The Next Ten Years

This is a picture of me and the band I play with, the Manhattan Samba Group. It was taken yesterday. I’m the one in the glasses in front of the guy in the blue shirt. Playing in this band was one of my goals when I was 40. (Part II of that goal was to not be the dorkiest looking member of the band.)


What will I do with the next ten years, besides, hopefully, writing a best-seller? I love a list! But I’m sitting here at 8AM, and not a whole hell of a lot is jumping out at me, aside from “fall in love again,” which pretty much goes without saying. I think I will put that in boldface. 1. Fall in love again.

I wish I had money like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates so I could dedicate the second half of my life to giving it away. Which reminds me. I have never been a regretful person. I’ve made mistakes, but I can always see the path to them and given who I am they were almost unavoidable and sometimes you have to make mistakes. But a couple of times lately, I’ve felt bad about not acting on a number of business ideas that went on to be VERY big businesses for others. I console myself with the fact that I’m not really a great business person and I probably would not have pulled them off. But what I’m wondering about is, why I am even thinking about any of this now?

I think because it reminds me of this. When I was in the 5th grade, I had this amazing teacher, Mr. Beeshaw. He was wonderfully encouraging and inspiring. And he loved music. He taught us some beautiful songs. He was trying to get the boys in the class to get into it, they always sang so quietly and timidly. One afternoon he had me sing a round with the boys in the class. It was a contest — all the boys in the class vs Stacy. I think he picked me because I was the one person in the class who loved music as much as he did, and had no problem singing out. I was not shy.

They were losing. All the girls were cheering me, but I didn’t have the heart to beat them. They looked so miserable and dejected. And scared. I started singing more quietly and when they felt themselves starting to win they got excited and then they finally started singing outloud and happily.

It should have been a happy ending. I didn’t care about winning. I have a healthy ego, already loved music and now they did, too. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had done the wrong thing for me. I feel that to this day. This business thing is kinda similar. It’s not that I didn’t “go for it.” I go for it all the time, you can’t go for them all. It’s something else.

Maybe it’s that I didn’t chose the right things to go for? I’m just certain that I should have sung out as loud as I could and beaten all the boys in the class. I shouldn’t have held back. FUCK. I know what it is. It was because it was the nice thing to do. Which is all very … nice, but sometimes the nice thing to do for others is the wrong thing to do for yourself.

Maybe there’s an element of holding back to my character that made me not successful at business. Or, maybe the only thing thing these things have in common then, is regret. You can’t have it all. Maybe I should feel glad that there’s so little in my life that I regret. (Of course, I could just be in very deep deep denial.)

Hell. I meant to make a list of things for my next ten years. Tomorrow.

What do YOU regret?

Stacy Horn

I've written six non-fiction books, the most recent is Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad, and Criminal in 19th-Century New York.

View all posts by Stacy Horn →

7 thoughts on “The Next Ten Years

  1. I regret deciding to leave my dog in the pool enclosed yard when going to work one day. She was old and had been having accidents in the house where she usually stayed. But it was summer and I thought she’d be fine with shade and water. And she had never gotten even close to the pool in days past. When I came home I didn’t see her in the yard. I found her in the bottom of the pool and it’s an image that will haunt me forever.

  2. Oh my God.

    1. That made me cry.

    2. I know you know all the things I would say about it not being your fault, and what’s the point, I’d be the same way. On some level I would never recover from that.

    3. That said, I hope someday you are not haunted by that. So many kind gestures are capable of going horribly bad. How many things did you do in your dog’s long life keep him alive for longer (all the good care, food, vet visits, etc.)?

  3. I had to come back and say more. That is just a horrible, sad, story. I feel bad for you and your dog. Do you have another pet now?

  4. To answer your question, I have a trunk, a steamer trunk, full of regrets. Yet, over time, I have decided that they are best kept stowed away and put out of mind. Anything else is just self-flagellation. That said…

    The way I see it, you are three books and one business ahead of many of us. In other words, don’t be so hard on yourself.


  5. Stacy’s story made me think of a quote from Nelson Mandela, something to the effect that our “playing small” does not benefit the world.

    Michelle’s story makes me regret I have not yet found a magic potion to make all beloved pets live forever.

    My regret story has to do with a guy (George) I had a crush on in college. I think he was interested in me, too, but I was dating his best friend (Jon). The semester ended, and we all went our separate ways, never saw each other again. But I married a man who reminded me of George, both physcially & in personality. We’ve been together 23 years.

    I thought of George from time to time, wishing him well & wishing I could tell him how he influenced my life. Then one day I was messing around with people search and found his name and an e-mail address, so I did send a brief e-mail to him just saying I remembered him and that anyone who sticks in the memory for more than 25 years ought to be told, and I hoped that sat lightly with him.

    The reply came back a week later. I had the right name, but the wrong generation — I had e-mailed George’s father, also named George. George, Sr. told me his son had died in an auto accident when we were 28. Wow! I spent the next couple of days thinking about it all.

    I was sort of shocked to realize that if I were offered one “do over” in life, I would choose to re-do a specific moment with George. A bunch of us were staying up to watch the sun rise, but Jon decided he wanted to go to bed, and he turned and asked me, “You wanna come?” I got up to follow him, but as I passed George, he said, “aw, don’t go.” in a pleading half-whisper. I REALLY wanted to stay, but the implications of staying seemed too scary.

    If I had it to do over, I would have stayed, even if I knew that the rest of my life would have unfolded as it has, even if nothing would have changed as a result of staying — I would use my one “do over” to have been true to my feelings and stayed.

    I’m so glad I sent the e-mail. I’m so glad to have learned what my most basic regret was — it’s helped inform decisions I’ve made since then. All my smaller regrets seem to be a variation on not being brave enough to follow my heart. I applaud Stacy for looking for a pattern in her regrets. I think if I’d locked my regrets in a trunk, my biggest regret would be not learning from my regrets.

  6. That was a great, and very romantic story! (Poor George.) And thank you, David.

    I don’t know why I’m feeling regrets. I’m not normally regretful at all. I think it might be a second mid-life crisis thing, a way of gearing up for the next phase, and trying to get life a little more right?

  7. To follow up on my dog/pool trauma, yes, I have two dogs currently. Life is not worth living without a dog. I know people who have a bad pet death and then swear off ever getting another but not me. When my dog Squiggles died in august I actually planned on waiting to adopt until after a planned spring trip to Hawaii was past so as not to inflict a kennel experience on a new one. But I only made it to October and then eventually canceled the trip. I volunteer at the spca walking dogs each week so it’s hard to put off an adoption. But I have experienced what I think is post stress symptoms from the whole horrible pool incident. And I’ve discovered people (like you) are very compassionate so that has helped. I did manage to send my young son off to the neighbor’s that day so he was spared the actual details of her death.

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