I recently read and enjoyed The Year We Turned 40 (linked to my review at 5 Minutes for Books). It follows 3 close friends during the year they turn 40. It opens with Jessica giving birth to an illegitimate baby, the product of a one-night stand with a dad she knows from her kids’ school. Ten years later on the eve of their 50th birthdays, the 3 friends look back with regrets. Jessica is still eaten up over the subsequent breakup of her marriage. Gabriela fell in love with baby Lucas and regretted her choice not to have kids, but instead of doing something about it before it was too late, poured herself into her career. And Claire wishes she had spent more time with her mother who died of cancer 9 years earlier, and regrets not being stricter and setting better boundaries with her daughter. The women are given the chance to go back and do things differently, only to find that their new choices will have unforeseen consequences as well.
I found the idea intriguing. If I could go back 10 years, would I? What would I do differently? Are there things I could do that would change the life I live today, and would I risk losing what I like about my life the way it is?
Of the 3 women, the one I could relate to the most was Claire. I don’t have any one single big regret. No extramarital affairs, no illegitimate children, no big life event I chose not to do and wish I had. Although I am not a single mother and I was quite good at setting boundaries with my 3 children, like Claire I wish I’d done some things differently with them. I’d love to have had more time with my mother too. She died in 2009, after battling Parkinsons for 9 years. But unlike Claire, who is able to get her mother a cancer diagnosis earlier, there’s not really anything I could have done differently for my mother.
Additionally, the last 10 years have involved some really painful things that weren’t really based on choices I made, or at least not on choices I made 10 years ago. I’d have to go back 15 or 20 years to change the things that led directly to the pain. And the thing is, I wouldn’t make different choices. I would still choose to take my family to live overseas, even knowing the hardships we would all encounter. But I don’t really want to live through those dark days again. Once was more than enough, thank you.
Wouldn’t change this! (pic taken in 2001, I think.)
On the other hand, maybe there are some small things I could have done differently to alleviate some of the suffering? I wish I knew then what I know now–but don’t we all? Probably the biggest change I would make would be to never stop exercising and to keep myself from getting too busy. I would prioritize my kids more than I did. For the past 5 1/2 years, I’ve worked with refugees, and I have loved it, but if I did it over I would set better boundaries and allow myself more downtime. I’m not sure if I’d be willing to relive 10 years though. And even as I type this, I’m talking to my husband about how yes I was too busy this week, but it was good and necessary. I suspect that I haven’t really learned my lesson after all.
Or this! The 3 in Fez, Morocco, in 2009.
And surely none of us are without regret. Hindsight is 20/20, but life isn’t lived that way.
What about you? If you could go back 10 years and change some things, knowing then what you know now about the consequences of what you did then, would you? What would you change? PLEASE tell me in comments! I would love to hear. And if this idea is intriguing to you, definitely check out my review of the book at 5 Minutes for Books.