“Thirty-seven Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old” by Mike Spoor at www.buzzfeed.com listed several of my youthful follies, which I’ve detailed below. Mr. Spoor contributed the italicized regret; I added the lamentation.
Not learning another language: I sensed in fourth grade that I wouldn’t be a stellar foreign-language scholar when I failed to master Pig Latin. Then in high school and college, I took every literature class offered, which left no time for another language. To me, analyzing “Moby Dick” seemed a more entertaining pastime than conjugating Spanish verbs.
As a result, when visiting foreign countries, I clutch a travelers’ phrase book, pester approachable strangers and rarely receive useful information. A dapper gentleman once led me two blocks to a zoo when I asked for directions to a restroom. I envy the skills of carefree travelers who switch from one language to another without hesitation. Conjugating verbs has its rewards.
Not using sunscreen: In the ’60s, my high school friends and I shared the prevailing belief that with a deep tan we’d look healthier and prettier. So every summer we slathered baby oil on our exposed skin and lounged on top of Meldrum’s chicken coop, miserably roasting in the sun, hoping we’d look like Sandra Dee.
In college, I studied with my roommates in our swimming suits on the thick grass of a cemetery that bordered our dorm, misting water on our burning skin with a spray bottle, and poking one another to test for doneness.
Today, wrinkles, age spots, and skin-cancer removals make me rue the time I spent toasting my skin. Several years ago, after a visit with my dermatologist, I read a poem at a dear neighbor’s funeral with a big, brown scab on my red nose. I’m sure some in the audience, looking at me, thought death would be preferable.
Being afraid to do things: Some things do frighten me — water so deep I can’t stand up and poke my head out whenever I wish, selling things and fried liver. Other things don’t bother me — spiders, public speaking, and Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." My fears of climbing a Colorado 14er and traveling by myself faded when I did those things, but no matter how many times I drive big-city interstate systems, my hair stands on end and I hyperventilate.
Caring too much about what other people think: When sunburn didn’t make my young face flame red, embarrassment did: “But, Mom, nobody else will be wearing a coat; I’ll look stupid.” “I hate it when Dad sings while my friends are in the car. They look at each other.” “What was I thinking when I volunteered to drive? What if the car stalls, and one of the gussied-up ladies has to start it while I pop the hood and shake the loose wire?”
Eventually, praises be, even I fell victim to maturity and stopped caring. It’s nice.
Neglecting your teeth: I recently read that a recurring dream of mine is common; many people dream about losing their teeth. The online Dream Dictionary links nightmares about your teeth falling out, one by one, in slow motion, to fears of losing control or making a fool of yourself. I disagree; I have the dreams because I’m afraid of losing my teeth. Period.
Worrying too much: Evidently it’s OK to worry a little. I’m an outstanding worrier, so I’d hate to give it up completely. During the last five minutes, I worried about my cravings for dessert, the sharp pain I had yesterday behind my eye, and whether the weatherman feels bad about his poor forecasting record.
But throughout the years I’ve realized that worrying about things that have yet to happen — the need for brain surgery, Joel asking for extra butter on our popcorn at the movie, my feet getting wider — is a waste of time.
Although, I sometimes still worry that not worrying will allow bad things to happen.
Janet also blogs at www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.