I can't say I have any regrets about my life. Sure, I have made more than my fair share of stupid mistakes, but I (mostly) choose to learn from my errors, rather than repeat them.

I am a firm believer that our accumulated failures — even more so than our successes — shape us into the people we are. I was raised on tough love with a determined “tell-me-I-can’t-and-I-will-show-you-I-can” attitude.

Take, for instance, my high school journalism teacher, who, while giving me the stink eye one day for narrowly missing deadline, said through gritted teeth, “You will never amount to anything,” or the youth cross country coach who pulled me aside during a workout to inform me that I was “too big-boned” (i.e. fat) to be a runner.

After I had climbed through the newsroom ranks at my hometown newspaper, that same journalism teacher invited me to speak to her high school students. Yes, I did mention in the talk that she had been an inspiration to me. I just chose not to say why.

As for that running coach, he was the first to take credit for “seeing something in me” after I placed third in the nation at the 1996 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. And I suppose he does deserve some thanks, just not for the reason he thinks.

For me, it’s never been about the accolades or proving people wrong, but the journey of achieving my dreams by believing in myself. I believe we can’t change the past but we can ruin the present by worrying about the future.

Don't get me wrong, I have had near-regrets about some decisions — such as the time I really should have let a professional trim my bangs instead of attempting to do it myself.

And I do have a near-regret tattoo story. Not quite as bad as the 20-something chick I met a few years back with “patients” inked on her inner forearm — in reference to the virtue. Let’s hope she either became a doctor or had enough patience to sit through the lengthy process of getting it removed.

It pays to think before you ink. In fact, I mulled over what and where to get my first tattoo for quite a while before I took the plunge. I was 21 at the time and was choosing between my favorite cartoon characters — Mighty Mouse on my right shoulder or Woody the Woodpecker next to my bellybutton. I thought it would be “cute” to make it look like Woody was pecking at my bellybutton.

Well, let’s just say I’m glad I opted for Mighty Mouse because poor Woody would have blown up to resemble a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon for each of the three pregnancies my body endured during the next decade and now he’d just look like a deflated version of said balloon. 

Chanda Veno is managing editor at The State Journal. She can be emailed at chanda.veno@state-journal.com

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