Wednesday, June 3, 2015


 A few days ago, I was in the checkout line at a store. I heard the cashier ask the customers in front of me, a young couple, "Quick -- if you could go back and change anything, what would it be?"  The couple was understandably caught off-guard and didn't really know how to answer, so they turned the tables, asking the cashier what he would change.  He said, "Nothing. I've made mistakes, but I always learned something from them. So I'd change nothing."  Sure enough, when it was my turn, he asked me the same question, and I fed his answer back to him - "Nothing."  But I wasn't being honest.

For the past few months -- and honestly, probably longer than that -- I've been having regrets about a job change a made four and a half years ago.  I decided to leave newspapers for a communications job in a higher education setting. At the time, it seemed like a great opportunity.  The pay was higher, and there was more potential for growth and advancement.  It was a new style of writing, so I had a lot to learn, but I thought I was doing pretty well. After 18 months, my position was eliminated. It was devastating and embarrassing. 

If it had been a simple layoff, I might have been able to stomach it better. But it wasn't. In the month leading up to my layoff, my supervisor had been picking apart my work. Up until then, she had been supportive and encouraging, but all of a sudden things had changed.  In the week prior to my layoff, she wouldn't even talk to me -- not a "hello" or a meeting to discuss projects.  I should have seen the writing on the wall, I guess, but I didn't. I was stunned when I was let go, and more than that, I was hurt that my supervisor treated me like dirt on the way out. My theory is that she knew she was going to have to get rid of me all that time, and she decided to make her own conscience lighter by convincing herself that my work sucked and distancing herself from me.  But that theory hasn't made me feel any better over the years. 

I was unemployed for a few months before accepting a temp communications position that brought me to Des Moines. That position was eliminated after just three months.  If you're keeping track at home, that's two layoffs in seven months. Needless to say, I abandoned the communications field after that. It was clear to me that the writing skills I believed I had honed and developed were not good enough.  My confidence in those talents was gone. My plans and dreams of earning a living as a writer were gone. This might be why I haven't finished a writing project in the last few years.

But there's more ...

When I took that first communications job, I moved to a town where there were few to no rental properties, especially those with furkids.  And since I wasn't going to get rid of my cats, I had to buy a house.  It was exciting at the time, moving into a 1,000-square foot ranch with attached garage. I loved having a space that was truly mine.  But if you know anything about real estate, selling after just 18 months is not possible, unless you want to be completely upside down.  So I found some renters.  I advised them I only intended to rent out the house for a year and would then be looking to sell. They were interested in buying, but when the year was up, they were not financially ready to buy.  So we drew up a purchase contract for another year.  We're nearing the end of that contract, and they still don't have enough credit to get a mortgage.  I contacted a realtor to explore the option of selling, but the best case scenario (which isn't possible unless I do a bunch of improvements) is that I would get out of it owing $5,000 minimum.  That's money I don't have.  I have shed more than a few tears of stress as I anguish over how to proceed.

So ... in short, taking that communications job I thought would lead to better opportunities has killed my career, my confidence, and my finances.  I have said more than once that if I could go back four and a half years, I would not take that job. I'd stay in newspapers.  Maybe it didn't pay well, but at least I felt appreciated and my writing was valued.  I tell myself I should have stayed there for a few more years before moving to Des Moines.

But I can't go back.  I can't change my decision.  At some point, I'm going to have to let go of this regret.  Maybe, to do that, I'll have to figure out what I've learned from this process.  Maybe then I'll find some peace.

Sorry for the novel today, but this has been in my head for a long time now and it needed to come out.

Do you have any regrets?  
Is there anything you once regretted but have come to accept as just part of life?


  1. I've done things/made decisions or had things happen to me that left me in undesirable situations. Some years were tough. Some things took a long time to get over. But I really do believe that who we are right now is the sum of all the good AND bad things and decisions, and that the bad things are the ones that really carve out our characters.

    It's good you got it out here. I hope you get your confidence in your writing back. If there's one thing I've learned it's that it's so often not about the person that gets let go and even less often about their actual work. Business can be ruthless.

  2. Micah, that sounds like such a frustrating situation. I'm sorry to hear about the layoffs. I honestly think you're right in what you said about your first supervisor there, who treated you well and then things changed. I'm sure it wasn't you who changed. And it's too bad you had to experience another layoff so soon after. Businesses suck, and even if you think you're somewhere secure, you're probably not.

    Keep writing. Hopefully one day that confidence you used to have will return, because it's never good to let go of a passion like that. If it makes you feel good about yourself, screw what anyone else says.

    Also it's too bad about the house. Real estate is a bitch :( Good luck on that front. I wish you the best.

  3. I'm so sorry to hear that this is such a burden on you! I feel confident in telling you that your writing is fantastic-- both on your blog and in the manuscript that I've read. And I know it's so cliche to say that everything you go through and everything that happens is for a purpose. But I 100% believe it to be true. These struggles aren't for nothing, and they will get better even though it's hard to see right now. I'll just be praying for you to have peace during the waiting.

  4. My brother is going through a similar situation with his house. He bought it a few months before the market crash in 2008 and he's STILL upside down. He just recently decided to move out and use it as a rental property until he can pay it down. It's such a frustrating situation. I'm sorry to hear about the job stuff too. I hope you're able to find something you love that makes you feel appreciated!

  5. I'm so sorry you've had to go through all of that. I hope that at some point in the not-too-distant future, things turn around and you're able to look on this experience as a good thing rather than a regret.

  6. That is a very tough situation. Maybe it would help to make a list of the positive things that have come out of it. There has to have been at least one benefit to going through that...everything is a learning experience in some way I guess.
    I don't know that I have regrets. Not big ones. I wish I've had the opportunity to travel more, but I suppose that can't be helped.

  7. aw, sending you a big hug. It is always easy to say you would change things but my guess is that you met people you wouldn't know if you had not changed jobs and maybe you have some good friends from that. I truly believe there is a reason for everything.
    I am sorry you are having such a hardship with the house. The house may seem like a burden now but in a few years it could be the best investment you ever made. Try not to stress too much about that choice. If your renters are just breaking you even on the mortgage right now that is a win. HUGS!!


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