Birthday lesson: Don’t have regrets

Today’s my 60th trip around the sun. I look in the mirror and see a guy with bags under his eyes, gray in his beard, and wispy hair barely covering a balding head. That’s a scary thought, especially when I consider where I thought I’d be at this point in my life.

There are paths I chose in my life that, in retrospect, I wish I had not. But when I reflect on what I have accomplished, I’m fairly proud. This is the kind of retrospection everyone should do, and if you’re not pleased with what you find, to remember that it is never too late to make a change. grouchoYou only have one life, after all. This isn’t a computer game where you can start over and create a new character.

So let’s start with this: Try not to have big regrets.

Act on your dreams. No one was ever on their death bed saying, “I’m so glad I never tried to accomplish that dream of mine!”

I’ve done a lot of different things in my life. I’ve been successful at some, and not so much at others. (You’ll forgive me if I reminisce a bit here.)

When I was a kid, I decided I wanted to be an actor. So my mom took me to community theater, and I passed auditions and was in a number of plays. (I continued on through High School.)

Then I wanted to be a cartoonist. I ended up drawing comics for my school newspapers all the way through law school.

I thought it would be great to be in a band, so I taught myself guitar, bass and piano. I played in many bands and still do from time to time.

In High School, I decided to start an “underground” newspaper. It became quite popular, although it was more like Mad Magazine than a real newspaper. (I continued to write for the college and law school papers and later did a column for the Allston-Brighton Item, a real newspaper in Boston.)

Then I said, “I should write a musical comedy.” I did, and the High School drama coach liked it. The school put it on. It was held over an extra week and got good reviews from the local paper.

In college, I decided to run for the student government and received the highest number of votes of any candidate, and was later awarded the college’s Student Service Award in my senior year. I also became the college radio station’s Program Director.

Then I decided to go to law school, mostly because I was interested in politics. I became involved with the Massachusetts chapter of Americans for Democratic Action and ended up as their President for a year. I also worked as a lobbyist, and was campaign manager for a state representative for a summer.

After law school, I said, “There should be a magazine for animated films,” and started Animato!, which later grew into a real magazine carried in book stores everywhere.

Then I joined up with some friends and began one of the first live-action fantasy medieval role-playing games in America. I later broke away and started the Alliance LARP, which now has been running for more than 25 years. I have chapters all over the United States and Canada, and the Discovery channel even did a documentary about us. (Yes, you watch it on Netflix and yes, that’s me and my wife Heidi being interviewed.) We even had a booth at the New York Renaissance Faire for many years, which we sold when Heidi’s medical condition prevented her from working.

About ten years ago, I decided I wanted to write fiction, and I have so far published three novels and a bunch of short stories (no, they’re not self-published) as well as edited a few anthologies, featuring NY Times bestselling authors. A few were even made into audio books with professional actors reading the stories. I even have an agent now, and I started the Pocono Liars Club, a group of local writers who sponsor workshops and seminars.

Now, were all of these things successful? Absolutely not. I tried to make a living at the LARP but instead ended up living in poverty for a few years. My books are not best-sellers. My bands may have played all the big clubs but we never got a record deal. I gave up on the cartooning and never pursued the acting.

I’ve had regrets about life, just like everyone. But they are rarely of the “I wish I had tried that” variety.

And that’s today’s lesson: Take control and make things happen in your life. There is no “Life Fairy” who will come along, point a magic wand, and make all your dreams come true. Sitting around and watching TV won’t get you anywhere. Get off your butt and do something. Make something of your life.

Make sure that when you’re on your death bed, you have no big regrets.