17 April 2004
When I was in High School I faced a choice of how to spend a part of my summer vacation. Option 1 was to travel to Oregon, as I had every summer since I could remember, and spend time with my relatives. Option 2 was to attend a writers camp in the wilds of northwestern Wyoming.
Both events appealed to me, but in different ways. I enjoyed the summers spent visiting my cousins and, that particular year, my Grandmother was turning 80 and the whole family was in on the party. On the other hand, I enjoyed writing and the idea of spending an entire week with people who not only understood my compulsion to write, but shared it seemed an opportunity too good to pass up. The fact that several of my long-distance-friends were planning to attend the camp only made the choice more difficult.
There was no way I could attend both events. No manipulation of time or space that would allow me the luxury of not having to choose between being with my family on a very special day and being with my friends doing something I felt passionate about.
This was also the first time I had had to make such a choice (that I can remember). My parents discussed the pros and cons of each choice while leaving the actual decision up to me. Not only did they not interfere, they committed to helping me attend either event, since, as a teenager, both funds and methods of transport were limited. The only factor in the decision was which event was the one I could least bear to miss.
Life as a responsible adult is full of choices that, once made, cannot be unmade. In the greater scheme of things this first choice was a like a driving lesson for steering though life. I can still feel the echo of the emotions of that time and the confusing pain of realizing that regardless of my choice I would have regrets.
I choose to go to the writers camp, and now, twenty years later, I don't remember a lot of the specifics of that week. I do remember it being a roller-coaster emotionally, but that equally was true of my day-to-day life. What I do remember is how beautiful the camp setting was and how much time we spent writing.
I wonder if I would have more vivid memories of that time if I had gone with my family instead or if memories from twenty years ago would fade, regardless of the event they were attached to. Would my life have been richer? I don't know. I was fortunate to have another six years to spend with my grandmother, including celebrating my wedding with her on her birthday five years later.
What I have learned is that I cannot do everything-- each choice, large or small, carries with it seeds of regret for opportunities missed. However, it is important not to let regret crowd out the joy of living.