At the end of each work day, I cross the day off the little box on my calendar that I keep hanging in my cubicle. Usually, by the time my shift is within a half an hour of ending, I’m chomping at the bit to cross the day off. There’s something so satisfying about crossing the day off and knowing you made it through one more.
But as I crossed off the box the other day, something struck me.
I realized that the highlight of my day was being able to cross another day off my calendar, and it occurred to me, maybe a lot of us aren’t living our lives right because I know I’m not the only one. If the end of the day was all I was excited for, then maybe I wasn’t spending my time how I should be. Maybe we’re not living them right because we’re not prioritizing them the way we want to be prioritizing.
Society began to mold us at a young age. It’s right around high school that people start to tell us how we should be living our lives and what we should be striving for. They tell us to graduate high school, go to college, travel a little bit, and then get a job that pays the bills. Find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and then settle down. Pop out some kids, but the important part is settling down.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to stick to this plan as I blindly navigated my newfound adulthood. And do you know what happened? It almost ruined me. I was striving to live up to these expectations that no one set for me except for myself, all because that’s what I was observing other people around me doing. I did “normal” things. Things that I should love. Things that I should just do. And I hated it.
When depression really hit me hard, I found myself feeling nothing. And then I started doing things that could make me feel anything, even if it was fear. I got tattoos. I dyed my hair. I traveled far and wide. I did things I was afraid of doing, all because it made me feel alive and gave me a weird sense of appreciation for life.
Each time I did one of those things, there was always someone to tell me that one day I would regret it. “You’ll regret those tattoos.” “You’ll regret spending that money on plane tickets instead of saving it.” “You’ll regret ending that friendship just because of a disagreement.” “You’ll regret ruining a friendship just because you had feelings.” You’ll regret a lot of things.
I knew I probably wouldn’t wake up one day on my death bed and regret wearing the green top to the bar instead of the blue one. I wasn’t going to regret getting that tattoo or cutting out toxic people from my life, and maybe I wouldn’t even regret not having kids if that’s how I choose to rodeo.
But I do know that I would likely regret not getting that tattoo. And not jumping out of that airplane. And not telling that person that I love them. And I’d probably regret not telling someone to fuck off when that’s what they needed to hear. I know that I would regret not doing a lot of things that made me feel alive and appreciate just how goddamn wonderful life is if I wasn’t living it the way I wanted to. To be honest, I really don’t want to settle down. No matter what I choose to do with my life, I hope I never lose my sense of wonder, humor, and adventure.
I knew that if I continued to prioritize my life according to the way society says I should or else I would end up regretting a lot, I was going to get to the finish line with a lot more regrets than I would’ve if I had just done what made me happy and prioritized things the way I wanted to.
Don’t you think it’s better to live with the regrets you have from knowing you tried something new and failed, rather than live your life regretting not trying something you always wanted to do? You can’t build a TV stand by looking at the instructions for building a bed frame. Well, you can try, but you can’t expect to be happy and satisfied with the results.
What’s important to you may not be important to me, and vice versa. And that’s okay. No matter what I do in life, I hope I have the courage to do it the way I want to, and I hope you do, too.