Monday, December 8, 2008

should've, could've, would've

This morning as I drove to work, I glanced in the rear view mirror to check if my mascara had smudged and I saw it: a thin line in the middle of my forehead, right between my eyes, where I furrow my brow when I worry. I relaxed my face and it lessened--but it didn't go away. I took a moment to check in with the rest of my body and noticed, as is the norm of late, that my entire body was tense, my jaw clenched, and my shoulders were practically touching my ears. This ties in nicely with another realization I've had about myself recently: I'm not great at letting things go.

Whenever I hear people say that they have no regrets, I don't really buy it. Everyone has regrets. While, granted, most people probably don't think about their regrets as often as I do, it's nearly impossible to go through life without accruing a few. Besides that, I'm 26, which you might think should mean I am too young for regrets, but let me explain. Because I am a young adult, that means that I haven't really been alive for long enough to let time do away with the sting of past regrets. My college years, my adolescence, even my childhood, are all relatively close in proximity to the age that I am now.

So, until I get a little older--or at least until time travel becomes a possibility, I'm going to try confessing my regrets. Maybe if I get them on paper (or at least into my laptop), I'll begin to come to terms with their frivolity and uselessness. And maybe, someday, this list will read more like a "What I Know Now" poem, rather than a compilation of things I still feel a little crappy about.

I Should Have...

I should have listened to my mother about sunscreen

I should have tried harder in math class

I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself as a child

And as a teenager

And as an adult

I should have been nicer to the weird kids

And meaner to the bullies

I really should have kissed my tenth grade homecoming date

I should have learned to argue gracefully

I should not have taken high school theater so seriously

I should have studied abroad in college

I should not have spent 4 years of high school wishing

That the one person who barely knew I was alive would notice me

I should have been more honest about my feelings in college

And less honest about them in high school

I should have returned Gabe Russell’s phone calls

I should have played a team sport

I should have developed an appreciation of classical music

And also hip-hop

I should have done more extracurriculars in college

I shouldn’t have been so afraid to get in trouble

I should have learned how to pluck my eyebrows

I should have drafted an angrier email

To the guy who wrote cruel things about me in his blog

I should have appreciated Israel more

Instead of obsessing over who I was there with

I shouldn’t have based my self-worth

On how I compared to someone I didn’t even respect

I should have started using eye cream earlier

And spent less time worrying about the things I can’t change

There are definitely more, but I need something to save for Yom Kippur next year.




sarah said...

I love this. We all have our shoulds and it's easy, it's fashionable, to pretend we shouldn't...ooh look, there it is again. But what you write is true: regret is real, and only by looking back over the journey we've made to get to this place can we plan out the path that lies ahead.

Excuse me as I nerd out for a moment--I am a Jewish educator after all--and cite some text. The idea of should, the concept of regret that regardless of individual experiences resonates with all of us, is one of the reasons our tradition gives us the Shehechiyanu. A blessing traditionally when new or notable things happen, the Shehechiyanu is often translated this way:

"Blessed are You, LORD, our God, King of the universe, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season"

While I, as a thirty-something card-carrying feminist and progressive Jew, do not choose to use language like "Lord" or "King" in my own spiritual reflection I can let it go in this case...because in the case of this blessing the meaning for me comes at the end. Thank you, G-d or Goddess or the Universe or Buddha or my dead grandma watching over me or whoever is listening...thank you for bringing me just as I am, with all my shoulds and all my shows of wisdom and everything in between, exactly to this place I am now--right where I belong.

Thank you, Gabi, for bravely and generously sharing your wisdom and your shoulds with us. I have always known your insight to be keen and yours thoughts to be whipsmart and with the writing you've shared with us here I continue, as with the messages from your iPod, to learn from you. You are an excellent teacher and I thank you for the lesson of the shoulds that you've taught me tonight.

In appreciation...

Anonymous said...

Who's this "Gabe Russell" cat? I'm hearing about him everywhere! He must be super cool.