If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Omit The Hard WorkCommentary • Opinion • self-improvement • ISSUE 39•14 • Apr 16, 2003 By Stephen Gerald Stephen Gerald When you get to reach a certain age, you start to take stock of your life. On the whole, I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out for me. I've got a fantastic wife, two wonderful children, and a successful landscaping business. Yep, all in all, I'd say I've had it pretty good. Yet I do have one not-so-small regret. You see, in my 67 years, I spent a lot of time busting my humpand for what? If I could do it all over again, I would definitely omit all the hard work. They say youth is wasted on the young, and it's true. The young don't have the wisdom and experience to know what's important. If I could go back in time knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have studied so hard or wasted all that time listening to my parents. I would use my hard-won hindsight to weasel out of the character-building chores and homework that were a constant in my younger days. But, unfortunately, I don't have a time machine. All that terrific goofing-off time in my teens and twenties, when I could have been stoned or drunk or catatonic in front of the TV, is gone forever. And why? Because I had my nose buried deep in some book, or was helping Dad paint the house. What a colossal waste. You know what else galls me? For some reason, I got it into my head that owning my own business would be the best thing in the world. Sure, it's nice now that I'm an established name in the landscaping business. But for the first 20 years, it was nothing but back-breaking work getting that sonofabitch off the ground. Can I honestly say that my life is enriched because I'm my own boss, when I could have spent that time playing basketball orbetter yetwatching people play basketball on TV? I don't think so. It's not like I'm so wealthy that people wait on me hand and foot. I lead a comfortable life, but a lot of people live comfortable lives without having to spend 15 years hauling rolls of sod. Then there's the home I designed and built with my own two hands. This took four years of grueling labor while I was working full-time. And did I do it faster or cheaper or better than professional builders could have? Not really. Sure, there were moments of pride, like watching my two sons run up and down the stairs I built from a mighty oak I cut down myself. But when I look at the house most days, I just see sore hands, an aching back, and an endless list of repairs. Next time I need to do some major construction, I'm giving some Mexican day laborers a check and catching the first plane to Hawaii. As for my family life, I'm lucky to have a wife like Cheryl, who at 62 is still a beautiful woman, both inside and out. Still, maintaining a marriage is incredibly difficult, especially for 38 long years. When I weigh all the compromise and the trust-building, the nurturing and the moral support, I'm not sure it's been entirely worth it. Yes, I have a soulmate and a confidant, but, really, when comes down to it, I just want to be having sex on a regular basis. Was it worth all the endless nights ironing out knotty relationship issues and keeping her happy with gifts and affection just for some sex, when a good hooker would have done the trick? I'd say no. Then there are the kids. What was I thinking? Okay, so seeing your newborn child for the first time is a thrill that can't be equaled, I'll grant you that. But that moment of joy is dwarfed by all the headaches and hassles that come later: the smelly diapers, the expensive orthodontics, the horribly awkward father-son talks. Every phase of child-rearing presents a new parenting challenge: the terrible twos, the sullen tweens, the torrid teens. And after all the struggle and the tears, what's the great reward? A severely hobbled social life and a popsicle-stick birdhouse on Father's Day. Oh, and the joy of having someone call you "Daddy." Whoopee. Yep, if you don't stop and take stock of your life, it'll all slip away from you. But even though I know I'll never get back all those years I foolishly squandered on my friendships, family, and business, I've still got some time left. And I'm determined to use that time well. After all, it's never too late to never lift another goddamn finger.