Wednesday Wondering – No Regrets? by Helen Rolfe

Lucille Ball once said: “I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things I haven’t.”

I’m inclined to agree. If we don’t do things then how do we know that they weren’t for us? How do we know that we want something else so badly?

I suppose my opinion stems from my own experience. When I think about my path from choosing my A levels back in 1990 – yikes, was it that long ago? – to when I began writing in 2003, I sometimes wonder whether I made the right choices. I studied English, French and Sociology but at the last minute chose to swap Sociology for Business Studies. I could have gone on to do English, Communications or a Media degree but my enjoyment of my Business Studies A level saw me choose a business degree instead, in the form of a Bachelor of Science in Strategic Systems Management. I sometimes want to go back and yell at my nineteen year old self and say, “What were you thinking?”

I had always wanted to come and live in Australia just for a while, to see what it was like. I can’t remember when the fascination started – perhaps I can blame Neighbours? – but I never thought about making a permanent move. Of course, as Jon Lennon once said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”, and for me that meant meeting my husband and settling down over here. When I’m missing family I often have long chats with my Mum – she always cheers me up – and I ask myself what I would be doing now had I not decided to follow my dream of living here. I know the answer to that one: I would be wishing that I’d given it a go.

Having experienced a well-paid job that my heart wasn’t in – after turning down the opportunity to work for a publisher in London might I add! – I now have a good comparison to the life of a writer. When I feel like giving up I know that even though at times it can be incredibly hard – being alone every day and often being my harshest critic, battling to make that first break and not to mention dealing with rejections – I won’t go back in time. My only regret will be that I didn’t realise a little bit sooner that working at something every day could be both a grind and a joy.

So is there anything you regret doing in your life? Or anything you regret not doing when you had the chance? I’ll leave you to enjoy some tales from the other Write Romantics…and maybe someday we’ll do a post of “Love Regrets”…I suspect this could keep us all going with ideas for books for many years to come (if it isn’t doing so already) J

Helen R x

Jackie says…

As far as writing is concerned, I regret all those years when I knew I wanted to write but never got started. It was mostly because I didn’t know how to, or maybe it was because I was too busy / lazy. I just wish I’d tried a bit harder, although it takes up so much of my time now, I don’t suppose I would have been able to fit it in. The only other regret I have was moving away from the seaside. I had a lovely flat that overlooked the sea in Plymouth near the dockyard and early in the mornings (shiftwork) you could see submarines sliding silently up the Sound. In the summer we would sit on the roof (bit precarious) with glasses of wine and watch the ships, or I would get on my little yellow moped and ride to the harbour where I would sit for hours reading and watching the world go by. My dream is to move back to the seaside one day but I don’t think I could afford one of those little flats again as it’s in a prime residential site now. Ah well, that’s life.

Helen P says…

I don’t have a lot of regrets because I think life is too short to worry about the what -f’s and the could-have-beens. The thing I probably wish I had done although I don’t actually regret not doing it is moving to London to live when I was 18. My brother Chris lived there with his wife and I dreamt about living in the big city but then I met my husband Steve and the whole plan was pushed to the back of my mind because I fell in love all those years ago.

Deirdre says…

Now, there’s a question and a half, Helen!  Things I regret?  Plenty of those, unfortunately, but that’s a necessary part of life, isn’t it?

I definitely regret not starting to write earlier.  I’ve dabbled over the years, but never understood how much writing is part of me and that I need to do it.  Had I begun earlier, I probably wouldn’t have submitted anything as I didn’t know how to go about it but at least I’d have got in some valuable experience.

I wish I’d acquired more skills over the years, apart from the work-related ones, but sometimes it’s only with benefit of hindsight that these things become apparent, I think.  For various reasons, I gave up driving years ago and never found the confidence to go back to it.  And yes, it’s too late now as I don’t have the necessary reactions!  I can only swim about thirty yards and deep water scares me.  All kinds of things I see other people doing make me think ‘I should have done that’.  I have joined an art class though, and am regaining some of the skill I had in my schooldays.  I love painting watercolour landscapes and nature, but I’m hopeless at life drawing and this week we are doing self-portraits.  I fear the worst…

Rachael says…

For me the biggest regret is not having had the opportunity to continue in education. I left school at sixteen and as the eldest of four children, was encouraged towards employment rather than education. I’m now supporting my daughter through university, wishing I’d been able to do the same. But I’m happy where my path through life has led me and wouldn’t want to change where I am now.

Julie says…

This is a great question. Regrets are a funny thing. There are minor regrets I have and there are some major things too but they’ve usually led to something else which, ultimately, wouldn’t have happened if the thing I regret hadn’t happened. Let me explain …

My minor regrets are silly things like I wished I’d taken Drama instead of Art at GCSE because I scraped a C in Art (I wasn’t very good at it and didn’t like it that much) but would probably have got an A in Drama as most of it was about writing and I got As in both my English subjects. I also wish I’d taken History as I loved it. But they haven’t really affected my life.

The bigger regret was a relationship I had in my late twenties. I knew he wasn’t right for me but I was moving to a new part of the country, starting a new job and being with him seemed better than being alone. We stupidly bought a house together. This was the only time in my life I had quite a lot of money because I’d made quite a bit on selling my house, an endowment policy, a redundancy cheque and share saves cashed in. I put the deposit down but also paid off all of his debts (we’re talking many thousands). He was meant to sell his motorbike as his small contribution but didn’t. Eventually the relationship broke down for all the reasons I knew it was wrong in the first place and we sold the house. I never got my money back but I didn’t fight for it because he threatened to fight me for half the deposit which had been purely my money. I was about to move, buy a new house and set up my own business so the risk of him taking half my deposit was greater than the hope I’d get his debt-money back so I had to walk away. I’ve never been financially stable since. However, if I hadn’t met him, I’d never have had the idea for my debut novel as it was the turmoil in our relationship that led to the event that sparked the idea (don’t want to give spoilers away). Also, he was the one who got me into the world of proper collectable teddy bears which became the business I had. I’d loved teddy bears for years but was unaware of Steiff and the many other collectables until he took me to a teddy bear shop in his home-town and bought me my first Dean’s bear. I got hooked, opened a bear shop and met my husband as a result. Therefore, I’ll always regret my relationship with him and the money I lost but I’ll always be grateful he came into my life because I wouldn’t be a writer or have my family without him.

I’d conclude by saying that my biggest regret that has no positives to it and does affect my life is losing the battle with my weight and spending most of my adult life overweight. I can still do something about my weight (although I’ve lost my willpower recently) but I really do wish I’d never let myself get into this situation in the first place. Mind you, the reason I became the heaviest I’ve ever been is because I was so miserable in my relationship with the person above. So I have yet another reason to regret being with him: Loss of huge amounts of money, gain of weight and loss of happiness for 2 years v writing and family. On reflection, I still don’t regret being with him for what I gained (except the lbs!) Gosh, life can be tough!

Jo says…

The thing I regret doing is not making a serious start on writing a long time ago. When I look back now there were several near misses to getting published that I could have worked on rather than seeing as a rejection.

I wanted to be a journalist when I left school and I applied for one or two vacancies with local papers, but I wasn’t nearly persistent enough. I should have written to every paper within a 50 mile radius and been willing to take on some other sort of work there first, as a way in. Instead I decided it was just too competitive and gave up, eventually settling for teaching instead.

Then I was shortlisted about 13 years ago for a publishing deal for a romance novel, based on the first three chapters. However, because I didn’t win, I didn’t take it any further. About a year later, I submitted one novel to HMB, a medical romance of all things (a field about which I know nothing) and got some great feedback about my writing style, but evidently there isn’t enough action in a country GP’s practice for that genre! Instead of trying again, I put my writing aside for over ten years whilst my children were young.

So here I am, on the wrong side of 40, just trying to make a start in this game. Still, they say everything happens for a reason and I know that meeting the other Write Romantics has to be at least part of that. Maybe this scenic route will eventually lead to writing highs that the shorter road never would, but one way or another I’m still determined to get there.


9 thoughts on “Wednesday Wondering – No Regrets? by Helen Rolfe

  1. Fab post, Helen. Look how many of us regret not writing earlier, but on the flip side it’s our experiences up to this point which have done so much to inform our writing. I am a great believer that things happen for a reason and I’ve loved reading about everyone else’s experiences. Jo xx

  2. Loved this question and it was fascinating to read the answers from the others. What struck me was that the question didn’t ask about regrets around writing yet pretty much all of us have talked about writing and/or education in our answers which just shows how key a part of us it is. And it also shows that it’s never too late to start! Julie xx

  3. I agree, Julie. I think that writing is an occupation where you have to be strong and power through the awful rejection stage. It’s so easy to give up or assume that it will never happen. Thank goodness for all you lovely ladies who keep me going every day 🙂

    Helen R x

  4. Well, this is going to sound really boring but my biggest regret is not continuing with my writing, too! When I was a little girl I started writing stories, inspired by my stash of Enid Blyton books and my Tammy comics. All through my early teens my mother used to nag me to get out of the house and “get your head out of that book”, but I wouldn’t. If I wasn’t writing I was reading. Such a disappointing child! Unfortunately, I met my future husband at the age of fifteen and stopped writing. Now and then I would dip back into it but nothing serious, and having five children didn’t leave much time for day-dreaming…an essential part of writing, I think! It was only when the last of my children left home that I started to write again. All that time wasted – but then, as you say, it was all time spent gaining experience and how can you write about life until you’ve lived a little? Or a lot in my case as I’m now fifty! (This sounds really awful. Apologies to DH and children).
    Another regret – which is rather ironic, given what I’ve just said – is that I didn’t spend more time and pay more attention to the people I loved most and have now lost – my father and my grandparents. They all died fairly young (my dad was fifty-five) and I was only sixteen when I lost my granddad, so I really wish I’d made more time for them when they were around. Thinking about that I’ve just realised that I’d better stop moaning about wasting all those years on my husband and kids! 🙂
    My final regret is that I discovered sugar. Damn, that was a big mistake! I am now trying to wean myself off it, not easy when it seems to be in everything! I can’t count how many pounds I’ve lost and regained over the last thirty years and it’s always the sugary things that lure me into binge-eating. It’s evil, I tells ya!
    I am constantly day-dreaming about waking up one morning, to find I’m in my teens, back in my old bedroom at my parents’ house, still a schoolgirl with her whole life in front of her and no spare fat to be found! If only…:)

    • Hee hee, Sharon, you do make me laugh. Love your sugar regret. Yep, I completely get that one. As you say, it’s a bit of a vicious circle with the other stuff because you do need the life experience to write but that then takes time from writing. Grrr xxx

  5. Hi Sharon,
    I sometimes wish I was back home as a younger version of myself…our parents must have done something right to make us have this craving!! And when things aren’t going right…chocolate and crisps for me!
    I think that writing draws so much from life’s experiences that we should all be glad we came to it late…we must have so much untapped material stashed in our memory banks!
    Helen R 🙂

  6. Julie – I’m empathising on the weight issue. So many regrets around that – I wish wish wish I was the size now that I was the first time I looked in the mirror and thought I was overweight! Then I probably needed to lose 10-14lbs, Now it’s more like 4-5 stone.

    • Oh Alison, it’s grim isn’t it? A friend of mine has just tentatively started blogging and showed me her first post all about her eating issues and she said exactly the same thing as you which had me nodding because it’s my experience too! I used to think I was enormous at school and I look back at photos and can’t see it. So I wasn’t a size 8-10 but I wasn’t a 16 plus either. I remember vividly writing in a diary that I was 9 stone 13lb and was absolutely disgusted with myself for being a lb off 10 stone. Oh how I wish I was a lb off 10 stone now instead of heading for double that!!!! xx

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