Have you ever heard Frank Sinatra sing “My Way,” without thinking that the song was written just for you? Paul Anka’s great lyric: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention,” has probably made us all wonder if we really did it our way. I thought about this last week when I sat in on a reunion of actors. In the midst of reminiscing someone asked the question: “Do you have any regrets, such as a role you wished you had or had not turned down?” It’s a great question, especially among people who have led lives far more glamorous than the rest of us. One was in the original cast of “Phantom of the Opera,” remaining with the show for 17 years. Another was also in “Phantom,” as well as being in the national touring companies of several Broadway shows.
Do you have any regrets? How many forks in the road of life have you come to?
In the opening scene of “Yojimbo,” a film by the great Japanese director Akira Kurasawa, a samurai arrives at a fork in the road. He throws a stick the air which points to the right and the samurai follows the road to a village where the story begins. We will never know where he would have arrived if the stick had sent him to the left.
Thinking back over the years, do you wonder where your life would have gone had you taken the other road? Do you wish you had taken the other road? I wanted to write when I got out of college. The only job offered to me was writing advertising copy for the old Burroughs Adding Machine Company.
I was given the grand title of “creative writer.” Although the title was grand, the compensation was humble. No matter how many times I took the title to the marketplace, I could not get anyone to exchange it for food, shelter or clothing.
My next job had nothing to do with writing. But it had everything to do with being able to support a family. It would be more than 30 years before I took a fork that got me back on the writing track. The desire to write was always there waiting to burst through like a crocus in spring. I think I always understood that if I knew where I wanted to go, any road would get me there.
So many roads taken. Were they always the best ones? Someone once told me that you cannot make a bad decision, because at the time you make that decision, it is the right one for you. Oh yeah? Tell that to General Custer.
As I sat listening to the people in that room, I noticed a common thread that was woven through the stories they told — no one would have changed anything they had done. They spoke with a cast-iron certainty that was reflected in the nods of understanding they received from the others in the group. Their belief in their choices was too genuine to be an act. Though no one articulated why they were content with the decisions they made, it was obvious to me. The roads they traveled led to a place where they found fulfillment. Something they could only have achieved by doing it their way
Jerry Gervase is a columnist for The Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.