I'm not a fan of regrets, but as Frank Sinatra once sang, I've had a few. Six big ones in my life, which is probably a small number.
Interestingly, almost all of my regrets are from the same period in my life, from the ages of 17-22. No surprise that the memoir I've decided to write encompasses those very years.
Because I love lists (and just finished a novel comprised solely of lists), I've decided to make a list of them here.
1. I wasn't wearing my seatbelt on December 23, 1988.
Even though I always wore my seatbelt from the moment I started driving, the excitement of Christmas shopping and the rush to get to work caused me to forget on the very day that my Datsun B-210 collided head-on with a Mercedes, sending me through the windshield and destroying my legs as they became embedded in the dashboard.
Had I been wearing my seatbelt, my injuries would have been minor.
The accident resulted in months of recovery during the final months of my senior year of high school, multiple surgeries on my knees, and glass still embedded in my forehead today. It also had a domino effect on the rest of my life, as you'll see below.
2. I didn't attend college after high school.
Despite my excellent grades and enormous number of extracurricular activities, no adult ever spoke the word "college" to be throughout my entire school career, and the expectation was that I would leave home at 18.
While I eventually made it to college five years later, I was forced to work full time while earning at degree in English at Trinity College and a elementary teaching degree at St. Joseph's University. Though I found time to write for the school newspaper, serve as the Treasurer of our Student Council, and compete in statewide debate tournaments, I never lived on campus and didn't have the opportunity to attend school the traditional way or make close friends like so many of my friends did.
My friend, Bengi, once told me that it was a shame I didn't go to college after high school. "You were made for the traditional college experience. You would've loved it."
I think I would.
3. I didn't become an Eagle Scout
Though I earned more than enough merit badges for Eagle Scout by the time I was 15 years old, I stalled, partially because no adult supported me in designing the required service project, and once I finally did so on my own, a near-fatal car accident derailed those plans and stalled me once again. Less than two months after my accident, while I was still recovering, I turned 18, and my lifelong dream of becoming an Eagle Scout was dead.
4. I didn't pole vault during my senior year of high school
The same near-fatal car accident prevented me from competing in track during my senior year and kept me from competing in the district championships, where I had placed second the previous year.
5. I play sports right-handed.
Though I am left-handed, my stepfather would not buy me a baseball glove for a lefty and instead gave me a hand-me-down glove for a right handed player. This forced me to learn to throw right handed (which is why I still throw poorly today) and had a domino effect on almost every other sport. I learned to shoot a basketball right handed and I learned to swing a baseball bat right-handed, which led to me playing golf right-handed.
This made every sport at least twice as hard for me to learn, and it left me with a lifetime of struggle on the courts, fields, and fairways.
6. I didn't request a lawyer during my series of interrogations before being arrested and tried for a crime I did not commit.
Assuming that if I requested a lawyer, I would appear guilty, and because I had no parent or other adult figure in my life when I was 21 years-old to support or guide me, I allowed myself to be interrogated by police three times over the course of two weeks without an attorney present and without anyone in my life knowing what was happening to me.
I'm not sure if things would've changed had I requested an attorney, but most attorneys who I've spoken with think it would've changed things considerably, and my arrest had a domino effect on my life:
I lost my job. I became homeless. I worked two full time jobs for almost two years to pay for a $25,000 legal bill, and while I was at one of those jobs, I was robbed at gunpoint, guns to my head and triggers pulled, which led me to a lifetime of PTSD. My planned entrance into college was derailed, and my life was essentially stalled for two years while I awaited for my trial and struggled to pay my lawyer.