I recently asked my friends a question that had been on my mind for some time...
"Think about your greatest accomplishment and your biggest regret in life, and if you could trade your greatest accomplishment to fulfill your biggest regret...would you?"
I wasn't sure what to expect when people started to answer; would they do some soul searching before they answered? Or would they say the very first thing that came to mind?
The answers were mixed, with the most popular accomplishment being children, of course. There was one who stated, "I suppose I could say, my children, but they're not MY accomplishments; they're their own works in progress, not my puppets to control." Interesting…
The regrets were the things I found to be most enlightening. They were, as diverse as, the people answering the question; getting married too young, settling for the "easy" career, giving up on their photography dream, saying no to family and causing a rift that lasted years, failing to appreciate the value of life and not following a dream of going to NY to build a fashion empire.
Then I received the answer that would reveal my own biggest regret and greatest accomplishment…
"I had been active in baseball my whole life, so when I was 18, I tried out for the Cincinnati Reds at a free-agent tryout in Butler, Pennsylvania. After enduring 6 hours of drills, I was one of 4 catchers that "made the cut". I filled out all of paperwork the scouts needed to track my progress playing that year. After the season ended, I grew tired of waiting on a phone call that would inform me whether or not I would be drafted. So, I joined the Marine Corps at the end of 1988, resigned to the fact that I was not going to receive the call. Before spring of 1989, my father received a call from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. They were calling to inform me that I was going to receive an invite to Spring Training in St. Petersburg Florida. My dad informed the caller that I was already in the Marines; baseball dream over.
So, when I thought about regrets, I thought about this story and how, for the longest time, I regretted not having the patience to wait a little longer. I thought about what might have been. It took a few years to realize that I accomplished so much from being a Marine. I had a daughter when I was in, made it into Reconnaissance, as an operator, and had life experiences that fewer than 5% of humanity gets to experience. I realized that I really do not regret any choices I made in my life, because those choices gave me things that are valuable to me. Maybe it is just the power of positive thinking, but the choices we make, good or bad, determine future experiences that will most likely be positive outcomes resulting from those choices."
After I read his story, I realized the irony of his regret and his accomplishment being contingent on each other, the same way mine were. It was in that moment that I knew I needed to tell this story. The context of our stories is very different, but our journeys seem to end in the same place.
So here goes...
The days that change our life usually come without warning; but looking back now, I still remember what I was wearing; that's probably the trivial thing you'll remember if it's ever happened to you. I remember the details, but I don't often revisit them. I was a strong, opinionated woman, even at 19, but the actions of one weak-minded man changed me forever that night.
I assured myself that this would all be a bad dream when I woke the next day; it wasn't. At first, I didn't realize just how much the actions of someone else could change you and your life. It wasn't until years later that I realized my dating patterns were far from the norm; I never had long term relationships, my relationships were usually with unavailable men, and on at least two occasions when a relationship that started to have promise crashed and burned, I vividly remember both men being confused as to why I would be so upset about the relationship failing because I never showed any emotion.
I was forced to recognize that I am the problem, and a sexual assault that I thought was handled many years ago was sabotaging every relationship I had. For nearly 14 years, I had never had a "real love" relationship; I treated men like they were expendable. I never allowed myself to be vulnerable with a man or anyone...ever. And sex simply felt empty most of the time.
I knew my life was spiraling when I entered my 30s; my mom danced around what was really going on with me, and I knew it was only a matter of time before she started asking questions that I didn't want to answer. My weight ballooned to the heaviest I had ever been. I was in a loveless relationship. So when I received a job opportunity to move back home, I took it and never looked back.
It was then that I started to change my entire life, I started losing the weight, and I did some serious soul searching about some of the things I needed to change. It's been a process and some days are still more successful than others, but I'm getting there. I constantly remind myself that "tomorrow is another day to get it right", but having the courage to change is the accomplishment in itself.
But would I trade who I am today if I could go back and make that night disappear? Initially, my knee jerk reaction is yes, but after thinking about where I am right now, I wouldn't. I love the person I have become. The people that are in my life today are there because of the path I walked to get here. I couldn't imagine my life without some of them, so no, I wouldn't trade anything if it meant giving up the few who really know me and love me, in spite of myself most days.
Life is a process, and this time next year your greatest accomplishment could be something that you've never dreamed of doing, or you could be living a life with no regrets!
I'll leave you with a quote that was shared with me in one of the responses..."Fate is when you find something you were never looking for and realize it's everything you never knew you wanted." Unknown