My Biggest Learning at Age 35: Do More Regrets than What Ifs

I’m afraid of heights, snakes, sharks, deep waters, even smiling to a cute stranger. But you know what I am not afraid of? Change. I like it, I embrace it, I treat it as a friend. If I don’t change anything in my life, I know that I won’t be able to get what I want. I used to feel sad when I see people leave, but now I look at them, smile, and wish them the best of luck. I congratulate them for chasing after what they want. I admire them for not letting a goal or a dream to become a “what if”.

Because that’s how, in my opinion, people should live. We are only given one life (even if reincarnation is true, it’s not like we can remember our past life anyway right?) and we owe it to ourselves to do everything in our capacity to live with more of, I-shouldn’t-have-done-that than I-wish-I-have-done-that. For me, it’s always better that you did something and it didn’t work than to never have tried at all.

I made many decisions in which people called me reckless. They think that I based everything on emotions, that I do not ponder on things. They might be right, but I also know that I have never achieved much when I was being too careful. And so whenever there is a chance, I choose to take a leap of faith. As long as I know in my heart that it’s right, I go for it.

You may say that it’s easier said than done and you are right; it always comes with a struggle. But remember what I said in my previous post, “stop asking for easy.” Anything great is not supposed to be easy. When you choose to do more or be more, you should be ready to take on new challenges. To pull this off, you should always trust in your abilities. Determine what you can and cannot do then either improve yourself or work with what you’ve got. The key here is to always take courage even when you are not sure of the outcome. Will you be successful? Maybe. Will you fail? Maybe. Either way, you will learn, and that is the reward for bravery.  

I didn’t gain this confidence overnight, it took many years of failures, heartbreaks, and depression. I was also that person who used to worry all the time, constantly obsessing on the littlest of things. But as I grew old, so did the learning and one of them is that worrying is unproductive and a waste of energy. 99% of the time, the things that we worry about doesn’t happen, or if they do, it was not as bad as we thought they’d be. 

In life, everything happens because of a decision. You can listen to what people say; be smart and wait, or listen to what your heart says; be brave and take action. I’ve done both, but I find that in those times that I chose to take courage is when great things happen to me. And so I choose to be brave.

Recently, something occured that forced me to reassess my life. It’s probably great timing because it was just a week before my 35th birthday. I went home reeling from the events and I spent the next day trying to figure out what to do. I spoke to a few of my friends to seek counsel and they advised me to basically do nothing and just accept my fate. Besides, it’s not like the battle cannot be won, I got people who believe and support me after all. When I think on it, following my friends’ advice is the safest albeit a discomfiting choice, kinda like getting a tooth extracted; a little painful, but once the tooth is gone it’d be over.

Yet, I couldn’t do it. Call it pride, call it foolishness, but I was very distressed with the consequences of staying put. I know my friends mean well and they were just trying to look after me, but when I asked myself if I would be okay with it, the answer is no. I won’t be able to live with it, and I cannot be consoled. 

(I know I may not be making much sense to you right now, sorry that I cannot be more explicit. Maybe in time I would be able to tell you the whole story.)

The other option is what my heart was telling me to do. Now this one is much more difficult; it would be uncomfortable, it would be uncertain, it would be unstable. Nevertheless, when I asked myself if I could live through it, the answer is yes. Guts told me that the pain will be worth it. Sure, the challenge is greater, but it will also be very liberating and exciting. The best part is that no matter the result, whether I succeed or not, I will come out an improved person. That to me, is enough a reason to take the risk.

I know when god or the universe is talking to me. The day before I left for Malaysia for a vacation, I received the memo. I will find comfort with the thought that should I fail, at least I tried. After all, I intend to collect more regrets than what ifs in this life.




  • Reply
    March 24, 2018 at 7:16 AM

    I can relate so much to it. Even people find me reckless at times and restless at other occasions. But then, I have learnt to give a damn to what others think. After all we get to live only once, so, we have got to learn from our failures and move on. Follow our hearts and do what we love to do. Isn’t it?

  • Reply
    Neil Alvin Nicerio
    March 16, 2018 at 2:38 AM

    Change… The most complex 6 letter word that I know. As an educator, I’m guilty of stagnation because I’m honestly afraid of change. Reading your article gave me a new look at the word.

    I’ll be “upgrading” myself this year. Hope it goes well. :p

  • Reply
    January 21, 2018 at 2:15 AM

    Just as travellers we know that the best view comes after the hardest climb in life also the best things are achieved after the hardest climb .You’re 35 and you seem to have the spirit of a young woman in her 20s who’s ready to experiment,experience and explore.Despite being in my early 20s I still feel old

  • Reply
    November 11, 2017 at 1:05 AM

    i couldn’t agree more, I would always take a life of regrets over what if’s, one thing I’m proud of myself is the fact is that I’m not afraid to admit there are things that scare me, but I will never back away from what is in front of me. We all have ambitions and dreams and sometimes they don’t turn out to be what we hoped but until we actually try or experience them we will never know. I don’t ever want to be that guy that one day turns around and says “what if …” This post is really well written and I love that you embrace change πŸ˜€

  • Reply
    September 18, 2017 at 4:14 AM

    More regrets than what ifs. Will use this idea in my life thanks. Don’t join a cult though

  • Reply
    September 13, 2017 at 9:48 PM

    I will find comfort with the thought that should I fail, at least I tried. After all, I intend to collect more regrets than what ifs in this life.
    -SPOT ON! belated happy birthday! πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    September 10, 2017 at 4:28 AM

    Some pains are really worth it. Cheers to both of us for having a new chapter and adventure in our lives! Keep grinding and amazing things will happen! Miss you Marge! Please come and visit me here in Bangkok! xx

  • Reply
    Johan Hansson (Sweden)
    September 8, 2017 at 4:11 AM

    All I want is a hand to hold.

  • Reply
    September 2, 2017 at 4:24 PM

    Hi Marj,
    I was browsing for an el nido backpacking tips when I chance upon your site. I will be celebrating my birthday there and I was awed by this post of yours. I am going 35 such a coincidence also but I have been travelling alone for some time.
    I really am surprise to see female backpackers on the road. Tatapang nyo hahaha…talo nyo pa mga lalaki.. Well I hope to get tips from you as I will be solobackpacking to El Nido and Coron this September and i am excited juat by reading your post.
    More power!

  • Reply
    August 29, 2017 at 12:14 AM

    If I’d put an honest comment (that I really want to write) it would be very emotional. Let me just say that I couldn’t agree more about what you have said. I’m 30 and I have had a lot of major failures. When I was in high school, my graduation address began with this “fear of failure is ten thousand times more terrifying than failure itself”. Like you I’d rather fail than not try at all. Learning is thereward for our bravery!

  • Reply
    August 27, 2017 at 10:03 AM

    Courage indeed leads to amazing things. Fear stops us from unleashing the greatness within us. I don’t know what you’re going through but the mere fact that your heart is urging you to take a different path means your soul is guiding you to bring out the more authentic you.

  • Reply
    Swayam Tiwari
    August 27, 2017 at 5:07 AM

    As we grow older, we tend to think a lot before trying out new things and that is not bad at all. This line of thinking is preferable when one has a family and your one decision can impact your family life. So, every decision has a context. Thank you.

  • Reply
    August 26, 2017 at 11:41 AM

    Marj.. chin up dear. Although, i don’t know what happened or what is it exactly… you’re one of the persons I look up to in terms of traveling and going for something you believe it. Cheer up and go for the gold dear πŸ™‚

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      August 26, 2017 at 11:57 AM

      Thanks Jeng! You’re the sweetest πŸ™‚

  • Reply
    August 26, 2017 at 9:22 AM

    Marge people failed too many times before they achieved greater things in life.I also believed there is something BIG for you out there and this is just a part of the process.So dust yourself and chin up!

    • Reply
      Marjorie Gavan
      August 26, 2017 at 9:28 AM

      Thanks so much Ate Lor, I truly appreciate it!

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