Sunday, February 13, 2005

Regrets in life

There are some people who can look back on their lives and say if they had to do it all over again, they would not do anything differently. I am not one of those.

Among the regrets I have in life, not necessarily in order of importance:

- That I never married and raised a family. My mother, now suffering from dementia, God bless her, is convinced she has grandchildren, and wants to know when she can visit the babies in the hospital. It doesn't matter how many times I tell her otherwise.

- That I did not find a better way of dealing with my disease. For over 30 years I have had ankylosing spondalitis, a form of rheumetoid arthritis where the joints of the vertebrae gradually fuse together. It started probably when I was around 17 or 18, because at that time I experienced occassional back problems, but did not become really noticeable, and properly diagonosed, until I was 27.

- That I did not have a greater sense of purpose in pursuing my education and career choices.

Much of this goes back to choices I made in my youth. When I was in high school, I was very shy, afraid even to try to eat lunch with the various cliques on campus, but my participation in sports as a distance runner became my main focus of energy and time. And the few friends I had were fellow distance runners. I put much more of myself into the sport than into trying to develop some kind of social life or mastering the subject matter of my classes. If it were not for my disability, I might still be running today, in fact I would have competed seriously (although I was never that good) probably until I was 30. But now I wonder, if in retrospect, the running might have contributed to my disease, and that if I had not gone out for sports, maybe I would be healthy today. And I also regret, that after my diagnosis, I did not more agressively resist the natural progression of the disease, through proper exercise and maintaining straight posture.

I know we can't relive the past, but still I regret that in high school and college, that I did not have a better sense of connection between what I was studying at the time and what practical benefits my acquired knowledge would serve out there in the real world. I wish I had taken some shop and particularly auto mechanics classes, but those were frowned upon at the time by those who wanted to pursue the college prep route. And I wish I had taken some business classes too. I also wished I had stayed on top of math and kept at it through calculus, and that I had become fluent in some foreign languages like Spanish and French.

In college I majored in history, but in truth I was just taking whatever classes interested me; some classes I still remember well, such as a Writings of C.S. Lewis course and a Black Existence in American Life course. But overall, if I was going to major in history, my course selection should have been more comprehensive. Better yet, would have been to major or at least minor in something more practical like Business Administration.

I went back to grad school to get a teaching certificate and then Masters degree in teaching high school social studies, but the job market for applicants in this area was so bad that I never got past substitute teaching, which I hated. With spare time on my hands, and new friendships with some Vietnamese refugees, I developed an interest in human rights in Vietnam, first publishing a newsletter, and later working at the UC Berkeley Indochina Archive, where I worked from 1983-2002. But during all those years I worked at the archive, I was paid a small clerical salary, and in fact for many of those years was paid only part time, even while working full time.
Now I work at the main library of the university, cataloging books. But I regret that I did not pursue a different route in graduate studies, perhaps to law school, to business school to get an MBA, or to library school to get a Masters degree in library science. The latter probably would have been the most suitable choice.

Of course I could not live through all my years looking at life through the prism of a middle aged man. It might be boring, But if I were to advise young people today, I would tell them to try to understand how valuable education can be for their lives and to develop a plan for the goals they eventually want to achieve. Maybe not to become a famous movie star or politician, but just to find a decent job, to raise a family and live in a nice home. I think it today's society, with all the cutbacks in public education and outsourcing of jobs, it is more difficult than before, but the goal is still attainable if you work for it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


1:53 AM  
Blogger Kidnapper Nueces County Court said...

I regret not learning about spirituality=deep spirituality-earlier. I refused to see my ex boyfriend after he cheated on me but we were teens and I didn't realize I may have expected too much too soon. He went away and we ran into each other over the years and when I tried to reconnect he wasn't in a plce to do it. I went to the cemetary to see my Mom and asked the office where my ex's Dad waqs buried while there to show my respect. Much to my horror and shock I found my high school sweetheart there, buried beside his Dad.Both dies around age 47...I am so sad I can barely breathe. I think this is one shock I will never recover from...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am just 17 but if there is one thing i dont ever want to do is to have regrets. i wish i knew them now befor is to late.

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