A weekend on a Mediterranean island could have been mine. Relaxing on the beach. Admiring the mountains. Perhaps a palace tour or a walk among the Moorish remains. It could have been mine, had I said yes.
All of my friends were going. I was in the middle of my semester as a Spanish student in Barcelona, thanks to a program in which my room and board cost the same as it would have had I spent the semester in a Midwestern dormitory.
A year and a half of straight A’s in my college classes hadn’t eliminated my fear of failing to perform in our upcoming midterm exams. I turned down the island invitation.
It is said that at the end of life people have fewer regrets about the things they did than regrets about things they did not do. While I’m not one to dwell in regret, the lesson of missing Mallorca remains with me. I was nineteen years old. The year was 1976.
For much of my life I chose to “do” rather than to “be” and I was well rewarded for it. When I chose to study I got scholarships, GPAs, and boosts to both ego and resume. When I chose to work on weekends I got the approval of clients and a silent sense of holy martyrdom. When I refused help from others, I remained protected by the illusion of my invulnerability.
While I don’t doubt that these choices contributed by my work ethic, I likewise don’t doubt what they cost. Enjoyment. Memories. Relationships. In short, all of the things that we most wish for when we consider what matters most.
Summer arrived last week, and with it my choices for the season. When I travel to North Carolina to lead a day long retreat, I say yes to the extra day and spent Saturday at the beach. I say yes to the wedding in Chicago along with the road trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I say yes to my coach’s recommendation for a retreat in the Catskill Mountains. I say yes to a stay in New York City because I can.
I missed Mallorca, but I thank her. She reminds me to listen to my heart as well as my head when I make choices about how I invest my hours and my dollars.
This summer I set aside the fear of a failing grade. This summer I surrender to the possibility of decades of happy memories with loved ones. Rather than regret, this summer I say yes.
What choices will you make for enjoying your summer?
What memories will you make this season?
How will you balance “being” with “doing” without regret?