There are days, and they are usually the days that need chocolate, when I feel a pang of regret and sadness and I wonder…
…what would’ve happened if. What if I’d gone to law school or stayed in the agency business or gotten married or had that baby or stayed in New York or skipped out of work and flown to London that weekend or…? You can fill in your own list of what ifs, but we all have them. The opportunities that came up and that we batted away like bees at a picnic come to spoil the fun. That moment when you came upon those two roads Robert Frost wrote about and decided to take one less traveled and not the other.
I’ve noticed, the older I get, that the things you regret in life are not the things you did, however insane they may have seemed at the time, but the things you didn’t do, the times you said No or I’m too tired or Maybe another time or Not now. Of course, most of the time, I’ve said Yes Yes Yes, which has gotten me into a fair amout of trouble, but you only go around once that you can remember (let’s get into reincarnation another time, shall we?) and so Yes seems like the right answer to Why Not?
One of my personal heroes, Diana Vreeland, the fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and later Vogue, authored a column while she was at HB called, Why Don’t You? Madcap and irreverent, they were tidbits for living a more fashionable life. While some of the suggestions might have seemed impossible, even a bit insane — Why don’t you waft a big bouquet around like a fairy wand? or Why don’t you knit yourself a little skullcap? — they were mostly meant to be thought provoking, a call to arms to have the courage to think outside the box, break the rules, follow your imagination and your own idea of happiness whereever it might lead you, saying yes to life, to that idea, that suggestion, that dream, however crazy and irresponsible and wrong and sometimes, yes I’ll admit it, stupid and stubborn, it seems at the time. As one of my favorite quotes says:
You do not exist to impress the world. You exist to live your life in a way that will make you happy. When you live your life in a way that will make you happy, you will impress the world.
So, on that note, I’ve decided to share my own Why Nots. They’re far less lofty than DVs. Some of them are things I’m planning to do, some of them are things I haven’t gathered up the courage to do, some of them are things I haven’t yet found the time or the money to do, some of them are things I’ve never been able to do successfully (cue cartwheels and walking on my hands). But they are all things I want to do, things that feel, when I sit with them for a moment, authentically, genuinely me. Because, for me, that is the real key to no regret. Saying Yes because it is the truth, your truth, and there can be no second thoughts about it. You’re not saying Yes to make someone else happy, to please someone else, to impress someone else, which, I fervently feel, is the Yes or the No that gets most of us into trouble. The Yes or No that is dishonest with yourself, that says it for someone or something else or because saying it would keep the peace.
BTW, if you have any suggestions, for things that you’ve found particularly fun or even if you just want to share your own list of Why Nots, well, why not?