Regret & Fear

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves –
regret for the past and fear of the future.” [Fulton Oursler]

I have a map of my life in front of me and I am in the midst of plotting a direction in which to go; however, unlike most maps that show railroad lines, streets and water ways, my map has only the places you have been; territories of your past; marks that show the places from where you have come. And so, your future direction is left up to you. Mine is left up to me.

Some people draw vague, light pencil marks of a possible course to take. Others act, accepting that the dark lines of life will appears on your map, showing where you have been and what choices you have made in your past. Your future is a white sheet of paper; a blank slate; unknown.

I have a long list of things that I want to accomplish; however, part of me is exhausted from this climb to where I am right now. I have been using a metaphor of a ladder as a way of expressing where I am presently in my life. I can honestly say – in regards to my career – that I have successfully climbed a few rungs up towards a greater sense of success; however, I am still in an uncomfortable place. I liken it to limbo.

I recently received a phone call for work in Vietnam and, after being asked a series of questions, was told that I was too inexperienced to be considered for the job. Thank you very much for my time. Good-bye. A month or so later, I was offered a job as a director for an ultra low-budget feature in Texas. Long story short, the producing team turned out to be extremely inexperienced and we did not “work out.” I am in that place where I am either too inexperienced or over-qualified.

Because of my exhaustive state, part of me is somewhat windless. My sail is lifelessly hanging from my mast. There is no wind coming up from any direction, catching my sail with a gust of power and propelling me onwards…. I have no impetus to dive out of my sailboat; nor strength in my arms to push through the waters and lift myself into a different vessel.

But I have to. I have sat in this one particular boat for long enough. But, you might wonder, why have I stayed in this boat for the length of time I have? Am I not one to jump when I sense the wind has failed me or when the boat starts to leek or the boards given way to the pressure of the sea? All of these things have hit my tiny vessel.

I am sitting here in my rickety boat and the weather has died down and the wind has left me bobbing around in the water; however, the weather has not been peaceful and I am letting on water. I have tried to use my bucket to bail out the salt water, but my arms are tired, don’t you remember? I am tired of pouring water overboard, only to refill my pail with more water that rushes back in. And now my boards are loosening and I must either sink or swim and survive.

But why have I stayed on? I am the Captain of my boat, but there is only me and I am not required to go down with my ship or let women and children in lifeboats before me. What has kept me from tightening my life vest and making a swim for it? Simply put: REGRET & FEAR.

I have made decisions in my past that I regret, but if I sit here, in the cold of the unforgiving ocean water, I will freeze and perish. While I regret some of the decisions I have made, I mainly regret the things that I have not done. I regret not working harder. I regret moments of ignorance or mislaid trust that has brought me to this point in my life.

I have also been told that I am not “good enough” as an artist; that I am mediocre; that I am amateur, which has ushered in a sense of fear that has paralyzed me. I have sat in my sinking boat, scared that these words are true. That I am simply untalented; a hack.

Sitting alone, sinking, I realize that I cannot let those negative words cause me to be crippled by fear; or let the regrets that I have cut me down and handicap me towards succeeding. EVERYTHING IS PROJECTION. Everything people do and say to others has some form and level of projection – positive and negative.

We try to project the positive on our friends, loved ones, family, even strangers. Our fears also find their way into our conversations and our attempts to be critical or, in our mind, “helpful.” Insults are sometimes explained as an honest attempt at being motivational.

Sometimes these words are meant to be sabotaging, because the person who voices their opinions are insecure about what they stand for. How dare you get up the courage to stand up in your rickety, sinking boat and brave the cold water and dive off your boat! Because the water is cold, mind you. Freezing!

And there you go, into the water. Diving down a dozen feet, you are for a brief moment submerged by the waves. You momentarily pause under the surface of the water and you look above you at the bottom of your sinking boat and you see the hole that has caused you so much regret and fear. And you watch as water finds its way into your vessel. And you realize that this hole was made not only by your regrets and fears, but also by those around you who fear your success, because – to them – it means they must look at their own failures; their own regrets; their own fears. Misery also loves company.

Your arms suddenly have the strength to bring you back up to the surface and you take in the cold air, but suddenly you realize you have become accustomed to the temperature of the water and it is not so cold. You watch your boat sink and you are alone in the water, with nothing in sight. But you tread water, because you know you either sink or swim now. And you know that you have to believe that there is another vessel coming your way. And you thank your lucky stars that you tightened that life vest around you before jumping in.

You didn’t jump before, because of that fear that you now remember while you tread in the water. You feared the future. The unknown future where there are no answers to your questions and no positive reinforcement that everything will turn out all right. You didn’t jump before now, because you were afraid of just taking a leap of faith, but sometimes we need to do that. Take a leap of faith into the unknown, because if you take no chances, you get nowhere but the place you know you don’t want to be.