April 7, 2012

My Anniversary

"I ended up with forty acres, I ended up with a broken fiddle - and a broken laugh and a thousand memories and not a single regret." 
-Edgar Lee Masters

For my anniversary I'm going to let you in on a secret.

I was talking to a graduate instructor the other day about my upcoming move to New Orleans. The girl was about my age, maybe a little older, and she said that she couldn't imagine moving that far away from her friends and family and everything she knew. She asked me wasn't I nervous about being in a new city with complete strangers? She's not the first person to ask that. Over the years when I've spoken to people about my next move they all have similar reactions: "That sounds like so much fun! (but I would never do it)". There are too many maybes, too little certainty, not enough support system. What if I hate it? What if I can't make money? What if no one likes me? What if I don't like them? What if I fail?

Well, here's the secret: I hate these transitions because each one of these questions and doubts goes through my head too. Maybe it's that old "devil you know versus the devil you don't" sort of thing, but my anxiety is never higher than during one of these moves. The whole thing feels like a game of Boggle. You have those letters nice and in a row, but they're used up; you can't do any more with them. So you shake them up. Sometimes you get better, sometimes you don't; but you always get something different then what you had.

I read Edgar Lee Masters during my first year of college over a decade ago. The poem at the top is from his Spoon River Anthology about a farmer named Jones who plays the fiddles and spends more time at local dances then tending his fields. When he dies he looks back at his life and realizes he doesn't mind that he didn't work harder or make more money. It was the memories that mattered in the end.

Since finding this poem it's been my mantra, the thing I repeat in my head when I begin to freak out about the changes ahead. Recently a list by a former hospice nurse was picked up by some major newspapers. She wrote down the five regrets that people voice on their deathbeds.
  1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  2. I wish I didn't work so hard
  3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings
  4. I wish I'd stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish I'd let myself be happier
I guess what I'm getting at here is that it's ok to have doubts and it's ok to be nervous. There is nothing about me or my upbringing that allows me to nonchalantly uproot and take on a new challenge. Each time I change jobs or states I have those same doubts and those same butterflies, but in the end I know that I'll regret the chances I didn't take more then the ones I took. It goes by fast, just look at the past year, so don't worry so much about falling. We're like cats, we naturally land on our feet even if there are a few panicked moments when we're trying to get our bearings.

So, happy anniversary to the Jetta,
who hung in there despite my neglect of her.

Happy anniversary to all of you,
who keep sending me good ideas and questions.

And happy anniversary of my car dwelling adventure,
which has taught me a lot.


  1. I couldn't agree more, even though I lost a ton of stuff in the last year, and I am sitting here nursing a bad neck, from jumping of an observation deck, but at least I can get out the picture and say "I jumped off that" and not "I wish had jumped". So get out there find a surfshop now that your a gulfcoast girl and hit the water and if you ever find something to jump off do it.

  2. Oh and Happy anniversary buy yourself a drink on me, just keep the receipt and I will reimburse you. :)

  3. Happy anniversary!

    I also read the article about the regrets of the dying. It reminded me of a woman I once dated. Every Saturday, no matter what, we just HAD to wash the cars, clean the pool, and pick up the apples from under the trees (she counted them). She'd complain now and again about not having more fun on Saturday afternoons, but even when the cars were reasonably clean, the pool unblemished and the apples still green and clinging to the tree, she would not agree to a hike, bike, or anything else. The chores just HAD to be done. I asked her once that if she were on her death bed, would she look back upon her life and wistfully think, "If only I could wash the Cadillac 'one more time ....'"

    We don't see each other anymore, mostly because of our divergent philosophies.

    The poem by Masters is new to me but the attitude and philosophy is not. Go out and LIVE -- and do it with gusto. As Theodore Hesburgh put it, "You can't blow an uncertain trumpet."

    Best regards,

  4. Happy Anniversary and a very good post! In the spirit of David ... treat yourself to a coffee tomorrow morning, on me.

  5. Happy Anniversary! Who knew you were a good poet as well as article writer? haha

    About to hit four months on the road myself. Knowing people like you are still going strong is a great motivator.

  6. A wonderful post, I've never been an accumulator of stuff(by the time i'm 90, i'll be living out of a fanny pack), life from a nomadic view is about memories, experiences, and friendships. Anotherwords, life is about the trip not the destination.


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