Right now in my home town of Galway, there is a lovely video doing the rounds in which 50 people are approached by a camera crew on the street and asked what is their biggest regret in life.
It's quite poignant, too. One lad about my age regrets all his heavy drinking in the past while an older man regrets that he didn't marry his childhood sweetheart, who emigrated to Canada ... although he did manage to catch up with her, and finally marry her, after a gap of 50 years.
The sheer human warmth of these ordinary people on the narrow streets of the city shines through the video and it's striking to see how many of them are taken aback by the question.
Before I left Ireland, in January of last year, my biggest fear was that I would always regret not taking the chance to take a career break, get away, and travel the world.
I fretted and proctrastinated for months before deciding that, yes, I would leave the 'safe harbour' of Galway behind for a year. I worried about the house, the money, the career path, silly things that don't count.
My elderly parents were fearful, but otherwise nearly everyone I knew realised that it was a good thing for me. I had let the tragedies I experienced in my early 20s curtail my sense of adventure and it had taken an awful long time to regain it, to go out and explore.
I had fears about being too old to become a divemaster, about the cost of the year on the road, about the crime problems or my limited grasp of Spanish ahead of my trip to Central America.
And, guess what, all of my fears were unfounded.
I've read quite a few Buddhist books over the last few years and the one message I've taken from them is the importance of living in the here and now.
There is no point in dwelling on the tragedies or mistakes of the past, or worrying about the future. Life is for living in the here and now, right now, here today.
If people in my life left us too young, well that's way back in the past now and other people experience tragedies every day.
I'm just back in Galway after two weeks of glorious sunshine in the Basque Country and Switzerland, my first holiday since my gap year. It is pissing rain outside and I feel like going back into hibernation mode, as I remember how much the West of Ireland climate can drive me crazy at times.
It's easy to forget that the weather was actually glorious all through March and April.
And I have my health, a loving family, and good friends, and so what if it is grey and depressing outside?
That video got me thinking . . . there really is no point in having any regrets in life.
If any one of us wants to change, the power is within us.
I never really planned for what it would be like to come home to the same house and job, because I had spent so much time and energy planning my gap year.
But when we are old and immobile, if we make it that far, none of us are going to regret that we didn't watch more TV or spend more time in the office, working overtime.
It's a cliche, but life is for living and it's all about the people we engage with on the way through it. It should be an adventure, whether lived in Salthill or Sydney.
On a day like today, some of us can have a tendency to withdraw from the world as the rain lashes down outside.
But the rain will pass and the people we love and care about are only a phone call or a short drive away.
So that's the biggest lesson I learned in 2010. No regrets. Because there is no point in regretting anything.
Most of the people in the video regretted things they HADN'T done. And that says it all, really, when we should focus on the present and get out and ejoy life!
3 months ago