By Alice Herb
As I will be 90 next year, I’ve been asked to look back to any regrets I may have. I hadn’t been thinking of any regrets and at first, I couldn’t figure out what I may have regretted – decisions I made, paths I followed, listening or not listening to advice I got. Suddenly all sorts of things popped up in my head. I will try to put them in context so that my thoughts, actions, and views can make sense- or maybe not.
The first things that came to mind were real estate purchases that I didn’t make in the 1950s and ’60s because I couldn’t swing them on my own and my husband or father (or both) thought I was insane. The first was an improved parcel of vacant land. It was 100 feet of waterfront on a lake in the Berkshires. The asking price was $3,500. Electricity and clean and wastewater pipes had already been installed. The land was a half-mile from a ski resort – good for winter rentals – and a short drive to Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, and other summer live arts presentations. I had also researched pre-built houses and had found the perfect model. The skeleton of 4 bedroom home. One complete bathroom was part of the deal. All for $10,000.00. But I could not get financing help from my family. That area is now a popular resort area and I would have enjoyed spending time there.
A couple of years later I saw an ad for another 100-foot vacant beachfront lot selling for a few thousand dollars in Daytona Beach, Florida. Once again, no financial support. Finally, when I traveled to Greece after I was widowed, I became interested in another $1,000 waterfront lot in Mykonos at a time when it was a sleepy, barely developed island in the Aegean. With this possibility, it was I who was timid and did not pursue it.
All three of them would have been splendid investments. So of course I regret my reticence, cowardice, and lack of confidence. Of course, I had no money at that time either.
There were some stock investments I wanted to make, such as the first filter cigarettes in the 1950s, another stupid idea according to my family. I didn’t follow through. Need I say more? But of course, there are other buys I should not have made.
Enough of investment regrets. I had wanted to travel throughout the world and live in Paris, Florence, and Rome, to name a few, for a period of time and to learn French and Italian. I never could manage that, having been widowed at such a young age and left with two young children. I do regret that I never did manage to learn either of those languages or Spanish. My lack of incentive, I guess. I did travel a good deal anyway, but not nearly as much as I would have wanted.
I also regret not having followed up on some possible romances. In all cases, they were some top-level guys with great reputations, either on their way to being famous, powerful, or just plain smart and fun. They were eager to connect. They were age-appropriate and good relationship prospects. With the best of them, ones that I regret, I was left with phone numbers to call if I was interested. I never called because I think I was too wary or too timid. Who knows. At least it was good to know that I could attract such men.
Probably the most wounding regret I have is that I allowed the undoubted bias of the NYC school system to pretty much destroy my belief in meritocracy. That dates from the time I was not accepted at a special junior high school because I came from a “ghetto” school, even though I was told that I had scored higher than students who lived in middle-class neighborhoods. When I was enrolled in a school in a better neighborhood, I was relegated to a non-rapid advance class. As a result, I was so wounded that my grade point average dropped from 96% to 77%. I never really took schoolwork or homework seriously after that and had lost respect for the educational system. Blame that on being a “true believer.” Nonetheless, I did become an attorney but I did not attend my first-choice college. Had I continued to excel academically, would I have continued to pursue a career in law and possibly run for office or pursue a judgeship? Politics had always been a special interest of mine. So that might have been a possibility had I not been a woman.
I often think that if what I had planned for myself had happened, I would never have met my first husband nor probably my second. I can think of many “what if’s” because I always had many interests. I also might have avoided the many losses I’ve had. I also regret the many times I did not stand up for myself, although I would do so for others and of course my clients. In the end, I believe that, with or without regrets, life gets in the way of our fondest dreams. So I do not dwell on regrets!
Alice Herb is a retired attorney, journalist, and bioethics consultant. Having reached the age of 85+, she’s more than ready to share her experiences and opinions with agebuzz readers. Want to comment on something she’s said? She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]
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