Regrets–yeah, I’ve had a few (Side comment: In Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way,” he sings that line with a world-weary attitude…while in Sid Vicious’ version of the same song he more or less spits it out like he’s defying the very words he’s saying. Sorry…wasting your time here).
But my regret was that I went to law school rather than getting my MFA and becoming what I wanted and still want to be: a writer. Back in those days–we’re talking early 80’s–I had no idea what a MFA was or did and I went to law school because I couldn’t get into med school–you know being a Republican yuppie and all at the time. I’ve often regretted going into law school–and being a Republican–because neither of them have really worked out for me.
Yet lately, I can look at my regret at not getting a MFA as sort of a woulda,coulda, shoulda. I was twenty-two as an undergraduate–let’s say I had gotten a MFA. Okay, sure I would have the academic credentials to do a writing career–but what in the hell would I write about at twenty four or twenty-five? I hadn’t exactly done much living yet and I sure as heck had no voice or viewpoint of my own to write from. I still have all of what I wrote back in those days and they’re pretty much bereft of both style and substance. I was ill-versed in human relationships and couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t a Stephen King-type plot or pulp influenced. My world view wasn’t much of anything either and, trust me, I’m never going to be confused for a writing prodigy.
So I kind of took the long route–becoming an attorney, but never stopped writing. I matured (a debatable judgment in some eyes) and acquired experiences that taught me something about living. There have been dark days and private pain, but I don’t regret the decisions I made. I’ve learned something from all of it and, in the process, I acquired my own voice–and as I’ve written about before–my own little niche of sorts. That’s just the way it had to be. When I get asked “What do you do?”–I no longer say “I’m a lawyer.” I can say “I’m a writer” and entirely tell the truth. I am perfectly fine with that.
So it’s no use regretting anything. Never give up. Be what you want to be. If you want to write–just do it and don’t let anything stop you. Might take a while, but trust me, you’ll get there.