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Without Regret

I’m supposed to tell you that I regret missing college when I was college aged. I don’t. My smart friends from high school scattered to colleges across the Midwest and I visited them for parties, events, readings, and concerts. I met Chinua Achebe, and along with just a handful of other people learned about his life. I met bell hooks, and she said something to me that I cherish to this day. I had an amazing time. I wished then that life had been different, and that I was in classes every day, but I was able to create my own learning path. I was able to read more than my college friends, able to have conversations with smart people who were learning things in diverse places. 

I’m supposed to tell you that moving out of an apartment I loved, away from friends I loved, from my close family and a boss who was a second mother to me, is something I regret. I don’t. I packed my car after a long phone call with that boss in which I quit almost on a whim. It was late when I pulled into Chicago after a coin flip between Chicago and New Orleans. For ten years I was in love with The Second City. I still love it. I still love the Crescent City, too. 

I’m supposed to tell you that I regret being so in love with Natalie that I ran away from Chicago just because she didn’t love me back, and it took me more than ten more years to allow myself to love women in that way again. I don’t. I learned about myself and what kind of love I want. I became whole because I loved Natalie the way I did. 

I’m supposed to tell you that because I’ve been married twice and divorced twice that I regret those marriages. I don’t. I don’t regret that my first husband was such a close friend that marital conflict did us in. I don’t regret that my second husband was given the chance but failed his recovery when we had a toddler and I was pregnant. I don’t regret those kids, who make this whole glorious world worth saving. My marriages are not failures. We gave each other everything we could until we didn’t. 

I’m supposed to tell you that I regret my teenaged abortion. That I regret what led to both times a cop pointed a gun in my face. That I regret my polyamorous relationships while I have kids. That I regret switching from career to career instead of building a stable life and a retirement. That I regret the times I’ve been poor. That I regret the times I’ve had money but didn’t save it. That I regret the things I said or didn’t say to people who have died or simply moved out of my orbit. I’m supposed to tell you to make better choices than I made.


Instead, I will tell you that I hope you feel free. I hope that in your life you have glorious failures in learning, in love, in work, with friends. I hope that you start hobbies with enthusiasm and donate—with love—all those supplies you never used. I hope you stay up too late and oversleep. I hope you don’t dance when you don’t want to. I hope you make terrible mistakes and you cry for days, and I hope that you redeem yourself. I hope you quit. School. Work. Relationships. I hope you take road trips with your best friend. I hope you eat at restaurants so good that it’s worth being hungry until your next paycheck. I hope you are bored sometimes. 

In 2020, at the height of COVID, my dad died of cancer. I visited him not long before his death--we knew it was coming soon—and we sat on his patio while he tried, and failed, to smoke a joint. His cancer was caused by his lifestyle, primarily his cigarette habit. Nothing could be done. He had nobody to blame and no gods to point his anger towards, so he let blame and anger dissipate. He had made his choices his whole life and he had some regrets about people he didn’t love well enough, but nothing else. He had done what he wanted. He had loved as much as he knew how. The way he shrugged when he said those things…  

We are all trying to learn how to live.  

  • Tera Schultz is a nontraditional student. She has three kids, some animals, and a lot of books. In previous lives she was a pastry chef and chocolatier, a social worker and advocate, and a tax person who specialized in agriculture. She is unreservedly seeking the Great Story and loves to find it in surprising places. 

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