Life's Regrets

I had been thinking about something over the past many months, and then Cath Smack went and wrote a post about the very thing on my mind. Well, not exactly THE very thing, but it was included in what she wrote.

I have had some major crises in my life recently, some very nearly tragic disasters which appear to be averted, although nothing is certain as yet. During this time, I've done a lot of soul-searching and thinking about my own past. Having the opportunity to be near my old friends from days gone by over the last 3 years has no doubt played a role in this, too.

When I was younger, there were always girls I liked, but was too intimidated by to approach with any level of confidence in order to find out if perhaps they might like me in return, or even to give them the opportunity to decide if they might. People said I was shy and that this was normal. But I was shyer than a fair number of my friends and more prone to end up dating girls who, as I learned years later, not only treated me shittily* but also cheated on me throughout the entire relationship. Meanwhile, other girls who were just as attractive, indicated to me that they were or might be interested in me. But I hung onto relationships even as I was shittily treated because I was already in them and they were safe. I had the opportunity to date many girls, but chose instead to stay where I was, where it was safe, and yet I was poorly treated.

When I went to college, I made better selections of girlfriends, but still blew at least 2 major opportunities to at least attempt to date girls I was extremely attracted to and very much wanting to go out with. I'm not sure whether they would have gone out with me, but I'll never know because I failed to fully try to find out. I was too afraid.

I hated the university I went to and graduated from. People around me kept advising me to take out student loans and send myself away to a better school. My parents, ever the defenders of warm, safe fearfulness, warned me not to. Debt is risky. Debt is scary. Debt would take me away from them and out into the world where I might fly and be happy, or possibly crash and burn.

I used to enjoy writing and putting on comedy plays. I was apparently good at it. People always laughed and I was the only person I knew of at my school ever asked to do repeat performances for classes not originally scheduled to see my plays. But at some point I developed a crippling fear of public speaking and stopped doing any acting.

I always wanted to master the guitar, join a band, and sing and perform screaming guitar solos. I was never good enough to do this, practicing on my own as I did. But had I actually pushed it I might have made my way into a band and likely improved enough to at least give it a try. But I never did.

People have all sorts of nice sounding words to describe a person who is afraid to do something that they want to do. Afraid to ask out a beautiful girl? That's OK, you're just shy. Afraid to go into debt in order to attend a good university instead of spending years in a nightmare situation that will scar you for life and stunt your career? That's OK, you are just fiscally conservative and risk-averse.

Afraid to speak, act, sing or dance in front of people? That's OK. You're totally normal. Everyone feels that way. It's just stage-fright.

Did you know that Unique Stephen, the Australian blogger, has done more exciting adventurous things in more parts of the United States than I have ever even seen? And I'm from here! He's mountain climbed and biked and all sorts of fun things all over the US. And then he's gone back to Australia and done it there, too. He's afraid of nothing.

One of the most beautiful girls that I never knew, with a heart of pure gold, married a guy that, although he was a very nice guy, he was not at all what any of us considered attractive in the least. In fact, he was ugly. And poor. Everyone was shocked when she dated him, and flabbergasted when she married him. But she did marry him. Because I never asked her out myself, and immediately following my failure to ask when given a golden opportunity, he asked her. And she said 'yes.' They married straight out of college. And they are married still. They have 3 daughters.

What is the purpose of the fear of rejection? What possible good does it do to be afraid to simply approach someone you feel a strong attraction to and tell them that you are interested? I can see where a person might benefit from a fear of financial risk to some extent. Too little fear and you can bankrupt yourself and your family. But too much and you will never accomplish anything. You certainly can invest properly with a strong fear of risk.

Fear of dying is understandably useful. I think mountain climbing looks like a lot of fun, although intensely strenuous. Unique Stephen once said that he nearly died while mountain climbing, falling and smashing on rocks below. There is always that risk. But all of life has risks. We drive cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic, facing a possible crushing death by 18-wheeler in an adjacent lane at any moment or simply our own inattention to the road ahead leading to a missed turn and a telephone pole collision. Yet we don't feel a crippling fear of this or even consider not driving. Why not climb a cliff or hang glide or jump out of a plane once or twice in your life just for the thrill of it?

I seem to have no problem jumping a motorcycle way up into the air and trusting that I can safely land it on a ramp on the other side. And this despite having done a "Superman" a time or two when things didn't go quite as planned and the bike stopped abruptly against some barrier while I continued on without it. I'm still alive and walking. I've drag raced at midnight at ridiculous speeds against total strangers without a crippling fear of them coming into my lane and killing me. I've had guns pointed at me and pointed guns at criminals who intended me harm, yet I don't have a crippling fear of going out in public at all hours.

People say a person who is afraid to approach people whom they are attracted to are shy. People afraid to go into debt to send themselves to a good university and launch into the life they wanted who choose instead to stay in a bad environment and 'make the best of it' are said to be fiscally conservative and risk-averse. People who won't climb a mountain because they might fall are simply not "adventurous."

I have a friend who had dated only 2 girls that I know of in his entire life. He has barely and rarely dated. He has barely left the comfort of his family home. He has few friends and no apparent aspirations. Some would say he has no life and has never lived the life he already had. I hear people say he's shy, he's withdrawn, he's a loner.

I look at my own life and all the opportunities at happiness which I myself missed out on, never knowing whether I might have attained them if only I had tried. I didn't try.

People say I was shy. But isn't 'shy' another word for 'afraid'? If you are too afraid to live your one and only life, aren't you a coward? Isn't that the same thing?

Is it?


* Shittily - of or relating to shittyness; Of a general shitty nature; action of being shitty - verb. As in the phrase: "Steven Tyler sang the national anthem shittily before the game."
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