There’s a fabulous song by the Austin/Chicago band Poi Dog Pondering that I was a huge fan of during high school, and to be honest, my enthusiasm for it hasn’t dimmed a whit in the intervening years. “Thanksgiving” is about the idea that you should be grateful for your past mistakes, because the bad decisions and regrettable incidents are what brought you to the place you are now.
“Would our paths cross if every great loss had turned out our gain?
Would our paths cross if the pain it had cost us was paid in vain?”
My teenage years were certainly a plethora of mistakes, from school to friends to guys. Some were annoying or inconvenient, and some were substantial and mind-bogglingly bad. But every single one of them set me on a specific path, and that path has led me here: married to a wonderful man, mother to three beautiful girls, rich in friends and family, and a published author. If that sounds too perky to be real, rest assured I have challenges and troubles. But they’re minor in the grand scheme of things. By and large, I’m incredibly fortunate to be living this life, and I have watched Back to the Future too many times to wish any part of my past away.
That being said, I do have one regret. And in true writerly fashion, I force Mo, the heroine of The Torn Trilogy, to face it in every book. It’s the decision to act or retreat. To choose what is safe and familiar over what is frightening and unknown. I don’t regret the things I did in high school; I regret not doing more. Not taking chances. It was always easier to play it safe – to not speak up for what was right, to not tell the boy I had a crush on how I felt, to not try out for the school play – than it was to take a big risk and put myself out there. Looking back, I wish I’d risked spectacular failure more often.
By design, Mo is a character who is happiest when she is observing. She was happy to let her best friend take the spotlight while she looked on. And when Verity dies, Mo is faced with two paths: to grieve her friend and continue her safe, sheltered existence or to risk everything – her life and her future and her heart – to find out the truth. At every turn, she has to make that decision again. Sometimes the gamble pays off, and she learns something crucial or enjoys a moment of victory. Sometimes she pays a terrible, terrible cost. But each time Mo takes a chance, she learns more about who she is and what she’s made of. It’s a difficult lesson, but an essential one.
I wish I’d known earlier that I would regret the things I didn’t do far, far more than the things I did. What’s a chance you wish you had taken, way back when?
Erica O’Rourke is the award-winning author of TORN and TANGLED,both available now. The conclusion to The Torn Trilogy, BOUND, will be published this summer. She lives outside of Chicago, where she drinks too much coffee and takes too few naps. To learn more, follow her on Twitter: @Erica_ORourke or visit her blog: www.ericaorourke.typepad.com
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