R is for.....Regret.
I'm not typically someone who spends much time with regret. For better or worse, I've learned to live with the consequences of my actions. I think my life playing and watching sports has helped me escape the grip of regret. Athletes learn early on that you make mistakes during games, and you certainly don't win them all. You can't hang your head, dwell on the play or game that went wrong. You need to get ready for the next play, next game, and give it 100%.
This isn't to say that I never think about my mistakes. I absolutely do. I use my mistakes to inform future decisions all the time. I just don't beat myself up. Every bad decision was made with the best of intentions, and I've tried to learn from every mistake. If I regretted every bad decision I've ever made, my life would be pretty miserable. Instead, I embrace the opportunity to grow from my mistakes. I'll hang out with regret for a little while, but then it's game time and I've got to be ready.
Regrets are like old friends you don't see very often. You get together every once in a while to get caught up, but then you go your separate ways, hopefully made better by the experience. You see some friends more than others over time, and there are some decisions that you revisit more than others. One decision that frequently shows up for me was made right after I graduated from the University of Wisconsin.
I was working at a park in Madison, running a summer program for neighborhood kids. Two of the kids were from Italy. Their mom was from Madison and they were visiting for the summer. The boys really took to me because I made everyone play soccer with them. The boys knew about baseball from their mom, and they wanted to try it out, so we played a lot of baseball that summer as well. Right before the family left to go back to Italy, the boys' dad asked me if I would come to Italy for a year and start a baseball league in their town. I don't even remember the name of the place anymore, but when I think of it now, it's always the most idyllic town in the history of the world. They had a guesthouse I could stay in, they'd feed me, pay me a modest monthly salary. Looking back, this should have been a no-brainer.
This post is about regret, so obviously I declined the offer. I had my reasons, but in hindsight, they weren't good ones. I often think about that lost opportunity. Who knows, I could be an Italian hero by now, the man who brought baseball to Italy. I could have written a bestseller about my year teaching baseball under the Tuscan sun, that kind of thing. I'm not saying the course of my life would have been dramatically altered, but I'm pretty sure it would have been a really good time.
When this memory fights its way to the surface of my consciousness, I briefly regret my decision to pass up a year in Italy. The reasons that led to my decision seem foolish now, but they were legit at the time. That's the thing, our decisions may not make sense in retrospect, but they were probably the best thing for us at the time. I still haven't been to Italy, but I believe I'll get there when the time is right.