Whenever I come to make a pivotal decision, I remind myself of the same phrase. “The hard thing is always the right thing.” Very often, the correct choice is all too apparent: what’s often absent is the courage to make it. That’s not to say that I continually pursue the appropriate course of action. What it does mean, though, is that I should always be prepared for my progress to hurt a little.
I realise, just as I type this, that I could simply have expressed that last paragraph as “no pain, no gain”. Ah well. In any case, the exercise metaphor is a fitting one. This morning, I was faced with the most pressing of questions; that is to say, whether I should go running through a cold, wet Leyton, or stay within the loving cocoon of my duvet. As I peered out of the window, I knew what had to done: after all, the hard thing was always the right thing. The last thing I wanted to do this Saturday was go out there into these miserable elements, and so it was the first thing that I should do.
I forced myself out there, and immediately felt the better for it; out the door, first left, and up the Lea Bridge Road. Before I set off, I had been thinking about regret. In fact, I think about regret a lot, and how I am not always honest when I answer questions about it. It’s not that I mean to be deceitful, it’s just that I try to remain positive whenever I can about what’s in the past. At 33, I’m not particularly old or particularly young, but like most of us I have already had to make a series of tough decisions to live the live that I want to. And whenever I am asked “do you have any regrets?” I say “No: ultimately, I did what I had to do.”
That’s not true, though. I do have regrets. Plenty of them. The ways that I acted, or reacted. The places I lingered too long, or stayed too briefly. All sorts of regrets. I remember them all, of course I do; and, therefore, I harbour them. In doing so, I suppose I honour them. In many ways, they are the cost of my progress.
And that’s the funny thing. People often ask me how, given that I do so many different things to earn my living, I manage to balance them all. And the answer, which I’ve never really given until now, is that there is nothing more awful than to give up a passion. There is nothing more devastating than to walk away from a dream. Often it is the fear of further regret that forces me forward, just as I willed myself over those rain-greased pavements an hour or so ago. Behind me I leave the anguish of countless sacrifices, of love, money and time; until there is so much wind and rain between me and my regrets, that I can scarcely hear their sighs anymore.