When I was probably 19 or 20 I remember a friend of mine telling me that it was a point of pride with her grandmother that her husband of many decades had never even once seen her fully nude. My friend & I both agreed that this was a ridiculous thing to be proud of, though it was probably not uncommon for our grandmothers’ generation to feel that way. We also agreed that it was really quite a sad commentary on the mentality of many folks in older generations because it is reflective of a mindset that sees life as something to be feared rather than something to be experienced.
I’ve never forgotten that conversation for one reason or another & I was reminded of it again today. While scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed I came across a meme that several friends had posted that said “I’d rather look back on life & think ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I had,’” or something along those lines. That quote prompted me to think about how it really is true that our biggest regrets in life are often the things we didn’t do rather than the things we did do. Whenever I heard people say that when I was growing up I couldn’t understand it. But now I do. Because I don’t have a lot of regrets in life but the few I have are mostly the things I didn’t do.
That meme also prompted me to think about how dangerous it is to live your life in fear & not experience so many of the wonderful things this world has to offer. I’m a humanist so I believe that people are capable of both good & evil but if we focus our energies on the good we are capable of creating amazing things & effecting a lot of wonderful change on this planet. That is exactly why I think it’s so dangerous to raise children in a society that constantly tells them they’re a bunch of lousy sinners who don’t deserve anything good. When people have this kind of mentality drilled into their heads from day one, there is a tendency to never reach their highest potential. There is also a tendency to think it’s frivolous to do things just for fun & to feel like you have to live your life making up for your all of your sins. This leads to the kind of mindset where people think they are holier for not having high-speed internet or modern cell phones or other “worldly goods.” I wish I were making this up, but I’m not.
I lived the first eighteen or so years of my life with a very long list of things I couldn’t do because they were wrong. (I’m not talking so much about lying, stealing, or murder. I’m talking more about movies, music, words, & drinks that were somehow deemed “evil” & thus to be avoided at all costs. Obviously I am not advocating that life should be lived without any sort of basic morals.) Somewhere along the line I’m so glad I realized that life isn’t meant to be lived that way. I’m so thankful for the friends who encouraged me to have fun just for the sake of having fun. I’m so glad I learned that having fun is NOT a sin, nothing to apologize for, & that I never need a “reason” to spend time with friends, go to a concert, discover a new band or restaurant, or just do whatever I please so long as it’s not hurting anyone else.
This past weekend I went to a concert with a friend from work. We had a great time & while there we discussed the fact that I’ve never been to a rap concert. While I’m not a big fan of rap music I do like a few songs here & there, mostly from Flo Rida (embarrassing, I know but the songs I know by him are just fun songs that aren’t terribly crude or full of drug references), & one of my regrets in life is not going to a Flo Rida concert at my college a few years ago. While I know there is a lot more to rap/hip-hop than “gangsta” rap & the other mainstream crap that is blasted on radio stations, it’s still not my favorite genre, but nonetheless I want to go to a rap concert at some point in my life. It’s just an experience I think I should have.
What I’m trying to say is that life is meant to be experienced. Our journeys on this Earth are way too short to be spent depriving ourselves of all of the joy life has to offer. I’m in NO WAY suggesting you should go out & snort a few lines of cocaine, shoot up some heroin, or have unprotected sex with a stranger. Those are all choices that have well-documented negative consequences & the chances of experiencing not only short-term but long-term ill effects are far too great. Therefore those are not “life experiences” but simply bad decisions. What I AM saying is that never letting your husband see you fully nude is just silly. Never tasting a glass of wine because it’s “evil” is sad. There IS such a thing as moderation & maybe if people weren’t so convinced that they’re horrible sinners they’d have the self-discipline to actually practice moderation.
To be clear I’m not advocating that people should focus only on having fun in life. Obviously we need to be responsible mature adults who work hard, save money, & take care of ourselves & our families. But that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t squeeze as much fun as we possibly can into our lives.
Spring time is here with summer sure to follow, so let’s make the most of it. Go camping. Hike a mountain. Swim beneath a waterfall. Go fishing on a river. Attend an outdoor concert, even if you don’t know the band. You might discover a new one you like (that happened to me last weekend; already ordered & received their CD which I am loving). Go to a winery or a brewery with friends & taste some new drinks. Go to that Indian buffet you’ve been wanting to try. Take a walk on the beach at sunset. Listen to loud music & dance while doing housework; I promise it’s so much more fun that way. Take risks; just be smart about them. Above all, have fun with the ones you love. Spend time together as often as you can. Say “I love you” and mean it every single time. When you get to the end of your life, whenever that may be, you’ll be so glad you did.
P.S. Here’s a link to a song by the new (to me) band I discovered last weekend. Check out We Were Young by Honor By August. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2Qq0JpnNpM