I push myself too hard sometimes. I take on too much. I rarely say “no.” Even though I average at least seven hours of sleep per night, it’s because it’s go-go-go the other 17.
This week is The U’s spring break. I have a couple of great writing and media opportunities to add to my wheelhouse that are waiting at the doorstep. Knowing all of this, my dad said, “Alicia, just go. Go somewhere. Take a day for yourself. Figure out what it is exactly that you’re trying to do. And who you are trying to be.”
So on Tuesday, I packed up my car and drove west to Marco Island, FL. I laid on the beach for hours with just a venti Chai tea latte from Starbucks and my journal. I haven’t journaled in ages. And as I laid there, my life became clearer. What I want became more apparent. The rules and boundaries I need to set for myself showed their lines. And for the first time in awhile, everything about life seemed more than ok. It seemed to make sense. It was peaceful.
That day, one of my dear friends called me. She told me that her father, who has been one of the biggest mentors in my career, has ALS. I don’t know what you do when someone tells you that news. As someone who is usually sarcastic and quick with a joke, I just listened to her. And talked to her about remaining hopeful. And told her my thoughts on regrets.
A few years ago, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. As I made the 14-hour drive from California to Colorado to see him in the hospital, we didn’t know if it was bladder or liver cancer. The better diagnosis would be bladder cancer, as liver cancer almost always precipitates a quick death. On that 14-hour journey, I began making a mental checklist of things I wanted to do with my dad. Hit golf balls. Go to baseball games. Talk about his past. Ask what kind of guy he thought I should end up with.
As I listened to my friend share her fears and her hopes and her worries on Tuesday, I kindly chimed in and suggested she make a mental list. What things does she want to share with her dad in this time she knows she has left with him? What pieces of him does she want to take away?
This life here, it’s temporary. As crazy as it sounds, even though I’ve experienced a lot of death in my life–and even young death–I am only just now realizing that. I remember one of my favorite judges looking at me a few years ago as I told him my weekend plans and saying, “Oh, how good it must be to still feel invincible.”
I don’t know what’s changed about my life to make me think of it as being more precious. Perhaps it’s holding the young lives that my friends have made. Or going home and realizing that every time I get off the plane my parents are getting older. Regardless of the cause, one thing is certain: I don’t want regrets.
That’s what I came away with on my forced day off on Tuesday. What I want out of this life, is to come away from it saying, “There is nothing I regret.” I took every chance I wanted. I tried everything I should have. I loved as best as I could. And I forgave even when I shouldn’t. The only thing that will make your life hurt at its end, if you ask me, is regret.
So let go. Let people in. Even if it’s the 10,000th time you’ve opened the door. Take a risk. Say “yes” to a chance. Hope for the best. Don’t fall down when life doesn’t give you the best. Dance whenever someone asks. Sing at the top of your lungs at least once. And laugh. Because life, when you get deep down to the bottom of it, is a hilarious mystery. And the best thing you can do, is live it.