My Biggest Regret

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I hate when people talk about their big life regrets.  In the moment, we make the best decision we can based on the information available.  Sure, fear dictates many of our decisions.  I just think it's too easy to look back and say, "Oh yeah, this was the right thing to do," when you're able to see how it all was going to end up anyway.  It's an unnecessary judgment of our past selves.

I went to college in New York.  It was a crappy decision - not New York, never New York, but the college I went to.  However, I got what I wanted so I didn't regret it, even while I was in it.  

Every day in New York was an adventure. When my university started a Study Abroad program, my friends and classmates got excited at the possibilities.  I shook my head.  New York arguably contained every culture in the world - living in New York was studying abroad.

Touristing hard at Columbus Circle

Giving a fake number and name to a guido (pre-Jersey Shore) at the San Gennaro Festival

Posing in Central Park...with a garbage bag full of fake purses from Canal Street

And celebrating my 2AM ear piercing in the Village with piercer (the guy holding his lip) and the store owner. The two other guys just jumped in the picture because, well, that's Greenwich Village at 2AM.
My friends shrugged their shoulders and jetted off to Ireland, France, Italy, and Spain while I repeatedly hit up my favorite fake designer purse dealer on Canal Street and wandered the same sections of Central Park over and over again.

They came back with amazing stories and new insight but I was convinced I was in the middle of my insightful journey.  Many of my friends were from the area; exploring New York wasn't exciting to them.  The year after I graduated, I briefly lived in Manhattan and at night I'd go for long strolls through Times Square.  Sometimes I would park at a table and soak up all of the languages spoken around me.  

After a frustrating conversation with my boyfriend at the time on Halloween night - the holiest of all in the Village - I trekked my way down my usual route to Times Square.  I hopped to see some wild costumes; I was severely disappointed.  With the parade still raging on, left behind were the tourists who weren't interested in our celebration of Halloween.  

I stood in front of the ginormous and magnificent Toys 'R Us (RIP) with my hands in my pocket and tried to catch the eye of a tourist seeking a city slicker who could direct them to the Olive Garden.  But it seemed no one spoke English.  Everyone pushed past me to see the lights and snap pictures, discussing loudly with their companions their thoughts in their own language.  No English seeped through.

That was the moment I realized what I had missed.  I was a voyeur, receiving just a tidbit of what these people's lives really were like.  These were people on vacation, adhering to American customs and behaviors.  I wondered, what if I had dived headfirst during college and walked a day in these people's shoes?  What could I have learned by engaging with them on their ground, instead of creeping on them from mine?

I'll never know.  I really wish I studied abroad.

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