“The problem with adulthood,” I began my conversation with Victoria, “is that by the time you realize what you want to do, what you are good at, it’s often too late to go back for a do-over. Take this quantitative management class I’m in right now. I love it. It’s just straightforward mathematical statistics for the purpose of solving business problems, and it energizes me. I really like this stuff.” (Eye roll from the daughter.)
“I knew this, of course, back when I was in college, but I didn’t pursue the field. I met with one tiny obstacle and – meh – I moved on to an easier path. I was young and dumb and though I don’t have many regrets about my past – other than superficially wishing I could go back in time and give the young Lori a few Gibbs’ head-slaps – I regret not pushing through for the degree I wanted and a career that might have provided more material resources. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do now and I don’t believe material resources would serve me any better than the spiritual resources I have access to, but I often find myself wondering what it would be like if I had been ‘adult-enough’ to insist on more effort from myself at a younger age.
“And so that is what kicks me in the head as an adult – knowing that we cannot change the past, we can only direct the future. We can change what we do today for the benefit of tomorrow, and no more. But when you’re over the proverbial hill, and you see it all this clearly, and you know – absolutely know in your heart – that you could have done better, or more, or whatever with your energy and resources…all you really can do is let your children know the pitfalls. You want to make sure that your kids understand what mistakes not to make, what obstacles to push through.
“And that brings me to the fallacy of youth, in that when I was young and dumb – as so you shall be, too – I was not interested in older people’s advice of the pitfalls. I had my whole life ahead of me, and that’s all that I saw. My future was a blank page, and I was selecting the pen with which to write it. Don’t dare tell me what pen I should use; that’s my decision! And so, when we are young we make the easy choices, the fun choices, the choices that bring us pleasure, even if it is fleeting. It’s only when we are older that we think, what if??? What if I had chased that dream? What if I had studied harder? What if I had actually attended that Business Law class instead of deciding that Dominic might be hanging out in the student center and surely I HAD to be there too? But Business Law, while a really interesting class, at the time paled in comparison to the interest I held for my social life and your father’s whereabouts. (Cue head-slap). Surely I could have pursued your father after my work was done??? But, as I said, I can’t change the past. Our choices, our actions, make us who we are and I do love this life. What I can do now is hand you the information and hope that you choose to make good decisions. That’s the goal of every parent…to make sure our kids don’t have any regrets.”
Victoria seems to consider this for a moment, then says, “I watched this movie last night where this guy walked outside and got struck by lightning. For no reason at all! He just walked out, got struck by lightning, and died right there on the spot.”
Nobody listens to me.