When sending out an invitation to a party, it’s common practice to add “RSVP Regrets Only”. That, of course, means only let the host know if you’re not attending. Otherwise, you’re expected to be at the party. There is no RSVP for the party of life. We show up and it’s expected we’ll be present and accounted for. But, as I’ve read again and again, all too often we end our life in the ‘Regrets Only’ column, failing to realize our own dreams, attend our own party. In her article for AARP.org, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’, Bronnie Ware places failure to live a life true to ones self at the top of the list. Current wisdom for dying with no regrets advises us to make a bucket list, a list of all we dream of doing while here on earth. Hollywood even made a movie about it. So, young and old alike are making lists of all the things they want to do before they die.
Looking at some of the lists posted online, most, if not all, contain dozens and sometimes hundreds of items. Places the writer wants to visit, people the writer wants to meet and things, like skydiving or swimming with dolphins, which the writer wants to do. Thinking this was a great exercise for figuring out how I wanted to occupy my retirement, I made my list. It’s a short list. But, it’s the result of really, and I mean really, looking inside my mind, my spirit and asking what is it which Kathy dreams of doing? And, I found, more importantly, what was it, which I dreamed of long, long ago?
Looking deep inside myself, I admitted, in all honesty, I was not so keen on traveling the globe and scratched that wish off my list. I’ve never yearned for cruises or trips to other countries. My true self likes to be home most of the time, spiked with short jaunts here and there. I’ve also met and socialized with some famous people. They’re really no different than you and me, just famous. I have no desire to skydive or swim with dolphins or bungee jump. It’s enough thrill for me to hop on the back of a motorcycle and ride the tail of the dragon at Deal’s Gap until my own tail needs a hot tub. In short, I began to realize I had spent my life in such a way as to have few unfulfilled dreams. But, there were some.
As I searched inside for the girl I’d been before life got in the way, I recognized a long held regret. Forty-five years ago (yes, that’s a lot of life) I was in journalism classes at my high school. I was copy editor for the Manasquan Blue and Gray. I interviewed a now very famous, but at the time a very young and upcoming, alumnus of my high school, my first famous person, Jack Nicholson. And, after participating in a tri-state tournament, I received an award from Temple University for outstanding high school journalism. I wanted to be a writer. Instead, because I needed a paycheck, I ended up working in banking and real estate, never feeling in sync with those professions even though I excelled in both. Fast forward to today and with the power of the internet, I’m a writer. Some might say, you’re too old or you can’t go home again or people will think you’re crazy at your age, blah, blah, blah. But, think of this. Julia Child didn’t become Julia Child until she was 50. Anna Mary Robertson Moses didn’t become Grandma Moses until her late 70’s.
Regrets are a product of our own actions. Our unfulfilled dreams are choices we made in life or didn’t make along the way. They are a reflection of our own lack of courage or fear of upsetting the apple cart we already built. Maybe you can’t go home again. But, it’s never too late to create a new reality built around an unfulfilled dream. So, my short little bucket list is made up of doing the things I dreamed of doing. It has nothing to do with people’s expectations of me or me thinking I ought to do this or that. It has to do with fulfilling my RSVP…no regrets.