When I was a bookish little girl, I read some wonderful fantasy and sci-fi classics. One of the themes that intrigued me was the concept of time travel. Not so much the idea of visiting some historic event, like the Seneca Falls Convention or a Shakespeare play with Shakespeare in it, but more along the lines of returning to some decision in one's own life and going a different direction.
Somewhere along the line, I realized that any change in course, no matter how small or seemingly unimportant, would have a ripple effect and change everything ever after.
With this in mind, I've always been very careful about regrets. Could I have taken my SATs again and gone to a better college? Maybe. If I had gone to a different school, I would almost certainly have had a different job afterwards, would not have met my husband there, and would not have produced my now teenage daughter. So basically, unless I'm willing to wish it all away (and most days, I'm not), I can't wish for anything to have happened to or with or by me except what actually did.
Are you following?
I think our inability to rewrite our lives (or re-right our wrongs) is one of the reasons we put so much pressure on our kids. They come into the world pretty much a clean slate and we can "get it right this time." For example, my daughter to date has no cavities. I have enough for both of us (plus the entire Brady Bunch, but who's counting). Can I help it if I'm on her case to brush her teeth all the time?
I'm fifty years old. That means I've had five decades to mess up, miss opportunities, make bad choices. If only I could export all those lessons learned by hitting some magic button. If only my daughter could avoid my mistakes.
Without actually building a time machine or getting in a DeLorean (or a hot tub) and undoing everything that brought me to this very spot at this very moment, here are a few things I could have done ... shall we say ... differently.
10. Taken more courses in college. I was so certain of what I wanted to study that I didn't try enough new things. Now, I only wish I had time for Comparative Religions, French 4, Russian Lit.
9. Stayed in touch. Finding your first grade friend on Facebook is a wonderful thing, but think of all the years in between! ("Hi, Maria!" BTW.)
8. Traveled all over before I had a mortgage and a business and a husband and a child and a ... and a ... and a ...
7. Said "I love you" to more people, more times.
6. Relaxed and enjoyed my pregnancy (well, not the part when I was throwing up all day every day, but the rest of it).
5. Let go of grudges sooner. Learned to forgive and forget. (Still working on that, but I've come a long way, baby.)
4. Let go of guilt. (See above.)
3. Invested in Microsoft. Or Apple. (Or anything.)
2. Realized how lucky I was.
And, the number 1 thing I wish I had done?