I don’t think it helps much to worry about past mistakes. I think we make decisions according to our background and our chemical makeup and genes and “knowing” that different choices might have contributed to your life turning out differently doesn’t necessarily mean that you would make different decisions even if you knew how they would play out.
When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be around people. I think this was primarily because I didn’t have a clear enough idea about what to do when I was alone. If I’d had art classes or someone who encouraged me to write stories when I was small, I might have developed a need for lots of time alone earlier. As it was, I started reading to fill out my days and nights, but even then, I probably would have traded in those books for more activity.
By the time I got to college, I was accustomed to “wasting” large amounts of time by doing nothing or by playing games, watching TV and listening to music. I had never been anyplace where there had been clubs and activities to join other than the band, choir and MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship) of my junior high and high school years. I don’t know if it was lack of confidence or lack of interest that kept me from joining activities in college where I would have met more people, but I am quite sure that I had a small town inferiority complex that made me think people would probably not want to meet me.
Although in the dorm and around female friends I was outgoing and a leader of sorts, at mixers with fraternities, I was shy and held back. I didn’t go to the student union much–preferring the smoking room at our sorority house, playing bridge with the hashers and watching soap operas with the Lenzi twins–my partners in prevarication. Somehow I fell back on the lazy habits of my youth, even though I was now in an environment that provided more stimulating possibilities.
I see this tendency spreading like a stain throughout my life. Yes, I traveled all over the world, but once there, in an exotic or unfamiliar place, I didn’t necessarily make use of all the possibilities for socialization or discovery. Once again I fell back on nights spent alone, reading or puttering around the house. It wasn’t that I didn’t meet people and make friends. I gave dinner parties and big parties and went to the houses of friends. It was just that I also held back. Pulled out by friends, I would go, but if I had to make the decision myself, I would stay home.
Now that I am in my retirement years, I still feel this pull and push of life. If someone asks me to do anything, I do it. I have had a few big parties but in recent years I prefer dinner with one to four friends. The vast majority of my time, however, is spent alone, even though I know I could be busy every minute of the day with one or another social activity. I fill out my days with writing or, in month or two-month spurts, working in my art studio. I belong to three writing groups, two of which I go to regularly. The reading series I coordinated, I let die a natural death when the coffee house where we met closed. Others have urged me to resuscitate it, but i haven’t.
The reason I know I would probably not change my college habits even though I now know I should have been more active is because now that I am in possession of this knowledge, I still choose not to change. I am a social person who has an even bigger need for privacy and alone time, but now it is because I have two worthwhile activities with which to fill that alone time. Whether there is much value in what I produce is a moot point. I think we create in order to recreate our selves, in a way. It is a place where we have a power we grant to ourselves and perhaps in a way this is a success which, although unheralded by the world, creates a smaller world of our own where we can become whatever we want to be.
This is a rewrite of a piece written for one of my earlier blogs of four years ago. https://wordofthedaychallenge.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/possibilities/