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Risks, Regrets and Reflections

Risks, Regrets and Reflections
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Central Park Reservoir – Jill Matlow


I couldn’t get out of the bean bag chair.

Last month, I passed by a really cool Japanese store I’ve been meaning to check out on Fifth Avenue. It had just opened in November and I had to see what all the buzz was about that day. I was definitely intrigued as the store was filled with holiday shoppers when I arrived.

As I walked through the front door, I noticed people sitting in bean bag chairs which conformed to their shapes. I couldn’t pass up that opportunity to try one out, so I plunked down in one of them. It was super comfortable and I pictured myself buying one for my studio apartment where I would then spend hours lounging in it and watching TV.

Then I couldn’t get out of the bean bag chair. I’m not kidding. I wondered how many of the customers were watching me attempt to get up gracefully which fortunately I did after about 5 minutes.

I guess I’m not 25 anymore.

After that ‘incident’, I nonchalantly walked over to a display of aroma diffusers that filled the air with breathtaking smells from delicious essential oils. Thinking about the possible purchase of a new bean bag chair, along with a diffuser permeating delightful aromatherapy scents, transported me back to another decade.

Do you think I still have one foot stuck in the 1970s?

As I continued to stroll through the store, I looked up and much to my amazement, there stood Alison Bechdel. Alison is the award-winning writer whose graphic memoir “Fun Home” was adapted into a musical by the same name and who won a Tony for “Best Musical” in 2015.

I had seen “Fun Home” a few months earlier and loved it! I had two choices. I could walk over to Alison and introduce myself (hoping that it was in fact really her), or continue browsing through the store. I knew I would regret it if I did not approach her.

So I did.

It was one of those moments that I know I will treasure forever. She was kind, humble and flattered. I was so excited to be able to share my enthusiasm with her about the musical whose songs still make me cry. Unlike many New Yorkers, I’m not jaded to the point where I’m too cool to approach famous people.

Speaking of which, a few years ago in 2001, a similar encounter happened. I attended the musical “Tick Tick Boom” at the Jane Street Theater with my parents, who were visiting from out-of-town. This was the musical written by Jonathan Larson, a few years before “Rent” became a huge success. Unfortunately, Jonathan Larson passed away in 1996, only months before “Rent” made its debut at the Nederlander Theater.

When “Tick Tick Boom” ended that evening, I recognized Jonathan Larson’s dad in the theater lobby. I knew I had to meet him just to let him know how much I loved his son’s work. My parents, not being fans of the proverbial ‘meet and greet’ with strangers, let me know they would be waiting for me outside. Undeterred, I approached Mr. Larson, who was warm and deeply touched hearing about his late son’s accomplishments. In hindsight, I was so happy that I took a risk and approached him that evening.

As I remembered those two encounters, it occurred to me that as I get older, I seem to be taking more chances and stepping out of my comfort zone more often than not. It appears as though my risk/reward window has narrowed quite a bit and I actually find it freeing on some level.

At my age, I don’t want any more regrets in my life – big or small. Do you?

Dale Carnegie once posed the question: “What is the worst thing that can happen”? in his book entitled “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. I often re-play that question when I’m deciding to step into the unknown. I find it reassuring that the worse case scenarios seem to pale when the rewards seem so great.

Many of my contemporaries are now facing career changes, re-entering the dating pool, or deciding to take on new challenges as they enter middle age. All of them have told me that with trepidation and hesitation, they have moved forward and haven’t regretted their decisions, although fear of the unknown, embarrassment or failure were always part of the equation.

I think many of us take comfort in knowing that we’re all in this together and as cliche as it sounds, life is short. I tell my friend who hasn’t dated in years – take baby steps. Meet someone for coffee – it’s an hour out of your life. What have you got to lose? On the professional front, I’ve always admired people who do a complete 180 and follow their dreams when changing careers. Some have been successful; others have not. But most never regret at least taking a chance.

With the new year upon us, do you have a personal or professional challenge that has been on your ‘bucket list’ and if so, what is keeping you from exploring that path? As Dale Carnegie would ask, “what is the worst thing that could happen”?

We’re always inspired by your personal and professional success stories, and always love hearing what motivates you to try something new with no guarantees. Do you regret not stepping out of your comfort zone more often when you were younger and what is stopping you from doing that today?

And now I wonder…will I regret not purchasing that bean bag chair?





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