The Universal Notebook: Regrets only

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

A peculiar anticipation has overtaken me lately, a feeling that I am now of an age (64) at which I am running out of time to do all the things that there was once a lifetime to do.

But that’s not really the peculiar part. The peculiar part is that I do not regret things I have not done; I worry that I will regret them if I do them now.

I started thinking about the subject of regret earlier this summer when I drove down to New York City to pick up daughter Tess, who had been doing a summer internship there. Walking around the Upper East Side among all the smart, pasty-faced people, I started wondering what it might have been like to move to Manhattan as a young man, to live in the Big Apple and to pursue a career in the Big Time.

Every once in a while a commenter ticked off at one of my columns will try to insult me by pointing out what a failure I am, that I only write a little column in a free circulation weekly. But I am beyond insult. And honestly, I don’t regret not tackling New York at all. People struggle their whole lives in New York to find enough time and money to spend a little time in Maine, and I feel blessed to have spent just about all of mine here.

The only real regrets I have are about the way I treated a handful of people when I was a callow and callous young man. When you come right down to it, young men are dogs.

In terms of things yet to be accomplished, I don’t really have a bucket list. I have no interest in jumping out of airplanes, climbing Mt. Everest or swimming with sharks. The only thing I feel any urgency to complete is a book I have been working on fitfully since 1976. The notes and manuscripts sit in boxes and notebooks above my desk. I take it out every few months when I am between assignments, but as soon as I get busy I drop it. Now the book looks like it’s going to be a project for my old age, assuming that is I am still competent to write when I finally get around to it.

All of which gets me back to that peculiar and unexpected concern about not engendering any more regrets. When Carolyn and I get talking about what comes next, planning for retirement, thinking about our options, I find myself daydreaming about living in a little English village or maybe a seaside cottage (more likely a condo) in the Caribbean, spending part of the year up at the lake and the rest of the year somewhere warm.

But what if I discovered that I loved living in England? Carolyn and I were married there and spent a couple of months there in 1980. I’ve always wanted to go back, but I hate to travel, I hate to fly and now I’d hate to find out that I should have been living abroad all along. I don’t want to feel as though I’ve wasted decades of my life when I could have been enjoying different pursuits, so I am unlikely at this point in my life to take up traveling, farming, sailing, painting, surfing, the piano or the harmonica.

I’m also not likely to get a tattoo, start jogging or weight lifting, go back to college or buy a sports car. I’m too old for all that. I guess I’ll just stay right here where I belong, and keep writing. That book I have been working on off and on for 37 years is about an old man I knew when I was a young man. The first line is “No man grows so old that he cannot imagine living just one more year.”

Now I’m the old man.

Sidebar Elements


Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Yarmouth. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

0