I’ve just celebrated my birthday.
I’m in my mid-thirties now!
This birthday has made me realize how years run way-too-fast.
This year’s birthday made me think a lot about the things I’d really want to do for myself, my friends, family and my country.
Basically, things that really matter.
I’d like to live life with no regrets, and I want to truly master that mantra.
I’ve realized that experiences can easily slip through one’s fingers from time to time, leaving one wondering “what if?”.
I’ve found myself, on several occasions, in situations where I’m wondering if I should go for it or hold back.
I came up with these 20 things I’m likely to regret when I get old, hoping they’ll help me decide to start doing things so that I don’t regret one day.
1. Caring too much about what other people think.
There’s a guy I recently met in one of our weekly after-work drinks in Paris and he told me, (let me quote him): “ It’s none of my business what other people think of me. It’s their issue and I respect it since everyone is free to think and say what they want.” I have to say, I thought it was rude of him to say that, but then I think he’s right. He knows why and life has probably taught him a lesson about not caring about other people think.
2. Not traveling when I had the chance.
I know! Traveling becomes infinitely harder the older one gets, most especially if one has a family and needs to pay the way for four-plus people instead of just oneself.
3. Not stopping enough to appreciate the moment.
Young people are constantly on the go, but stopping to take it all in now and again is a good thing.
4. Not learning another language.
It’s just disgusting to realize that one lived in Paris for more than five years without learning nor even speaking good French. My French is good, though there’s need for improvement. I’m currently using Duolingo to learn Spanish but my pace is really low. I should invest more time in this.
5. Missing the chance to see my favorite musicians or artists.
“Nah, dude, I’ll catch Miriam Makeba next time she comes through town.” Facepalm. That’s what a friend said back early 2008 when I told him I was going to see Miriam Makeba live at a Jazz festival in Kampala, Uganda. A few months later, in November 2008, she passed away. I’m happy I did see her perform one of my favorite tracks of all time; Pata Pata.
6. Being scared to do new things.
I’d like to start doing things because, I don’t want to think and tell myself things like, “What was I so afraid of, comfort zone”?
7. Failing to make physical fitness a priority.
I really consider myself one of the lucky ones in this life. I’ve just restarted exercising and I’m actually enjoying it. With the Metro-boulot-dodo Parisian lifestyle, it’s pretty easy to get taken by other things and forget the most important ones like exercising. I spent the physical peak of my late twenties and early thirties on a chair. When I hit 40, 50, 60, and beyond, I don’t actually want to dream of what I could have done.
8. Not quitting a terrible job.
I know, one got bills to pay. But if one doesn’t make a plan to improve the situation, it’s easy to wake up one day having spent 40 years in hell.
9. Not realizing how beautiful One was.
I’ve met a few people that, I think are spending an enormous amount of their youth unhappy with the way they look, forgetting that (and it’s true by the way) that’s the only time in one’s life when they’re most beautiful. I actually want to celebrate "beauty" and I find that the following quotes and proverbs tell better what I wanted to say here:
“Judge not your beauty by the number of people who look at you, but rather by the number of people who smile at you.” ~African Proverb
“Beauty is the gift of God.” ~Aristotle
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” ~Confucius
10. Not trying harder in school.
It’s not just that grades play a role in determining where one ends up in life. Eventually, one will start realizing how neat it actually was to have to spend an entire learning, and wish I’d paid more attention. This applies to reading whatever book that gives knowledge in whatever field one wants.
11. Being afraid to say “I love you.”
“I love you” is a statement of power. This is something you tell someone because it is meant from within the depths of your heart. When you tell someone you love them, it has to be organic, brought about because you’re experiencing these emotions on a visceral level. Have you got an opportunity to tell someone you love them? Go on, tell them because when you’re old, I’m afraid, you won’t really care if your love wasn’t returned. The only thing that will matter is that you made your feelings known.
12. Not taking the time to develop contacts and network.
I’ve been fortunate enough to meet amazing people in Paris thanks to Expats Paris. That said, I feel like I need to meet even more. Networking may seem, to many, like a bunch of crap when one is of young age, but later on, it becomes clear that it’s how so many jobs are won and friends are made.
13. Not listening to your parents’ advice.
I’m developing this passion for ancient wisdom because I truly believe that there’s great wisdom one gets from listening and respecting their parents. My favorite quote so far comes from China:
“Respect for one's parents is the highest duty of civil life.” - Chinese Proverb
I think that there's no better source of wisdom than people who have lived a long time. Having lived away from my native home (more than 15 years), I’ve always been in touch with my parents and other relatives. I cherish all the advises they gave me and I’d like to actually ask for more and be even able to apply them. When one young, it’s difficult to listen to parents, but the infuriating truth is that most of the things parents say about life are actually true. Have you ever heard of this “Parents know best” quote and all the others around it like: “Appreciate your parents. You never know what sacrifices they went through for you.” or “listen to your elders’ advice not because they’re always right but because they’ve got more experiences on being wrong…”?
14. Supporting others’ dreams over my own.
Supporting others is one of the best opportunities that can happen to someone. One day, I want to look back at my youth and be proud I helped someone reach their goals.
15. Holding grudges, especially with those I love.
I don’t want to keep on re-living the anger over and over. What’s the point?
16. Not volunteering enough.
Alright, fine, I know I’ll regret not volunteering Hunger Games style, but nearing the end of my life without having helped to make the world a better place freaks me out. I’m afraid this might be a great source of sadness for me one day. Time to start working on it.
17. Missing the chance to ask my granny questions before she’s gone.
I’m planning to go to Africa this spring. I’m going to see friends and other family members but most essentially my grandmother. I don’t even know how old she is (she was born during the colonial period), she never went to a formal school, but she seems to know all about the school of life. I have so many questions to ask her and I look forward to seating (just her and me) and get to talk about life, about her, about the things I’ve known or heard of. My flight is booked, but she doesn’t know yet I’ll go to see her. I’m pretty sure she won’t read this post.
18. Working too much.
This Forbes article lists 25 biggest deathbed regrets. And no one wishes they spent more time at the office, but they do wish they spent more time with family, friends, and hobbies. I probably need to read this Tim Ferriss’ four hours week book to figure out how to work less.
19. Not learning how to cook one awesome meal.
I currently live in Paris, the world capital of culinary art. I don’t know where this life will take me tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that knowing one drool-worthy meal can make a dinner party much more special. Paris is the special place to learn the art of cooking. I need to get more out of what the Parisian cuisine can offer.
20. Not being grateful sooner.
This one is an inspiration coming from an A. A. Milne’s quote shared via our Twitter account today. "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why we call it present." It can be hard to see when one is young, but eventually, it becomes clear that every single second on this earth — from the mundane to the amazing — is a gift that we’re all so incredibly lucky to share and appreciate.
Over to you!
Is there anything you’ve ever thought of trying but lack the courage to go for it? How do you deal with that feeling? Let’s have a chat down in the comments.
Latest from Michael Bahati
- Internship Opportunities: Become An Expats Paris Projects' Champion
- Expatriation: When your mental health starts declining & What to do about it.
- Paris-based Expat Influencers Reveal The Podcasts That Make Them Smarter
- Champs-Élysées Film Festival: 6 of the greatest cinematic works
- 30 Life Lessons Expats Learn But Keep Forgetting