Regrets

One concept that is associated with passing away is the notion of regrets. People say they don’t want to come to the end of their life and have any regrets. Well, I think that is an incredibly naïve/uninformed statement. Even someone who lives well into their 90s probably has a missed experience or two rolling around that they didn’t get to achieve. We should aim to minimize regrets but not beat ourselves up for having some.

There are some things in my life that when it becomes my time, I will not have accomplished, some through no fault of my own. I won’t have become a mother, I won’t have had the big wedding I used to dream about — after my dad died, I could not imagine having a wedding where I was walked down the aisle by someone else. The pain of not have my dad there would overshadow what is meant to be a joyous occasion. If E and I do decide to get married, it won’t be in the manner I always envisioned and that may qualify as a regret.

We are all mortal beings and we all should be making the most of our time here. But how do we do that? When jobs, bills, doctor’s appointments, family obligations, all the things that make up our day to day get in the way. We can’t all Eat Pray Love away from our lives and is that even what living your best life looks like? I think society tells us to to travel and see the world but that is not a feasible goal for many and maybe not where people find their joy and fulfillment.

In 2014, I quit my job as a big firm lawyer to focus on writing more. I needed a break after seven years of billable hours, motions to compel, and partners who did not understand the concept of personal lives. Once I announced I was leaving, people came to me to applaud my decision and express their envy. One partner told me he hoped to open his own pancake house one day. Another partner, who was still working full time at the age of 70, stopped me in the hallway to tell me he longed to write a book about the ballet. I told him he should do it and he said “Oh, I’ll probably just keel over at my desk one day.” He walked away laughing to himself and I stood frozen in my spot, saddened by his resignation and also reassured that leaving was the right decision.

Our jobs are important, we use them to contribute to society and we use them to put food in our mouths and roofs over our head. Right now, a big advantage to continued employment at my job is the health insurance that keeps me from owing thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills every month.

But with what I’m dealing with, my mortality feeling more acute than for others, I need to figure out a way to put less emphasis on my job. I feel really good physically at the moment and I want to seize that. I want to do what brings me joy and sitting through six hours of Zoom meetings is not that. I’m trying to strike that balance of living my life to the fullest, while still having the things that I need (food, shelter, health insurance, and access to HBOMax for Succession, obviously). I want a job where I don’t have to commute every day because that will only exhaust me. I want a job that I can leave behind at the end of the day. I want a job that gives me the freedom to access the complementary treatments that help sustain me, like regular acupuncture and physical therapy. I don’t think I’m describing something so rare that I shouldn’t be able to find it. But in order to find it, I have to push myself a bit, I have to put myself out there. I have to shake off the thoughts that make me wonder if making any changes to my life are worth it. I don’t want to stay still because my future remains uncertain. That’s one regret that I want to avoid.

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Michelle T

Sometimes funny lawyer-writer person battling breast cancer in NYC