In 2013, Charlie Rose interviewed Lena Dunham, fresh off the first year of her show Girls. I hadn’t been a fan of the episodes I saw (although I have become of fan of her other work recently), but Charlie Rose’s round table and gentle questioning lured me in.
He asked her about her artist parents and their influence on her, but she also talked about a different kind of influence her mother had on her. She said that her mother was a deeply regretful person, someone who would regret even the choice she made for her entree at a restaurant (If only I’d gotten the chicken instead of the pasta…). This, Lena Dunham said, had led her to try her best to regret as little as possible. It was that part of the interview that stayed with me even years later.
Because, how exactly do you manage to regret less?
At the end of March, I left the job I’d had for two and a half years. It was time to go for sure and pursue some dreams I’ve been giving my divided attention to for the last couple of years. The day after the last day at my job, I went to Los Angeles for some creative professional development and also tacos, vintage shopping, and lots and lots of sunshine.
In an alternate universe, I might have ended up living in Los Angeles at twenty-one, pursuing an internship at an entertainment magazine. But, I didn’t and instead went to New York to work in book publishing. I never regretted moving to New York, but over the years, I have regretted not pursuing the writing path that the internship might have provided.
If I’d been serious about writing sooner, maybe all my writing dreams would already be a reality! And I don’t know about you, but once a game of “What If…” gets going, it can go for rounds and rounds.
But, being in Los Angeles and being creative there made me think that opportunities revisit us. It was 16 years after I could have been living a creative life in Los Angeles, but there I was a writer like I’d wanted to be then, as excited at the newness now as I would have been then.
Maybe we regret less if we don’t think of the opportunity as lost. We can always go back to a restaurant and get the dish we didn’t get the first time and maybe also in all those bigger ways (Why didn’t I move to that place? Why didn’t I go to grad school? Why didn’t I pursue that career?), we can also still make the choice we didn’t make the first time.
I could insist on regret because no, I will never be a twenty-one year old living in Los Angeles. But, I think instead I’ll remember the license plate I took a picture of while I was in California when I ask myself if I have any regrets about my life: Ummm No.
Besides, who knows? I may one day be a forty-year old living in Los Angeles.