Many people have different views on what it means to live. Some are driven by money and possessions while others find more comfort in family and friendships. There is nothing wrong with people living life the way they want as long they’re happy. At the end of the day, the only person who truly knows if you’re happy is you.
There was a point in life when chasing dreams was all I did. I achieved one of my dreams of enlisting in the military and serving my country. During those 17 years of service, I learned a lot about myself. I also learned a lot about war and death. Before that, I thought I had life figured out. I thought I had a good understanding of life until the first time I was almost killed in combat. After my first near death experience, I somehow continued and managed to cheat death several times after that. I can still remember every vivid thought that ran through my head when I thought it was my time to die.
I thought long and hard about my most intimate thoughts and figured that maybe I could help someone understand how to live a better life by telling them what I regretted most in life during those near death experiences. The fear of death is worse than death itself, especially when you’re alone. Here is a list of things I thought of and felt regret for not doing when I thought my life was surely coming to an end:
Being True To Myself
I wished I had the courage to be myself. I wished I could have talked some sense to myself, and taken a hard long look in the mirror and got real about my direction in life. I wished I could have lived my best life and not allow the little things to turn into big things. I realized my life would be over any moment and all I could think of is how many things I did not do when I had the chance to do them. I thought of how I lived in fear because I cared about other people’s perception of me. I thought of how those people did not matter and how sad it was that even before my death, I was giving them my final thoughts.
I wished I could have been a happier person. I thought of how I spent many days being negative about everything in my life. I did not want to understand the saying, “be happy for what you have and not what you don’t have.” I was selfish and wanted money possessions, women, and power. I had ambition and drive but my moral compass was broken. I thought I could buy my happiness. I never realized that happiness was a choice and not something I could buy.
Family And Friends
I wished I could have spent more time with my family and friends. I thought about them but never put anything of those thoughts into action. I make excuses–I’m too busy or I’ll give them a call later on in the week–but the reality is that I knew I never really had true intentions of doing so. Even today, I live with the thought of not saying goodbye to my grandfather, the person who taught me everything I needed to know about being a good man. I wondered if I had failed him. I wondered if he was proud of me. I thought I had more time. I was wrong.
I wished I could have been a better husband, a better boyfriend, and a better friend. I wish I could say I was always good, that I was a perfect gentleman, but I wasn’t. I argued over the dumbest things and was very stubborn about meaningless situations. I yelled, cursed and constantly brought my daily outside problems into my relationships. I thought of how I failed so many people that were important to me. How I ruined so many different kinds of relationships because I was selfish. I wished I could have apologized for things I knew I did wrong. At that moment, I knew I was too late to apologize.
I remember thinking of many regrets. If I had the chance to do it over, I remember thinking I would change the following things:
- I would have worked less, not stressed so much, and not thought of work as my identity.
- I would have been honest with myself and with other people, especially those I loved and respected.
- I would have shared more emotions with close friends and expressed how I truly felt.
- I would have kept in touch with people I admired and considered true friends.
Sharing what I’ve learned has been a humbling experience. I survived and have never forgotten the thoughts I had when I thought the end was near. If you are reading this article, it means you are very much alive and have an opportunity to control how you want to live. Stop making excuses and don’t rely on time to give you the opportunity to make those changes. Make them now and give yourself the opportunity to live your best life.