The perfect recipe for an unhappy life goes like this: make mistakes and either fail to learn anything from them or allow yourself to be so consumed by regret that you are not present for a single moment of your actual, this is not a read-through, real-live life.
I certainly have bounced between the extremes in my day. When I write, or speak, or give a lesson, most of what I have to say is based upon my own failings. This necessitates some pretty honest introspection, especially since I ask the same of my students.
Today, I came to the computer ready to list off some of my biggest regrets in the hopes that they might serve as anecdotes to, if not prevent someone from making the same mistakes, at least let you know that you’re not alone, should you encounter the same circumstance.
What I came to realize is that these mental meanderings are largely a vanity. They distract us from where we actually are if we spend too long itemizing them.
For instance, I was going to say that I wished that I had pushed my parents harder when I had the opportunity to transfer to Peabody in my second year at CSUN. But to what end? My arm would have still packed up and then what? What is the hope there? That I would have more stature as a performer? That I would have yet another famous name listed under “teachers” on my CV?
Dig too deeply into these things, and you’ll end up with a catalogue of complaints about your current life situation instead of a toolkit that may have some empirical use. Life puts you on the exact path you are supposed to be on. Don’t believe in that kind of thing? Great! Your life is still going to be exactly the way it is, unadorned by the cockeyed optimism of fools like me.
The only regret worth kicking around is all the time we spend regretting where we are. I am not always happy with my path, but it’s what I have. And I am fortunate to have met each of you, for better or worse, along it.