Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for.....

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.


  1. Ooo. That's a tough one. I hope you get to Italy and find your sweet spot there!

  2. I have lots of regrets. Sometimes I think that my regrets have helped me with my children. I try to give them the opportunities I wasn't given or sometimes, was afraid to take. Maybe something like that will eventually make your regret have greater meaning. Hope so.

  3. I don't like regret either. But it is hard sometimes to not have regrets about the things in life we have or haven't done.

  4. Squilla's AuntApril 21, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    What a great post! I love the analogy to old friends and catching up - it rings very true.

    One of my biggest regrets was in not attending my best friend's wedding. I had a work trip that had been on the calendar long before the wedding date was chosen.....I was taking 40 teenagers and a few adults to work in the slums of Mexico, had parents depending on me to "take care of their babies", etc. But looking back, I know that I could have made some arrangements that would have worked, that I could have empowered and entrusted others with some short-term responsibility, and it would have been a win/win. Come to think of it, it's really a dual regret...that I wasn't there for my best friend and that I lost a prime opportunity to grow as a leader. But I did learn from that informs decisions even now.

  5. Good post. And a good example of revealing the personal without getting TOO personal.

    Regrets...I've had a few...

    Sorry. Totally relate, though. I kind of live by the same philosophy of not dwelling on what could have been. Some days/decisions are tougher than others, but what are you gonna do? Life goes on. And everything happens for a reason. << I actually kind of believe that. :)

  6. So you were their first choice. When they asked if I would like the job, I knew they were making a concession.

    Let me tell you, the first six months was joyous. Baseball Italiano flourished in the golden sun of Firenze. I met Isabella and we fell in love. But as these things go, one thing led to another. I became a crack addict and was eventually forced to kill a guy. I lost one kidney, my spleen, a gall bladder, and then a second kidney before it was all over. Ultimately the team fell apart, Isabelle hates me (but loves the income she's making off of my story), and I got six years hard labor. As I was led to the penitentiary I was told that she had married our fourteen-year-old, sure-handed catcher. She claimed that he was more mature, and twice the man I was.
    Don't get me wrong, all in all, I enjoyed my time in Italy... No regrets! Nessun Rimpianto.

  7. I don't like regrets, but I do have a bunch of them. I'm glad that none of them are HUGE, just stupid decisions that I can laugh abiut now and tell kiddo not to make the same ones

  8. Great post, and I too liked the analogy to old friends. I hope you make it to Italy someday. I couldn't help but laugh about teaching baseball under the Tuscan sun, if only! ;)

  9. I almost did my R post on regret too. We all have them and while I know that you regret not taking the trip I'm sure you've grown and learned from the experience.

  10. eek Tim. Italy is, well you know. I'm envious. I still regret things I didn't do, or did, when I was 13 etc.

  11. Squilla&#39;s AuntApril 21, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    David, your post made me general, do people tend to regret more the things they have done or the things they haven't?

  12. There are a few things I regret not doing in life - and we only get one chance - so nowadays I tend to be a little more adventurous!
    (mind you, the house is paid for and we have an empty nest so we have the luxury of more or less doing as we please)

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post! I arrived here via the 'surprise me' button, on the A-Z challenge! ...and now you have a new follower! ;-)

    SueH I refuse to go quietly!

  13. Between you and Munk, very good post! Everything happens for a reason and should past regret start to revisit you, think about Munk's comment above and have yourself a giggle and return to the present! : )

  14. I love this post and was particularly struck by the passage about regret being like old friends you don't see very often, but revisit occasionally ... Really beautifully articulated ...


  15. Ahhhh! That hurts. But you take your knocks, learn what you can from them, and then get back up so that more crap can be flung at you.

    Segue: You should read Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Great book. Not really even his traditional style (no lawyers, guns, intrigue, or any of that Firm-type stuff) It's about a third-string NFL QB who gets injured, and then is shipped off to spend a season playing in a semi-pro league in Italy. Thought it was worth a mention.