen in over a year. I talked to one of my best friends on the phone today at length. And I saw a buddy last week for the first time in a while, someone that I’ve known for decades…at his father’s wake. I can’t turn back the clock on this one, but I can make it better by taking action and reaching out to family and friends on a more regular basis, spending time on the really important stuff.
5. Taking better care of my health. I have smoked extensively, drank more than I needed, and done my fair share of partying until the wee small hours. I ran with a restaurant crowd whose objective after the work was done was to go to other restaurants, nightclubs, and bars until they shut down. And let’s not get started on the food. I was overweight as a teen, but worked hard to lose the pounds, and still keep most of it off. But like many Americans, I take medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol, and I as I get older, the fact that I’m not getting in any better shape concerns me. And the workaholic lifestyle, with the added alcohol and nicotine, were no help. But I think I’m doing the right things. I work out a little more, I don’t usually smoke unless a cigar magically appears, and I try to eat a little healthier. As much as the Italian food diet will allow, anyway.
6. Keeping a journal. Putting my life on paper. Although there are many other things I could list here, I think I’ll stop at number six. With no regrets. I’ve made a few entries into a beautiful journal that my wife got me as a gift years ago, but never enough to tell even a sliver of my story. I imagine how many journal entries I would have amassed if I had started ten, twenty, thirty years ago. I know how it would have been read years later. With no regrets. It would be the story of a man whose life is playing out exactly as it should, with any mistakes or missteps leading to better and bigger things. A series of entries about an awesome life, about a really lucky guy who has everything he could want, and the blessing of good health to enjoy it all. I do wish I wrote a lot of it down. I’d be happy to read it, to live it all again, this bella vita.
Regrets. Frank had a few. I don’t think I have any.