Non, je ne regrette rien.

by | Sep 15, 2009 | Julie | 12 comments

When I was pregnant with Zuzu, I had one of those life crisis epiphanies that happens when you are pregnant with your third baby and you’re trying to remember what exactly it was you wanted to do with your life again (start a commune? what? manage a small independent bookstore? when?). This particular life crisis epiphany made me realize there are three lifey things I regret about my 20s, three things I wish I’d done.

I wish I’d been more athletic. I came to exercise slowly, and my attitude about it in my 20s was mostly laissez-faire with the occasional run for the heck of it, an attitude that sums up my life in general then, but that also was maybe more appropriate during a time of boxy sweaters and palazzo pants. At any rate, I wish I’d exercised more in earnest, and gotten really muscly just because I could. (Note that this is a frustrating realization to have when you’re 7 months pregannt, rapidly waxing instead of waning, and having awesome biceps really isn’t on that month’s agenda.)

I wish I’d been smarter about money. For most of my life, on a Money Smarts Scale from 1 to 10, I was maybe a 2 (if 10 is super smart thrifty saver person). I spent whatever money I had and never gave a thought to saving a cent. I wish I’d been more frugal, and realized that it’s actually really cool to save money. You know, there’s still this New Jersey girl inside me who grew up in Mall Land and feels great pleasure from walking through the door with new items stuffed in plastic shopping bags. To a certain extent, I justify shopping by buying used at Goodwill and on eBay, and in one sense that’s ok. Except when it’s not. I could have really used a budget when I was 23. And I still don’t really have one now.

The third thing I wish I’d done in my 20s is to write every day. I wanted to write but I thought you had to sit around and wait to be struck by divine inspiration. I thought that I would write a page of fiction, one time, and it would be perfect and fabulous and I could then email it to family and friends to show them my wonderful writing (oh my gracious this is horrrifying to think of now). If only someone had made me read Bird by Bird.

After the Pregnant Epiphany, I actually did write every day, working on a book, until we were all smacked backwards by the flu and all we could do was lie on the rug wishing someone would bring us oranges. It was five days of not being vertical (during which time we somehow managed to buy a car), and after, with one month to go before my due date, I couldn’t get back into the write-every-day habit.

But I never forgot about the Pregnant Epiphany, and recently I’ve started to realize, you know, that this is my life, and so maybe it’s time to start living it. I might exercise more than I did, and I’m slightly better with money, and I write more often, but none of these things is particularly stellar, you know? I’ll be 40 in a year and a half, and then these will just become things I wish I’d done in my 30s.

At the same time I wrote the daily schedule, I made a daily checklist for myself, which in the spirit of living methodically, I’ll tell you about in a methodical manner, tomorrow. Stay tuned.


  1. Teresa

    Carlos is unavailable to translate, but I wish I knew or remembered how to say “you are so amazing!” in french. Tu es tres, tres belle!!!! That is my try. I am psyched that I am the first to comment – usually I pick up the phone and call, but it is the before
    school zone, tricky time to call…Maybe when you are forty you will look lovingly back at your 30s and realize that was the time when you
    became incredibly honest with yourself and BRAVO to you! It was the time that you had kids and really dug deep or looked closely. I could go on and on but this may be my most favorite post and I cannot
    wait to read all the other comments of those around you who ADORE you
    and your willingness to be an example. And here comes the campy comment – when I was 20 I took a year off from college and I tried to listen a lot and this one guy said to me once – “your life is not a dress rehearsal…” For whatever reason, it stuck with me. You really are an inspiration. Check that off your list!

  2. sutswana

    Ditto Teresa.
    My two cents: I am so glad I’m turning 41 this year and have 40 over with. Not the year, but the psychological hoo-ha of a new decade. My epiphany is similar to the dress rehearsal comment. I keep saying things to myself such as “When we have nice furniture…” and “When the walls are painted…” and “When I lose this stomach blubber…” and “When I’m self-employed and don’t have to abandon my kids for a job…” and, well, they just keep escalating in profundity and I keep picturing this idyllic future somewhere down the road. Anyway, lately I’ve developed a second voice that says, “Why not now? When is ‘when’? Tick tock! What are you waiting for?” Not in a self-nagging way but in a (eye-rolling word alert) empowering way.

  3. Elizabeth

    I can really relate to this post. I think it might have something to do with our age (and forty is coming even sooner for me). All of your “I wish”es are mine, too. I think I lived in the future A LOT in my twenties and thirties, thinking that magically, things would happen. I didn’t think about HOW they would happen (hard work) and I didn’t devise a plan to MAKE them happen. Now that Isaac is school, I have been thinking about sitting down and really taking stock of things and figuring out what I AM (not WANT to) going to do with the rest of my life. I think my dad’s illness and death last year also made me realize that we may have a lot less time than we think. I echo Teresa’s sentiment, too – Tu es extraordinaire, Julie!

  4. Julie

    Yes, yes, to what you all said. Ten years ago was a time for us to wait for life to happen to us, and now, NOW is the time for us to happen to life. (Hold on while I get that printed on a bumper sticker.)

  5. Clog

    Right now you are accomplishing the most extraordinary task there is — raising three bright, beautiful children, caring incredibly about them, their environment, activities, etc. As tedious, commanding, frustrating, and often boring as this task is, you get rewards back tenfold and you realize that it was all well worth it.

  6. Julie

    But Mom, if I only look at my accomplishments as far as the kids, then I am nothing. Not to diminish the importance of raising great children, but I want to be so much more than a mommy. I can’t do it. I need to work on my OWN self and spirit, or I will wither and become resentful.

  7. Kate

    Yes!!! Discovering yoga a year ago transformed me and opened my eyes to all the “shoulda”, “coulda” thoughts I wish I’d had much earlier in life (including a huge measure of regret that I didn’t start doing yoga years ago). Now I’m closing in on 39 in a few weeks while carrying my third child and feel endlessly frustrated because I am physically unable to do so much of what I want to do (I realize most of this is happening because I’m in my final days of this pregnancy). I took a maternity break from yoga earlier than I should have and feel like I’ve let myself down because it was such a great thing for me. I can’t wait for the next chapter of my life to begin so I can get back on track and start working on me again — someday!

  8. Clog

    I agree with Kate having practiced yoga for the past 7 years, I cannot imagine my life without it. It very subtly puts things in perspective and I can tell I am off balance when I miss it.
    I understand what you are saying and I was saying the same thing at 38, but now at 66, I look at life totally differently and looking back I have to say that being a mother was the best and most rewarding thing I ever did.

  9. Anne

    I have a million things to say about this (having just turned 40) but I really have to get to work. But I will remind you that you *were* athletic in your 20s. Isn’t that when we both went from zero to runner? Did we not run a 5k and develop a running habit where there was none before? That’s a pretty significant accomplishment!

  10. Julie

    Anne, I may have gone running in my 20s, but I don’t think of it as being a particularly athletic endeavor. I mean, yeah, it was better than nothing, but I was doing it because I was supposed to and not really because I wanted to.

  11. Lisa

    Hi All–

    Haven’t been here in awhile, but just love going back and catching up with the posts…I, too, have been feeling in the same boat with you all (will be 41 in November…have two girls 4 1/2 and 1 1/2…)I did a lot of living in my 20’s and 30’s…lots of travel, grad school, lots of different arts and theatre-related jobs in the non-profit world…then I had 2 children at age 36 and 39…have been feeling a little lost lately (I’m a stay at home mom also, by choice) and just plain tired. Trying to remember who I am, what it was that I was doing, and wondering when life will get back to normal….not so, of course….I love my little girls and they bring me tremendous amount of joy, but I do find it hard to find/make time to nurture myself as well and get angry/resentful when I have to “schedule” a walk, or schedule an hour off to be alone…but also finding that if it doesn’t get planned ahead of time, it will NEVER happen because there is always something else to do and always someone needing something…anyway…just venting a little here and also sympathizing with the “now what?” phase…maybe it happens to all of us when we get into our 40’s??

  12. Julie

    Yes, Lisa, exactly. I have spent too many years now feeling like I’m surrounded by fog, and if I squint I can see the real me way over there through the mist, and I wave at her, and she waves back, and she looks nice, but she’s so far away. How do I get to her? And what if I don’t like her any more when I do?


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