Self-reflection is what I do and I’m pretty damn good at it. I’ve always been very introspective and so in the wake of my dad’s death – an event made for introspection – I was destined to shine. I made lists of things I want to improve about myself, things I want to do, new things I want to learn, old things I want to atone for. I mulled for days. I can ruminate with the best of them. However, as great as I am at reflection, I’m very terrible at taking the next step. I am so self-aware, that I’ve been freely admitting that this was a weakness of mine for at least a decade.
Since I’m so adept at taking a good look at myself and not so good at acting on what I see, I didn’t have many major revelations on this front in the weeks following my dad’s death. Many of the things I stewed about were the same things I’d been stewing about for years, but had never done anything about. My problem has never been knowing what I think I want. No, my problem is putting too much stock in what would happen if I was wrong. What happens if what seemed like a perfectly good goal wasn’t really worthy of the time it took to accomplish it? Is it not better to have great dream that you can rely on to get you through the rough patches than to actually pursue the dream and realize it wasn’t all you had hoped it would be?
My dad was 58 when he died, and I’m guessing that he had a long list of hopes and dreams when he was my age as well. I’m also guessing that a lot of the things on that list were still on the list 27 years later, when he finally ran out of time to start crossing some of them off. I’m left to simply guess about this, because he never told me and I never asked. I have no idea what his biggest regret was. I don’t know if there was one thing he always wanted to do but never had the courage or chance to do. I haven’t a clue what really made him happy. My guess is, though, that he did know and took for granted that he’d have the time to get around to it.
There is a tipping point between fearing the potential for regret and regretting the inaction caused by that fear, and it’s impossible to find the balance between the two through reflection alone. I don’t know if my dad was ever aware that he’d slid irretrievably from one side of the scale to the other – I can’t sure that I haven’t already done so as well. However, I still have time to move back the other way, and hopefully find that equilibrium. I no longer want to be happy to know that by doing nothing, I can’t ruin what seems like a perfectly good dream. This is where my recent introspection has diverged from the norm. Suddenly, I see my lists not as an accounting of where I am, but rather as a to-do list. A to-do list that is on the verge of becoming overwhelming if I don’t get moving.
This new line of thinking is how I came to have the tattoo that now adorns my back – a 4 square inch representation of my lucky number in roman numeral form permanently etched between my shoulder blades. I’ve known for the better part of a decade that I wanted not just a tattoo, but this specific tattoo. I could never be sure that I wouldn’t one day regret it though, so until three weeks ago, it remained something that I’d do some day. I still can’t guarantee that I won’t deplore the decision to get it at some point. What I am assured of though, is that 27 years from now, I definitely won’t regret not doing it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few other things I want to have a chance to look back upon fondly to do.