Regrets, I've Had a Few
An open thread about what we'd all do differently, given a second chance. Plus: Buy my book! Come to an event!
I don’t often post open threads, but today I’m thinking a lot about the regrets we look back on as we get older, and I want to hear about yours.
We’ve all got them. Obviously regrets can be painful, and lingering on them for too long can be counter-productive. But they can also be instructive, and lead us to better choices going forward. Some of them can also be funny, in hindsight.
Me? I’ve got so many. I’ll start with this one: I will forever regret giving up my rickety East Village fourth-floor walkup, the rent for which was $722 when I left in 2004, and is now a staggering $3700. (It’s still pretty rickety; a recent tenant got in touch and gave me a tour.) A psychic had warned me more than a decade before, “Don’t give up the apartment,” and then, when I got engaged to my husband, Brian, I figured we’d spend the rest of our lives in his rickety, rambling 1800-square-foot loft for which he paid $1350. (The last listing I saw for it a couple of years ago was for $6800.) A month after we gave up my place, we found out we were losing his.
We’ve been upstate 17 years now, and while I love where I live, I also miss New York City something awful. I can’t tell you how often that psychic’s voice echoes through my head, Don’t give up the apartment…Don’t give up the apartment…Don’t give up the apartment…
Okay, your turn. What choices from the past fill you with regret? What’s a choice you wish you could reconsider?
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Recently I got heavily into Severance, the Apple TV thriller/dark comedy about workers at a company called Lumen who get chips implanted in their brains to create a rigid separation between their work and personal lives.
One of the later episodes features a nostalgic this-is-your-life montage centered on one of the characters, set to Paul Anka singing The Times of Your Life. Hearing it each time brought up a lot for me, and made me very emotional.
My reaction probably had something to do with a little stroll down memory lane of my own that I’m about to put into the world, namely And You May Find Yourself…Confessions of a Late-Blooming Gen-X Weirdo, my memoir-in-essays, which will be published by Heliotrope Books next Tuesday, June 14th.
In the book I reflect on my unusual taste in music for a Gen-X-er, which began at a very young age—one of many details contributing to the sense that I was strange. In grade school and junior high, at a time when my peers were crushing on Sean and David Cassidy and Leif Garrett, I swooned over much older crooners like Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, and Anka.
At 4 I was so obsessed with Williams that I named a stuffed animal after him (a turtle, go figure), and at 10 I was so into Sinatra that I sent him fan mail. “He” (his press people, I’m sure) responded with the signed photo you see up top.
Imagine me in fifth grade alternating, on my little plastic turntable, between the Free to Be, You and Me… album, and the single of Sinatra singing “My Way”—a song he made famous, for which Anka wrote the English lyrics. (The music comes from a French song, “Comme d'habitude,” about something else entirely.)
As I was working on the book, I thought about how heavily I was influenced by both. Free to Be… gave me the impression that adulthood was going to be awesome—that when I grew up, I’d be able to do whatever the hell I wanted, whenever the hell I felt like it. And “My Way” kind of reinforced that. Hence forth, I would approach most things in life my own farkakte way…which turned out to be a fool-proof recipe for manufacturing regrets. Anka and Sinatra admit to only a few. Me, I have many more.
Oh, did you want to know more about my specific regrets? Funny you should ask. Please allow me to refer you to a place where many of them are conveniently recorded and catalogued: My book!
I’d be so grateful if you’d order it—through Bookshop, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, or Indiebound, through your independent bookseller! You can also order a signed copy from Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston (to pick up or have mailed to you).
Publisher’s Weekly liked it: “Former Longreads editor Sari Botton debuts with an introspective collection of essays about the joys and pains of feeling like a misfit...Now in her mid-50s, Botton recalls in heartfelt and witty prose the pivotal moments that have shaped her...The result offers a cathartic look at an imperfect life lived fully.”
Below are links to book events:
June 11th, 2pm Tinker Street Social Reading Series, presented by The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, NY
June 26th, 5pm In conversation with Chloe Caldwell, author of the newly released memoir, The Red Zone: A Love Story, at Rough Draft Bar & Books in Kingston, NY.
I’d love to see some of you at these. Please come!
In the meantime please feel free to share a regret you ruminate on—something you wish you had done differently, and would love another chance at.