Earlier this year I wrote an article for Forever His Princess magazine, on living a life without regrets. I’ve decided to share it with you nice folks as well. Enjoy…
Why did I wear that?
When I was a little girl, I had a shirt I simply loved. It was dirt brown, with long sleeves and pearl buttons, and it was just the bee’s knees. My older sisters hated it, and rightly so, but I wore it whether it matched my jumpers or not. Looking back at pictures now I’m amazed at how hideous it was, but even so, I remember how happy it made me to wear something that I found beautiful, and I can’t bring myself to rue the photos of that happy little girl in the ugly dirt brown shirt.
It’s happened with other pieces of clothing too. The brilliantly floral granny combo that was the first skirt and blouse I owned or the platform sandals that made me look as gangly and clunky as possible- they’re terribly ugly in retrospect, but I still remember them fondly because I enjoyed wearing them and they made me feel beautiful.
It has turned into my fashion philosophy over the years. It doesn’t matter if everyone else is wearing it, the cool girls wouldn’t be caught dead in it, or it’s about ten years behind the trends. If I like something, that’s what matters. I think that’s the key to a timeless personal style, one you can look back on without regret.
What if I had tried?
Of course, regret extends much deeper than looking back at awful adolescent pictures and wondering how on earth we could have worn that (although we’ve all done that). Regret is also that voice in the back of our minds saying, “What if? What if I had agreed to one date? What if I had gone to teach school in Alaska? Where would I be by now?”
I am timid when it comes to taking risks, naturally the girl in the middle who finds herself following and always taking the safe way. But in the last few years, I’ve begun to change. Instead of automatically saying no when something is uncomfortable, I’ve started saying yes to scary opportunities and it’s changed my life.
Take the summer when I decided to go to Mexico to teach English. Never mind that I knew exactly nobody else on the team, that I never wanted to be a teacher, or that I was homeschooled and wasn’t even sure how a classroom was supposed to be run! Something made me say yes and to this day it remains my most golden summer; the late nights of talking, the mountains of tacos consumed, and all the lessons planned together turned into lasting friendships. One of these led to moving to Illinois for a winter of school teaching, another outrageous thing for safe little me. But in taking those risks and venturing into the crazy unknown with strangers, I found myself being stretched and filled with joy unlike ever before.
Of course, I’m not intimating that you too must pack up and move to far off lands to be regret-free. Of course not. But I am saying, keep your eyes open for opportunities and see if saying yes doesn’t transform your life. When you make eye contact with an interesting stranger in the grocery store, start a conversation instead of silently passing them by. When you pass a sign advertising a class that intrigues you, don’t let fear stop you; sign up and learn that new skill. Say yes to experiences that will expand your worldview and your broaden your life.
Also, examine those far-fetched dreams niggling at the back of your mind, and evaluate honestly how you could be working on those right now. You say you want to spend a year in Paris. Well, are you learning French? You want to start your own business someday. Are you saving money for that or spending it all on burgers and mascara? Regardless if all your plans work out in the end, if you know you’ve given them an honest shot, you can have the satisfaction of knowing that you tried instead of wondering, “What if?”
How could I have done that?
Regret has one more voice that it takes on- “How could I have done that terrible thing? What on earth was I thinking? I should have kept my mouth shut!” It can attack us when we know we’ve done something foolish or wrong, and there is nothing we can do to change it. How we wish we could take back our regrettable actions and change the past.
This is where I find huge comfort in one thing; God is a redeemer. Really, taking hideous things and making them beautiful is his specialty. He can take any dreadful decisions we’ve made or harsh things we’ve said, and he can turn them into something worthwhile. Because of that, we can live our lives without fear of failure or regret of the past, because he can work with the worst of our mistakes. And in that knowledge, we can rest.