It runs a chill down my spine when a series of events seem to ask the same question. Recently, between a few different bloggers and a couple of theater productions, the question around “what one thing would you change” has been raised.
This question can easily drift into regret. Regret for a path not taken, a decision made that is now considered “wrong”, an opportunity lost. One blogger bounced that notion on its head with the idea that now, in retirement, you have the time to do “it”. The thing you did not do, the path you did not take, the choice you did not make.
As I face another radical (for me) change in our path moving forward, I started to think about things I did not do, paths I did not take. Not that I would go back and change anything, because the path I’ve taken has lead me to where I am today. And this is NOT a bad place! But this thinking can open up the future – many of those things I could now do.
What path not taken can I now take?
As we move into our downsized house, I want to plan In-Home Friend Dinners. This will be a learning experience for me – I’ve never been an at-home-entertainer. I’ve always wanted to be, and admire those who make it look so effortless. Friend Dinners also combine two elements of my life vision – building closer friendships and cooking more. Since our new down-sized house actually has a larger, more functional kitchen, I am very excited to be able to cook more – both for entertaining and for just the two of us.
Another element I want going forward is more mini-adventures. I’m coming to the realization that I am, contrary to what I might think I should be, more of a homebody. I have friends who travel almost constantly – off for the weekend to Chicago, a week in Paris for the Easter break, or regular ski or scuba trips. And other friends who every weekend are off on another hike, another historical site/cool town, another bike trip. And friends who have already been to the latest restaurant opened in town, the top 10 burger joints, and the greatest dining-out patios. I have often felt I need to compete and be the same way. Yes, my Comparison Inferiority Complex rears its ugly head. I need to acknowledge – I am not that person. I am not the constantly out-and-about person. I like being at home. I enjoy sitting on my porch and reading. I enjoy puttering in the yard. BUT, I do want a few more mini-adventures. Not every weekend, but a few times a year – a long weekend away, maybe tapping into RoadScholar, which I’ve been eager to try. Maybe a cool day trip once a month – plan it and do it. And yes, let’s try that new restaurant, but maybe not the first month it’s open! And most importantly, beyond the need to do the planning, be happy in the moderation. Not disappointed in the comparison.
This house move is a big one for us. I have not done many physical moves in my life. Given my homebody nature, I tend to dig into a place. And my pack-rat, hoarding, can’t throw/give anything away husband? This will be extremely traumatic as we move from 3400 sq. ft. to 2100 sq. ft. Yes, I hear some laughter at 2100 sq. ft. being downsized!
But I am hopeful that this is the beginning of a wonderful new path in our lives. A path that is full of “can do” activities, new areas to explore, and my life vision to unfold. And a few of those “paths not taken” elements coming into reality.
8 thoughts on “A Path Not Taken?”
Pat, This post resonated as I’ve given a lot of thought in retirement to the path not taken. Like you, I wouldn’t change a lot of what I’ve done as it made me who I am today in a place I like being. But, now is my time to do what I didn’t do earlier in my life. My husband and I belonged to a dinner group for years. It was made up of 4 couples who got together once a month at one of our houses. The hosting couple did the entree; the others brought appetizers, soup or salad and dessert and a bottle of wine. We had a lot of fun before 3 of the couples, including us, moved to other states. As for your downsizing, I found with aging I didn’t need or want as much stuff so it was cathartic to unload what wouldn’t fit into our 2,300 square foot home. Best to you on your new adventure in your new space. Loved this post. K
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I thought about your “path not taken” reference and it sparked some additional ideas. Yes, there are things you can do in retirement that you postponed earlier in life such as taking up a musical instrument, starting a new hobby, learning a new language, etc., but there are things you can’t do as well. I made a decision to go into industry with my Ph. D. in chemistry instead of going into academia and starting up my own research group. I think I could have done some world-class, innovative science in the academic world, but I had a family to support, so I chose the more stable path even though it caused me not to become the scientist I think I could have been. I did some imporyant, useful work at P&G, but I could never publish any of it and it was not of the same scope and impact that I might have achieved in an academic setting. There is no going back and trying the second path at this point, unless I knew I was going to live to be 120! Ha ha. So, do I have some mild regrets about that choice? Yes and no. I regret missing out on the scientific legacy I might have been able to leave the world, but I don’t regret having been able to securely raise four children.
Thinking further, as we always told our children, make good choices, because all it takes is one bad choice to absolutely ruin your life. Even assuming that you don’t make stupid choices, every choice you make has implications for your life and I mean EVERY decision, not just the ones you think are consequential. Using your split path analogy, imagine that you are walking on a long path (your life) with many, many forks (choices). Every decision you make in your life alters your eventual outcome. Depending on the choices you make, you could end up very far from where you envisioned yourself, Perhaps unintentionally because you don’t realize the unintended consequences of your decisions. However, you can’t “what if” every single decision you make or you’d go insane. I believe that you need to make choices based on a consistent set of values, do your best to anticipate unintended consequences of major decisions and then just move on.
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I think I don’t regret any of those little choices I made because I am very satisfied where my life is. I guess I believe that most of my choices were “good” and even if there are a couple that weren’t as good as I hoped, I still think I learned from them and there were silver linings in the outcomes. No, I’m not wearing rose colored glasses – I tend to be more syndical than that. I just do believe I am where I as supposed to be. And now can look at things I didn’t do – choices I made to not do – and try them out. OK, maybe not invent the great scientific legacy.
And you actually do have time to do that if you really want – it wouldn’t take you 60 years! But I think you’re having too much fun doing other things now. 🙂
Hi, Pat – Thank you for another thoughtful post. Adding to Janis’ ‘home entertaining’ suggestions above, ‘Happy Hour’ works well for us. We go super casual and have a few easy appies and some drinks between 4:00 – 6:00 pm. Guests often bring their own drinks as well and most bring an additional appetizer. It super easy, everyone feels comfortable, and no one has a long evening commitment (great for non-extroverts)! When ‘Happy Hour’ is going really well and the evening extends itself, we simply order pizza.
Just a thought to add to your list!
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We bucked the trend and went from 2400 sq. ft. To 3700 sq. ft. when I retired and we LOVE the change. But that’s us……which brings me to my next point. The comparison/competition thing has to go! Just be yourself, do what you like and be comfortable in your own skin for goodness sake. A few months ago, I read a book called “Biochemical Individuality” which basically points out that we are even more unique biologically than we think we are. I believe that is true psychologically and experientially too. What makes you uniquely happy may not make anyone else in the world as happy as it makes you because you are a singularity, a true individual that is the sum total of all of your experiences. My advice is to develop a finely tuned sense of not caring what anyone else thinks and then just forge ahead and do what makes you fulfilled and happy. I wish I could convey to you how little I care about anyone else’s opinion so that my attitude could rub off on you. It’s really very liberating to feel this way. Now, don’t get me wrong; if I am taking one of my Sommelier exams, I care very much what my examiners think of me, but that’s different! When it comes to my lifestyle choices, I do what I want as long as it meshes with my values and it makes me happy. If you like staying home, stay home! Nobody who is worth your friendship is going to judge you. If they do, then perhaps it’s time to part ways. You don’t need that in your life. I hope you come to peace with this concept. Good luck!
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Learning to separate out what I really want versus what I’ve been programed to think I want is an on-going learning curve. I’ve always done what as expected – I was the “good girl” in the family dynamic! So when I see others who are similar to me doing things… I think it’s expected of me as well. Blogging is one of my ways of being overt in the learning about myself – writing it down and speaking it out – making it real. And getting validation that being just me is OK! See, I haven’t learned not to care what others think yet. 🙂
Another thoughtful post, Pat.
My husband and I would like to entertain more, but it doesn’t come easy for us either. One thing we’ve found that has helped us in the past is to have three or four full “entertainment meals” planned and practiced and just rotate them among the various groups of friends we have over (keeping a record so we don’t serve the same thing to the same people twice). That way, we are more comfortable in the preparation so we can enjoy our guests more. Another option is to go super casual (chili, tacos, BBQ chicken, etc.) and combine it with a game night (cards or board games).
I also understand your resistance to getting out of the house and going on adventures. I am a homebody too. But, I find that once the plans have been made and we are on our way, I really enjoy being away and seeing new things. I also find that most others aren’t quite as active as their Facebook posts might suggest 😄 . The important thing is to have fun enjoying YOUR life.
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My friend calls it Facebook Fantasy. But I’m hoping my new thinking eases my self-imposed stress about it. This year we are doing a big adventure – Africa. So that will last me awhile in the adventure box!
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