Loving the Regrettable – Venessa Bowers

Often, women like you and me spend a lot of time thinking about the things that “could have been.” We spend so much time thinking about those past, long-lost dreams that we cannot see the “now” of our lives. We cannot see the new dreams and goals we have set for ourselves. Because let’s face it, as women, we are always planning new things. In fact, we have to in order to survive and eventually make sense of the lives we have lived and are living.

Let me tell you a story. When I was growing up I used to spend a great deal of time daydreaming. So much so that my maternal grandmother used to call me “Alice” as Louis Carroll’s classic work Alice in Wonderland. On its face, it sounds like being called “Alice” was an endearing nickname. However it wasn’t. My grandmother’s belief was that “there would be no dreaming in her house.” So whenever she caught me daydreaming it was as if I committed a class-A felony. And she made me pay for that infraction in countless, merciless ways. But here’s the thing – she couldn’t break my spirit, no matter how hard she tried to break my body and mind. So, defiantly, I kept daydreaming.

In those days, daydreams were about being a famous writer who would tell the most captivating tales of magic and wonder. Or, being a famous musician (after all I was classically trained on several instruments), or being a Rockette, since I was an award-winning tap dancer. But the recurring theme in those daydreams was finding a way to leave the life I was forced to live under the care of people who couldn’t have cared less about me. When I was ten, I wanted to be fifteen – when I was fifteen I wanted to be twenty. I never learned to live in the moment of those years because I was always planning an escape. But those dreams didn’t come true and I regretted even having them for a very long time.

My escape came in the way of college. I was a voracious reader and that, in fact is what saved my life. I could disappear into a book and no one could call that “daydreaming” because it looked like school work. Most of my family could not read above a third grade level so I decided that I would “get smart at them” and be able to read what I wanted without the fear of punishment. Being the first person to go to and finish college in my family was a struggle, but I did it. I also earned two master’s degrees – my dreams shifted to being an academic, not a writer or a musician or a dancer. But that didn’t work either. Being a “hood-rat” as I was often called by my colleagues didn’t fit the “vision” of an academic – those people are the ones who spent their whole lives in the academy – white, men, with money. So, clearly, I couldn’t fit that bill.

So, I changed my dreams again. And in the process of changing dreams and looking at the past without minimizing it, dismissing it, or wallowing in it, I was able to begin to love those things I once found regrettable. I love that little girl who had such big dreams of being famous. I love the teenager who dreamed about out-thinking her abusers, I love the young adult who struggled to make it through college and try to give back to people just like her – teaching in colleges where women, so many women, faced the same struggles that she did. She helped them to find their way and overcome the barriers to their dreams.

I love the woman I am today – at 40 years old, I am learning to love the regrettable. It’s regrettable that I didn’t have a family who loved and took care of me – how many of us actually get that? It’s regrettable that I didn’t throw myself into developing my artistic crafts. It’s regrettable that I couldn’t be a tenured professor. BUT – what is not regrettable is who I am because of those experiences. We women, are not resilient “in spite” of the pain, but rather because of it.

Can you love your regrettables? I bet you can. I challenge all of you to look deep inside to find that little girl who wanted big things for her life. Then go get them. You have the power to have the life you want – but might have to slay a few dragons on the way. But you can slay them. In fact you’ve been doing that your whole life.

No matter who you are, where you came from, what you lost, what you gained, what you wanted and what you needed but didn’t get – YOU are not regrettable. Start unpacking the luggage you’ve carried that is full of your regrettables. Look at them honestly and openly and love them. They belong only to you. Only you can love them.

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1 comment so far

  1. Tai on

    Wow! I really enjoyed this & I love the idea of loving the things I have come to regret! Thank you!


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