A Life of Regret
Your family gathers around to say ‘I love you’ for the final time; friends hold your hand and look into your eyes as they fight hard to keep the tears from rolling off of their chin..onto your cheek. Those that meant the most to you in life, have gathered to say goodbye and to comfort you, and each other, as you prepare to leave this world forever. In those final moments, as you fight for every breath, your life flashes through your mind like a chaotic time machine. The memories are unorganized and shockingly realistic. You relive the moments that have become your most precious memories, your priceless treasures that no-one can take from you. You relive those Saturdays spent with your dad on the lake, your first home run in little league, your first kiss, your first true love, and the birth of your child. You vividly recall your daughter’s wedding…my God, she looks like an angel! You can see the vivid white train of her wedding dress as the sweet scent of rose petals from the chapel isle waft ever so gently to your nostrils. Your heart begins to beat faster, and you can hear the music, and even smell the wedding cake. Thoughts race on: You recall the feeling of accomplishment as you sat it your cap and gown waiting to hear you name called as you graduated from high school, then college.. or you remember being away from home for the first time, and wondering how in the hell you ended up in O.D. green on the other side of the globe. You remember the friends that became brothers in arms, and then brothers for life.
As your heart pumps more slowly and your lungs struggle to process enough oxygen to keep you conscious, your mind is racing. You smile, you twitch, you grunt or squeal.
Then, your brow furrows. The corners of your mouth turn down as your bottom lip presses hard against your top lip.. and you try to stifle the increasingly uncontrollable quiver. The tears begin to burn as they roll down your face, then you feel the one emotion that you have dreaded the most. Regret. It burns, it grips your chest like a vice, and the more you try to get it out of your head, the stronger it gets. All those things you wanted to do, but didn’t. Too many other commitments, not enough time, your back or your knee was bothering you, so you put it off until “next time…again. Finally, next time never happened, and here you are facing your final curtain with friends and loved ones all around. But all you can think about is..what you should have done, could have done, and would have done, if only you had another chance.
But, this is your life, your only one, and guess what? There are no do-overs. NONE. Zero. Nada. You have to get it right the first time.
If you are reading this, and you are still in relatively good health, then you still have a chance to LIVE your life. Take a chance – Take LOTS of chances! Make sacrifices. Do something because you WANT IT, even if it hurts. You don’t have to be that man/woman in the beginning paragraph. Travel, save up for that trip you’ve always dreamed about, or hop in the car and drive somewhere tomorrow. It doesn’t matter, just do it! Help people help themselves for no other reason than “It makes me feel good, because it makes them feel good”. Write an article, a poem, or a book. Make something with your own hands. It doesn’t have to be extravagant, it just has to be your creation. Take that road trip, learn to cook, learn a second language..or a third.
Life is busy, life is hectic; it always will be. Take time for yourself, don’t be a slave to your job. No one ever says on their deathbed “I gave 50 great years to my company, and it was worth every minute.” Yes, we need to be gainfully employed to pay our bills, take care of our families, and have a little fun along the way, but we don’t have to be shackled!
By now you’re probably wondering: “Why hasn’t he mentioned martial arts yet?” Great question, I’m glad you asked!
Support your friends. Train with them, laugh and hurt with them. Train when you’re feeling great, and train when you’re feeling rotten. Train when you work overtime, and train when you get laid off. Train when your life is terrific, and train when your life is stormy.
Recently, I’ve made contact with a dozen or so students that have stopped training over the past couple of years. Nothing pressing, just a simple “Hi, How are you? I hope all is well.” kind of greeting. Each one of them stopped training for different reasons; for most of them, those reasons have passed, yet they haven’t returned. Some still have issues: health, money, work, etc. Or at least they think that these are issues. The truth is: every issue can be overcome with a little sacrifice and willpower. A couple of former students that I’ve spoken to over the years are already experiencing regret; “Sensei, I wonder where I would be if I were still training?” Well, you’d probably be in the dojo. “No, I mean..would I be a black belt, or even an instructor?” No, probably not.. because you quit training. Ouch.
Don’t misunderstand; there is more to life than karate, and honestly, it just isn’t for everyone..and that’s ok. But it is for me, and is a very large part of my life; yes there are other things in life that I want to do before I’m that guy in the first paragraph, and I have a plan to do them all. If I don’t accomplish everything that I want to achieve before I die, it won’t be because I didn’t try, and there will be no regrets.