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I Should Have Had A V8

Who hasn’t started a sentence by saying, “I should have” at least once? I should have studied harder in school…I should not have married so and so…I should never have taken that job…I should never have started that shot glass collection…I should never have chased that car on my bike when I was nine, which resulted in flipping over the handlebars and losing my front teeth… And on it goes.

Even today, the tragic news of Alexandra Kogut, a college freshmen, who tweeted “Should’ve known” just hours before she was murdered by her boyfriend in upstate New York.

I was once given the advice to eliminate the word “should” from my vocabulary. “It’s useless,” I was told. “And not worth the regret. There’s nothing you can do about it except learn from it and move on.”

My friend Natalie, a therapist in California, recently asked me, “What ‘never agains’ have learnings brought to you that you would pass on?”

“What?” I said, unsure if it was the therapist or the Californian in her I didn’t understand.

She clarified. “What is the take away message about living in a small space that you’ve learned?”

I contemplated her question. I had moved into that 90 square foot apartment because A) at the time I had to move out from where I was living in the Bronx and B) for years I had been saying, “I should try living in Manhattan” and was tired of hearing myself say it. I knew the longer I waited, the less chance I would do it. And while I wasn’t sure I could afford living there, what I couldn’t afford was the regret of saying, “I should have.”

The plan was to stay in that tiny space for one year while I figured out my next move. Living in a space smaller than a storage unit had never been about downsizing or “being green,” just about getting the “living in Manhattan itch” out of my system. But over that first year, something happened. Sure there were moments I wished I had a couch to lounge on, but those were fleeting. It soon became less about the actual space and more about the kind of life I was living. The fact that it stretched to almost five years (and would have been more if I wasn’t evicted) was a testament to the fact of what I was getting from it. Living with less gave me more. More quality of life, more time to do the things I loved, more freedom to travel. I wasn’t stressed about paying the bills or feeling overwhelmed with stuff. I was living on my own terms.

Granted I now love my larger (but not large) apartment a few blocks away, but I’m definitely more appreciative of it precisely because I lived in that tiny studio. As for that bike accident over 30 years ago when I landed on my front teeth? I don’t think I’ll ever get over that one.

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