- First camp: Don't compromise your dreams, because anything less is just settling.
- Second camp: Life doesn't go the way you plan - but that doesn't mean you won't have fulfillment in something that never occurred to you before.
I've gone through periods believing each one of these, and both at the same time.
But I've discovered something that has made the "regrets" issue easier to address: the longer I'm alive, the more myself I become, and therefore the more insightful into what I truly want.
Once upon a time, I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to dress up, pretend to be someone else, have people praise me and love me, and look just like all the pretty girls I watched in my favorite movies. I even majored in Theatre during college. Then life happened - I had a professor tell me I'd hit a learning curve with my acting; I fell in love and got married; I couldn't get my body to shape to the Hollywood ideal; I moved to Tucson.
Then I thought I would get into modeling. Look beautiful, wear fabulous clothes and jewelry, have people praise and love me. Then life happened again - I got suckered by an agency; I couldn't get my body to shape to the Fashion ideal; my husband lost his job; I got stuck in a job I hated.
Have we noticed any themes yet?
A few years later, I finally did get into acting again, for a local Shakespeare company, in fact. I met lots of lovely people. I landed a lead role after my first audition in six years. I discovered that life experience was the dimension I was missing in my acting. I met more lovely people. Then I met not so lovely people. I learned what co-dependency really means. I discovered that praise is fickle and admiration fleeting and the pursuit of either more harmful than helpful. I hurt my husband and my friends. I found that God is the only constant in my life, and the only one worth suffering for.
And after a period of selfish indulgence and wasted time, God called me out and showed me that neither acting nor modeling would have satisfied me - the dreams I wanted so badly would have made me miserable. He showed me the personality I've always had, the strengths He gave me, and how He has worked everything out for my ultimate good.
I'm an introvert. I hate conflict, whether it involves me or not. I hate gossip and drama. I want to feel appreciated and cherished. I write better than I speak. I love positive interactions with people. I like clean and orderly and pretty. My body is beautiful the way it is, plus size or average. My heart determines the type of person I am, not my fashion sense or my weight. I still love dressing up, whether in a costume or in formal attire; I love reading more than watching television or movies. I love creating stories - ALL the characters and their adventures, not being limited to just one.
And that job I hated? I still hate it, or certain parts of it. Thank God I got laid off. I'd most likely still be there wondering if it might just possibly get better, or if I should find something else and quit, but then changing my mind because I needed the benefits. I'm not too much a fan of that company anymore, but my time there taught me invaluable lessons about interacting with people, writing professionally and technically, leading teams, building rapport, collaborating on projects, and not being afraid to ask questions.
It's been about 14 years since I decided to major in Communication Arts: Theatre, and every experience, uplifting or distressing, has removed the excess from my personality, refined my character, defined my strengths, and shown me more of who I have always been.
"The older I get, the more like myself I feel." I don't regret my life. I get frustrated with it, sure, and sometimes get resentful, and I am sorry for the sadness I've caused others, but I don't regret it. The "what ifs" of life, what might have been if I'd never moved to this city, or what might happen if I don't do this interview just right... I can't dwell on them. I refuse. Such things are counter-productive. God is ever working all these things for my ultimate benefit and His ultimate credit, so therefore I have never "settled."
I guess I just put myself firmly in the second camp, didn't I? :)