Today I want to tell you a story.
I studied History and Politics at university. I had actually decided to study history, but my grades were so awful that I had to go with a combination.
To be quite honest with you, I cannot believe that I was accepted by any university (for those in the UK, my A-Level grades were C, E and U). Neither can I believe that I actually graduated with a degree.
But I digress.
On the very first day, there I am, picking my classes for the year. Obviously, most of them are related either to history or politics, but there were also some semi-related classes that I could choose from.
One of the classes I decided to go with was European Cinema. I figured that I liked movies, so it couldn’t be that bad. How naive I was. I quickly realized that modern cinema and films such as Battleship Potemkin have very little in common!
However, there was a saving grace.
I arrived at the class for the first time and sat myself down. This was a pretty impressive achievement for me, because my attendance record was spotty at best (in my first year, I actually managed to miss an entire semester for one particular class, because it was at 9am on a Friday, and Thursday was always a big night). After a few minutes, a girl walked into the class, took a look around, then came over and sat down next to me.
My reaction was something akin to this:
This girl was beautiful.
We started chatting. She was the classic “stunning but doesn’t know it” type. Completely unassuming, friendly and open. The lesson came and went.
The funny thing was, because European Cinema was pretty much unrelated to everything else I did, I barely ever saw this girl.
Here’s something you should know about me. I’m terrible with names. Truly awful. I try desperately hard to remember people’s names, but there is some sort of mental block in my brain that prevents me from doing so.
Which is exactly what I did in this case. I plain forgot her name, straight up. You know when it gets to the point at which you can’t really ask for someone’s name again? Yeah – I got way past that point.
So from then on in, she became known amongst me and my friends as “European Cinema Girl” (or ECG for short).
ECG quickly became the stuff of legend – I would tell my friends how this girl was truly stunning; they would revel in the mystery of it all. The elusive and near-mythical ECG.
Now I will never know if this girl liked me, but there were certainly moments when I could have found out. I remember one night I was at my favorite club, taking a break on a sofa. Of all people, ECG wonders over and sits down next to me. The conversation went a little bit like this:
ECG: Hey Tom!
Me: Hey! (Yep, don’t know her name – will just stick with hey)
ECG: How are you?
Tom: I’m good thanks, how are you?
ECG: Great! So…are you here with your girlfriend tonight?
Tom: No…I don’t have a girlfriend.
*extremely awkward pause that seemed to last forever*
ECG: …okay…well I’m gonna go.
Tom: Okay – bye!
I still cringe – some eight years later. And that wasn’t the only time that I could have, you know, actually grown some balls and made a move. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. ECG will forever be the one that got away.
If you have got this far – congratulations. You may be wondering what on earth this story has to do with leaving work behind. Well, it’s simple really guys. It’s a lesson you have no doubt heard many times before, but with good reason – it is perhaps one of the most important life lessons we can act upon.
I’d rather live in regret of failure than in regret of never trying.
If we all lived our lives with MJ’s attitude, we would achieve a great deal more. If you live a life largely free of regret, it will be a life well lived. And the only way to do so is to grasp each “ECG” situation in life with passion and enthusiasm. Don’t leave yourself with a “what if”. In that moment where doubt starts to take hold, when you start to over-rationalize – that’s the exact point at which you must dash those negative thoughts and charge ahead.
Chastise yourself for doing something stupid, but love yourself for having tried. That is what life is all about. That is what separates the over-achievers from the rest of us.
Oh, and by the way – her name is Jodie, and I do believe she is now engaged.
Creative Commons photo courtesy of mugley