Before I begin let me just say what an honor it was to be chosen for Fresh Pressed last week. Thank you to all who took the time to read my post on The Death of Anticipation and to those of you who responded. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to get back to everyone but I thoroughly appreciate the support and positive feedback. I am also very grateful to those of you who took the time to peruse the site and read and respond to other posts. This process of writing to Loch is a real labor of love and I am thrilled that so many of you see it as a useful and engaging endeavor. I hope you will continue to read both old and new posts and find that them worthwhile. But, since I planned to do a new post a week, the time has come to move on. Thanks again and keep reading. xo leigh
Here’s the thing about regrets, you want as few as possible. Some are inevitable, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about them, but if you’re really using your noodle they should be few and far between. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb to ask yourself, will I ever regret this? Maybe not now but later? If the answer is anything other than no, rethink it. That doesn’t mean don’t take risks. It just means be accountable for them.
When I was in my 3rd year of University at McGill I went to dinner with your Granddad. I went with the express intention of telling him that I didn’t plan to do an Honours (spelled with a U in Canada) degree in my final year. I believed it was unnecessary. I had no plans for Graduate school, Law School or any other school, and the work required, not to mention the extra classes and 100 page defendable thesis, seemed excessive without the goal of further education. Granddad listened to my argument without interruption. Then, as I drank to this day the best chocolate martini ever, (clear, not milky, served with raspberries) he laid it out for me. He didn’t veto it outright, as he had when I expressed my thoughts of deferring University altogether for theatre school, he simply asked me two questions: “Can you tell me without hesitation that making this choice will never matter?” and “Can you tell me that you will never wish you’d chosen differently?” How could I know that? All I knew was that I had no plans of higher education so why would I mire myself down with a last year of someone who did.
Granddad: “So, when you’re applying for a job one day and you don’t get it, you can tell me it wasn’t because the other person had a graduate degree and you didn’t?”
Me: “Well no. How would I know that?”
Granddad: “Well if you had a graduate degree, you’d know it wasn’t a lack of one that didn’t get you the job. “
Granddad: “Then why make a choice now that effects all your future choices?”
Me: “But I don’t want to go to Graduate School.”
Granddad: “And you might not. But if you don’t do the degree then you probably can’t. Why close that door now when you might regret it later? ”
His argument made sense and we left that dinner with my decision to do the Honours degree changed. I’d do the degree and if I didn’t need it, no harm done, but if I changed my mind, I had it.
I changed my mind.
As the end of University approached I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I’d be better off deciding while in school – improving my chances of further job opportunities – than I would be working in some random job. I applied to a very prestigious Graduate program in Broadcasting at Ryerson University (3rd in North America at the time after USC and NYU) and was one of the 40 students out of 1500 applicants accepted. I’d be naive to say that honors degree didn’t help.
It also turns out that I was right about not wanting to go to Grad School. I finished only one of the two years as I was offered a job in Film Distribution in January of my first year. A group I was in won a business award called “The Pitch” in which we had to present our project and findings to a room full of television industry people. I guess I made an impression as I was offered a number of jobs after that event. I worked and went to school for 6 months and by June, I was working full time. One thing I did do though was fulfill all my scholastic requirements for that year to the best of my ability. That way in case I ever wanted to return to school I could. I didn’t ever want to regret leaving.
I never did.
I did find however, that working full time selling Television and Film didn’t make me happy. I hated my days in an office. Just because I worked in a “cool” industry didn’t make my job cool. Every day felt the same. I switched up the monotony by taking a different route to work, or having a cappachino instead of a latte. It just wasn’t for me. One day, after being there just over a year, I left work early for a “doctor’s appointment” and went to a movie instead (!!). The movie was Center Stage, a story about young people – in this case, dancers – living out their dreams in NYC. I sat in the theatre, surrounded by numerous little girls in ballet outfits, crying. I knew I was on the wrong path. I knew had to do what the kids in the film were doing. I’d always wanted to be an actor and not following that dream was killing me. I left the movie theatre and went home and said, “I’m quitting my job and moving to New York” and I wasn’t kidding. I knew I’d regret never giving it a real shot and when I laid the plan out for my parents I think they must have seen that too. They agreed to support my move and pay for acting school. As it turned out, the only legitimate school I hadn’t missed the deadline for was Circle in the Square, a 2 year theatre conservatory program set 2 floors underneath a working Broadway Theatre in Times Square. So, I FedEx-ed my application, was on a plane within the month to audition, and 3 months later I moved and never looked back.
Now, I did quite well in New York as an actress. I had some pretty cool credits to show for myself and when I graduated I was one of the first of my classmates to sign with an agency and manager. I did a whole lot of theatre and just missed a couple of really excellent permanent TV gigs. When I moved to LA 5 years later I thought it was the right time. I wasn’t getting any younger and I really wanted to do television. The exit of Friends had left an opening for sitcom darling and I thought I’d just breeze in and take it. Not so much. LA is a tough town. As soon as I got here I realized how old I really was. 28 in LA is like 45 in regular years. All my theatre credits were practically worthless. It was like I’d been a dental hygienist in Omaha and had just decided to become an actress. It was horrible. I had moments where I cursed my family for telling me I couldn’t go to theatre school right out of High School. If I’d done that I wouldn’t be so old now! But I couldn’t regret my years at McGill. I loved University. I became an adult there. I learned who I was and I had so much fun doing it. I wouldn’t give up those days for anything. I also don’t regret following my dreams to NYC. Though I’m no longer an actress it put me on the right path. It brought me joy and inspiration and ultimately lead me to your father and you.
You’ll never regret following your dreams even if those dreams change along the way. You will, however, regret taking the “safe” road and always wondering “what if…”
When I got to LA I switched from my New York agent to the LA office with some difficulty. None of the agents really knew me, and any money I made went back to NY as they were the ones who originally signed me. So I found the LA office had no vested interest in me. I didn’t have a champion so I tried to make some connections. I took one agent out to lunch. Made friends with him and learned his son loved frogs. When his daughter was born, I gave him a present but also included a froggy stuffed animal so his son wouldn’t feel left out. I sent cards and left messages to stay fresh in their brains. I changed managers at their request and did everything I could to ingratiate myself. Then I did something that, to this day, I regret. I had recently seen Dirty Dancing 2 and found the acting appalling. Not working had made me angry so anybody in a public and well recognized role that did a s^*#y job just pissed me off. I ended up taking a box of cupcakes to my agency (another ploy to make them like me) and on the top of the box I wrote: “Just saw Dirty Dancing 2. If SHE’s working then I definitely should be! Let’s make this happen! xo Leigh” It literally makes me feel sick to think about it now. I got a call later that day from one of the agents balling me out for my “inappropriate behavior” and “extremely poor” choice to write such a thing. She told me she had ripped the top off the box and I should “think” before I do things. She further informed me that this particular actress was a very big star in England (she was well known) and a “friend of the agency” and that I should use my brain before I “disparage” someone again. I was humiliated. Apologetic and humiliated. I was also soon dumped from that agency. I’ll tell you this babe, I don’t for one minute regret having that opinion. She was terrible in the film. Wooden, fake and two dimensional. What I DO regret is having that opinion in a public and professional forum. I’ve seen that actress in many films since and she’s quite good (especially when she remains British) but my choice to voice negativity in that way was the wrong one and I paid dearly for it.
If you have an opinion of someone, unless you are a critic whose job is to critique, mind your audience. Your Dad has worked with some big name actors who are, for lack of a better term, total a-holes. When people ask him what they’re like the best answer he can give is an upbeat “fine”. Hedge your bets. Be ambiguous. Answer in a way that allows you to be truthful without being critical. You never know who knows whom. You don’t want to be the guy talking out of turn, and unless someone is just truly intolerable think about what Granny used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice. Don’t say anything at all.” In the privacy of your personal life feel free to rip on people if they deserve it, just be careful of how widely your opinions are known. Don’t let them come back to bite you in the a*^. It’s a terrible feeling. Trust me.
My first kiss was an excellent one. Grade 9 March break on a cruise. His name was Zeb Ripple and he went to boarding school in Connecticut. He was about the coolest boy in the world and I was just crazy about him. When we held hands for the first time electric shocks went through my whole body. And when we first kissed I thought I might die of happiness. We spent the whole week together and when he left the ship he gave me his hat and I slept with it for weeks crying my eyes out. The thing is, the feelings were mutual and he called and wrote me all the time. We made a plan to have him come up to Toronto for my first Semi-Formal ever. He was excited. I was excited. My parents were ok having him stay with us. It was like a dream. Then, I panicked. I was quite insecure about my looks in comparison to my friends. It wasn’t till University that I even thought I was that attractive. During High School I was “the funny friend of So in So.” or “The cool girl that hangs out with Blank”. I started to panic that Zeb would come to Toronto and fall in love with one of my friends. I felt that would be worse than never seeing him again. So I uninvited him. I UNINVITED him!!! Good God. What an idiot. I can’t even remember what I said to make him not come. He was really disappointed but we made a plan to meet up in the summer when I was going to be in Maine. I thought, Yes, that’s safe. He’ll just see me. It’ll be the same and I won’t’ lose him to someone else. But, the day before he was scheduled to come he got in a car accident and couldn’t make it. I never saw him again. What a fool I was. I let fear and insecurity ruin what could have been a magical night and possibly a wonderful relationship.
I made a similar mistake a year later when I fell for this boy who had a cottage near me. His brother was a big hockey player and the family got a lot of attention for it. We connected the spring of Grade 10 and had a pretty cute little thing going. When I had my annual girls weekend at the cottage that June, he came over with bunch of his buddies to hang out. My friends teased them mercilessly. The thing is, they went to an all boys school that wasn’t as traditionally “cool” as the guys we normally hung out with. They were all hockey players and as a group did come off a bit “meat heady”. Individually, I’m sure they were all pretty nice, I know the guy I liked was. But as a group they didn’t do themselves any favors, and my friends, being smart, educated, ladies, just decimated them. It wasn’t good. The boys resorted to tactics like going swimming so they could show off their not unimpressive physiques but it came off as cheesy and lame and only increased the awkwardness of the situation. So when the boy I liked called me later in the week I blew him off. My friends wouldn’t approve, and at the time that was more important than the fact that I liked him and wanted to be with him.
So that boy turned out to be a big NHL hockey star too. Gorgeous and fun and after University all the prettiest and coolest girls were after him. The same girls that had dismissed him years before were interested in him now. One weekend I ended up at his cottage (now on a more expensive and swanky lake than before) and he told me how much I’d hurt him in High School. That he’d really liked me and I’d dropped him for no reason. I had nothing to say but sorry. Sorry that I hadn’t been strong enough not to bow to my friend’s perception and that I was fully aware I’d screwed up. He agreed and ended up dating one of my best friends for about 6 months. It was pretty hard to swallow. Now, it also turns out that fame had made him a bit of a player and he didn’t stay with any girl for long, but the regret is still mine. I shouldn’t have done what I thought my friend’s would have done. I should have done what I wanted to do.
Never make choices based on others opinions. Be confident enough to do what makes you happy. Others will fall in. And if they don’t, f^*k em. It’s your life. You’re the one who has to live it.
For the record, there’s a difference between a regret and wishing you’d made a different choice. Regrets are the things that still make you shake your head years later. Dating the guy that treated me like garbage in University? I don’t regret that. It taught me what I didn’t want, what I was really worth and how to say “no, this is not good enough for me.” It took me 2 years of totally unhealthy behavior, but I learned it. Dating the weird bartender dude in NY with the mohawk and very probable secret drug problem? Don’t regret it. It was fun and different gave me one of the coolest memories ever – driving across the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk in late summer on the back of his vintage Triumph motorcycle, the orange and pink clouds highlighting New York’s beautiful skyline and the summer wind on my face. Did it work out? Of course not. But it was fun while it lasted.
Dating the supermodel with 5 kids? Absolutely no regrets. I did that for almost 2 years and it was a lovely relationship. It taught me how important it is to be with someone kind (and handy) and it enforced my belief in boundaries for children. Plus, I knew it wasn’t forever. The thing is you can date people and do things that teach you lessons that stay with you long after the situation changes. Things I regret are actions like drinking too much on my 3rd date with a famous actor I’d met at a bar. We’d gone out a couple of times and everything was going really well. He invited me to come and see him headlining in Shakespeare in the Park and then for drinks at his private club. I was so into this guy (and maybe a little intimidated by his celebrity) that I got really nervous and overdid it on the booze. I ended up kind of acting like a tool. He never called me again and I still look at that night and groan. Do I regret not being with him? No, I was meant to be with your father. Do I do regret my behavior? Hells yes. Try to avoid that feeling. It still makes me cringe.
Make your decisions in life with a clear head using your own mind, rather than using others opinions as your guide. Be aware of making decisions under the influence of anything. Drugs (though I hope we can avoid this one), alcohol or other people. Try and ask yourself if there’s any chance you’ll regret the decision later and adjust your actions accordingly. Be aware of your audience when sharing your opinions and remember that professional situations require different, more guarded behavior. Follow your heart and know that at the end of the day you’re the one that has to live with the success or fallout of your decisions.
Be happy. Be safe. Use protection. Believe me, those are regrets you don’t want to deal with, ever.
Life is a wonderful adventure. Try to have as many experiences as you can with as few mishaps as possible. As Frank says, “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention…” Do it your way and be proud you did.
I love you always.