A friend recently pointed me to an article written by a hospice nurse. This nurse spent her career working with people who were dying, beyond recovery, and aware of it. Her job, primarily, was to provide comfort, whether that be physical or emotional.
During her conversations, she found several themes when her patients discussed their regrets and she lists the 5 most common regrets in her article.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
I don’t see this one being an issue for me. While I did buy in to a standard life template (college, wife, kids, suburbs, office, etc.), I am me. I am undeniably me.
I’d be delusional to think that I wasn’t a bit…different. I see things differently than a lot of other people, I react differently, and I’m vocal about it. That sometimes makes it hard to get close to me. I doubt anyone who is close to me would argue with that.
I also tend to do things. Most people talk about doing things, I try to make them happen. “I wish I were out of debt”, “Honey, I want to start a business”, “Let’s drop 40 pounds this year”, or “I want to build a trebuchet”. I think I know why my wife gets nervous when I say “I have an idea”.
I may not be running anyone else’s script, but at the end of the day, I’d regret not doing things more than I’d regret trying them.
I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This one is a personal struggle for me. I’m scared of missing my children grow up. I hate the idea of looking back and finding my children as adults, with few memories of how they got there.
At the same time, I’ve got a pile of debt I need to get rid of before I can dial back too far. I could quit my job tomorrow, but that wouldn’t be providing a good life for them.
My worry, and the worry of some people close to me, is that, once the debt is gone, I won’t be able to let go of my extreme work hours, even though I’m working so hard now to be able to work less later. “Later”, in this case, means a couple of years, not retirement.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Ugh. Feelings. If this is a standard deathbed regret, I’m screwed. My loved ones know I love them, but other than that, I’m happy to be in control of myself.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I do. It’s not always close contact, but it is contact.
I’m of the opinion that life’s too short to spend time with people you dislike, so some people have been relegated to the past. My friends, my family, my loved ones are a part of my life, even if it’s occasionally months between emails or years between visits.
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I think I do pretty well on this front, too. Happiness is a choice. I could worry about all of the things that aren’t perfect, or I could enjoy the things I have. I choose to enjoy what I’ve got, even while trying to improve the rest.
In the words of Denis Leary : “Happiness comes in small doses folks. It’s a cigarette, or a chocolate cookie, or a five second orgasm. That’s it, ok! [You] eat the cookie, you smoke the butt, you go to sleep, you get up in the morning and go to…work, ok!? That is it!”
Happiness isn’t a hobby farm, a new job, or a dream vacation. Happiness is a date with my wife, or cuddling with my kids to Saturday morning cartoons, or taking my son to the range.
Happiness is the things I’m doing now, not the dreams I’m hoping for someday.