Last Friday night I made a bold, albeit characteristic decision to stay in like a true homebody for the 90th consecutive weekend. In part because the Tucson Arizona nightlife has very little to offer other than a stellar 2 a.m. Mexican hotdog, but also because I’m feeling a sense of urgency lately. Urgency to utilize time better, to minimize distractions and to approach every day with January 1st type motivation.
What I’ve quickly discovered is that, even within the confines of four walls, there are plenty of distractions. YouTube, Netflix, sleep, food, cable television, sleep, Facebook, Twitter — and of course, sleep. Those forms of entertainment and relaxation are embraced, and suddenly I realize, shit, I didn’t accomplish anything (unless conquering 10 episodes of How I Met Your Mother season 7 in one sitting is considered an achievement?). When you’re trying to be productive and progressive, there’s nothing worse than going to making the time to do those things, and realizing too late that you’ve failed to do them. Again, if 4-5 hours of Ted Mosby’s scripted love life is noteworthy, then many of us are sitting pretty.
The next day I ran into this elderly man at my apartment complex. He can be seen strolling around the place every single day. Seriously, he’s almost a part of the scenery — gigantic rocks, light posts, cactus, old man walking, etc. Aside from a quick “How’s it going?” we’d never really spoken. This time he struck up a conversation that covered baseball, military, exercise and eventually, accomplishing what you can while you’re young. “You married?” he asked. I emphatically replied “No,” leading to him asking my age. “I’m twenty-four.” He dropped his head back and laughed, “You’re just a baby in diapers — there’s plenty of time to do what you love and accomplish what you want to.”
The encouragement was appreciated, but what followed were these words that I won’t soon forget:
“The worst kind of regret is the one that it’s too late to do anything about. You know how people say ‘it’s never too late?’ — well that’s not true. There are certain things that unfortunately do have time constraints. I’m an 82-year-old man, and I wish I could be young again. I moved here from New York in the 80s when I knew I didn’t really want to, and now, it’s just too late to do any of the stuff I wanted. I mean sure, you can always take trips and try to become what you want to be, but traveling the world or taking a risk and chasing your dreams becomes harder if, say you’ve got children to be responsible for, or old age taking its toll on your body. Now I’m sounding depressing, but I’m not saying life is over when you’re old — I will say that there’s nothing worse than wishing you had taken those chances when you had the opportunity.”
This leads to the question, what potential future regrets are you putting off right now? If we’re being honest, in this day and age we’d all be lucky to make it to 82 and counting like this man has, but by that same token, playing it safe and surrendering to unfortunate circumstances or allowing them to run the show isn’t what we want to reflect upon down the road. It’s slightly terrifying because the general consensus seems to be that everyone feels as if the years are flying by rapidly, and days in our 20s and 30s are numbered. Do we use this time to live it up and party, using the lyrics of LMFAO songs as our guide to life — or do we buckle down and dedicate ourselves to our passions? Maybe there’s a balance, maybe there’s a way to have fun while also indulging in your passion; nobody has the right answer because there isn’t one — it varies from person to person.
I believe I had that timely exchange with the elderly man for a reason. Maybe I’m looking into things too deeply, but I’m not a big believer in coincidences. Had that conversation not happened, I wouldn’t be writing this to y’all, and you wouldn’t be thinking about what you’re currently thinking about (which is probably either “Oh, shut up, Hudspeth” or something regarding your goals, dreams and future). This isn’t meant to babble or preach about fulfilling our destiny, but then again, I hope we all do. His message was clear and it’s, at the very least, worth thinking about: it isn’t always what you regret; it’s also about when you regret it. That sounded Dr. Who-ish, but if there’s something you wish you had in life right now, is it still very attainable?
If you want to be the 6th grade Spelling Bee champion, sorry, that train has likely left the station. But if you just feel as if your dreams are farfetched because it’d take money, time, brains or skills that you don’t feel you have, that does not mean the ship has sailed — and even if it has started to, hop on a jet ski and track that sucker down. As a broke, busy, slow learning, uncoordinated individual, I firmly believe our desire is all that matters. That and a heavy fear of waking up with regrets that are no longer possible to change… Or not waking up at all. Like the man told me before we parted ways, “Do the most you can do while you can do anything at all.”