They tell us not to do things that we will – or may – regret, but what does that ever mean, in practice? Isn’t it suspect in general, all the advice that older and wiser people try to give us with the benefit of their hindsight?
A and J were telling me that, at my age, I shouldn’t be looking for anything serious, anything real, I shouldn’t have any criteria or checklist or even an expectation of “honorable intentions,” whatever those are at twenty-three. Not that I’m a checklist kind of person anyway when it comes to dating, but I do try to hang on to some standards, basic as they may be.
And though this was their advice, it is not at all what they were doing at this age themselves: one was being proposed to, and the other met the person they would eventually marry. So perhaps it is what they wish they would have done, to not have spun into the mistakes or crooked paths they ended up on, looking backwards – but when you’re actually at this age, coming from the other side forward, it’s not how you see things at all. I would be lying to myself if I tried to live and decide things based on their perspective now, even if they are right about what I should do. Even if it never goes anywhere, I’d still prefer to find the kind of boy now who might actually care what my favorite song was, who might one day surprise me with my favorite dessert. Tiny inconsequential things, but a lot more than most people are willing to offer. The tiny things that make even something that isn’t serious worthwhile.
You can never know what you’ll regret anyway, beforehand. You can only think it through and try to speculate honestly, weigh the options, think critically. But regret is something you can only feel after the fact, usually based on some factor you couldn’t even have seen coming.
I never thought about advice much, because it’s something we all love to give, even if we know it’s taken with a grain of salt or a laugh or an implied “in my humble opinion…” But I suppose the older I get, the more experience I have on my own, and the more I question others’ scraps of advice, I realize more and more that as adults nobody has the answers anymore. It’s not like when we were kids, when there were so many people we could look to, to tell us yes or no, with 100% certainty. We all have our own perspectives now, from our experience or our wisdom, but there really isn’t any more certainty. We take things with a whole lot more grains of salt, and maybe we learn to hold our own tongues with our advice. But even advice ignored comes from a place of love, of reaching out, of trying to be honest and expose a little bit of our lives that we wish we had done differently. So you smile, accept it politely, and then still try to figure it out for yourself.