I have big, huge regrets.
You’d think my regrets would be the standard ones most people have:
“I didn’t pursue a dream I had.”
“I let the good one get away.”
“I did something really bad I’m ashamed of.”
Those aren’t my big regrets. Sure, I look back at some of the choices I’ve made and think, “Not my best decision,” or “I wish I could redo that one.” But for the most part, I’ve done my work around those choices and look at those not as regrets but lessons that got me to where I needed to be.
No, lately, I’ve been obsessed with my biggest regret of all.
I regret working so hard.
I used to wear my obsessive, over-the-top work ethic like a badge of honor. Nobody put Dina in the corner! I could outwork you. Out-sacrifice you. Out-martyr you. I could give up more of myself just to prove that I was committed to my job.
I think about all the bosses I’ve worked for over the years—who I’m pretty sure don’t have the slightest recollection of any of the sacrifices I made in the name of the job. Not one. But at the time, even now because I’m in it still making the same mistakes, I would rather cut my right arm off than say, “No, I can’t do that.”
I have regrets.
I regret saying no to making trips back home when I lived across the country because I felt guilty for taking time off.
I regret making myself sick over a boss who treated me like I was never good enough.
I regret missing all of my cousins’ weddings, my family’s birthdays, and other special occasions I’ll never get back because I had to work.
I regret the sleepless nights over the years worrying how the work would get done because it was too much work for one person and I didn’t know how to ask for help.
I regret saying yes all the times my mind and body were screaming no.
I regret not setting boundaries.
I regret continuing on in jobs that weren’t aligned with my soul and making me spiritually sick.
I regret looking for validation around my worth from a boss or a job title.
I regret the friendships I lost trying to be “nice” or “liked” at work so I didn’t manage others with the level of professionalism I should have.
I regret living in fear that if I let go of a job I hated, I wouldn’t find another one.
But you know what I regret the most? I really regret waiting years to write this piece, to give voice to the millions of men and women out there who feel just like I do because I didn’t want to sound like a whiny, ungrateful, sad sack around work. Wouldn’t speaking up make me an ungrateful piece of sh*t for not just sucking it up and doing what I’m told to do?
Yea, uh, no. That’s part of our problem. Life is too short to give up so much of ourselves for a job.
I’m watching people around me get sick, get cancer, dying fairly young. Aren’t you seeing this? I’ve spent the past 25 years studying different healing modalities, the mind/body/spirit connection, working with people in my practice going through this, and I know many of them are sick because of stress, behavior, and lifestyles that don’t serve them. I’m the first to admit the only time I’ve ever taken time off from a job is after I finally got really sick.
It’s pathetic, really—that we have to be laying in a hospital bed or get diagnosed with some illness and put on bed rest to take time off of work to heal before we become willing to heal ourselves. It’s sad that we don’t allow ourselves the gift of rest. Or work/life balance. Or saying the word no to an employer.
It’s sad that we need to get to the brink of losing what’s most important to us, whether it be our marriage, relationships with our kids, and our health and well-being before we even consider setting boundaries in the workplace or taking time off to give attention to those things.
Half my life is already over. I’m no longer willing to lose things like my health to prove to the world I’m a rock star at my job.
I may need to go to those same dark places before I say, “Enough is enough…time to make a change again,” but I won’t stay silent any longer.
I’m here to tell you it’s okay.
It’s okay to take care of yourself.
It’s okay to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t take on any more work.”
It’s okay to take a vacation.
It’s okay to not respond to emails and continue working during that planned time off.
It’s okay to prioritize yourself. To take a mental health day when you need it.
It’s okay to upset a boss by asking for time off when it’s busy if that busy time falls during a-once-in-a-lifetime event you won’t ever get back.
It’s also okay to walk away from an employer or a job that has those expectations of you. The ones who tell you that they value you, your time with your family, and your health but then don’t respect the actions you take to do just that.
I regret my silence. I’m sorry I was too scared to write about this sooner.
If you’ve stumbled upon this article, it’s not an accident. There are no coincidences in life. You’re reading this because you need to hear it. You need to slow down. Or say no. Or say yes to what you actually want. Maybe you needed someone to tell you it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling.
I hope you’ll make different choices for yourself starting today. I want nothing more than for my own regrets to be your red flags that keep you from making the same mistakes I did. Self-care, setting boundaries, walking away from unhealthy and toxic situations that are no longer serving you…those are my greatest wish for everyone reading this.
Life is too damn short to have regrets.