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“What if?”

Those words will kill you over time.

They’ll slowly turn into “could’ve, would’ve and should’ve.”

When I was a youngin’, I hated the idea of not knowing something. It never sufficed to be merely told an answer. I had to go there to know there.

This got me into a lot of trouble and, as a result, I was grounded a lot. In the same breath, though, I learned a lot, too.

Regret was not a word I wanted in my vocabulary even as a child. Granted, I didn’t understand the word regret, but the concept was all too familiar to me.

You get one opportunity in your life, maybe two, but two tops. If you don’t take the shot, the answer will always be no. You will wonder, “what could’ve happened?” and you’ll never know.

I can’t live with what ifs. I can’t live with, “could’ve.”

I have many pet peeves, but my biggest pet peeve is “should’ve.”

When someone tells me they “should’ve” done something, I get aggravated. Are you unable to take the shot now? If you aren’t, then you should do it now. Don’t waste another minute in turmoil—just do it! If you can’t do it, then take it as a lesson and do everything you have to do when you get the opportunity.

How can you live any other way?

If you follow your heart/gut/feelings, you’re bound to live a good life. You will get hurt, you will be disappointed, but you won’t have regrets. You’ll always know. Trust me when I say I’ve been disappointed, I’ve been hurt, but I could die tomorrow and I’d have no serious regrets. Sure, do I regret maybe giving people too many chances, or do I regret staying in a certain job too long, yes. That doesn’t keep me up at night. What would keep me up at night is wondering if I let someone go without making an effort.

This isn’t exclusively about The One That Got Away (though, no one can get away if you live the way I do, because then they weren’t The One).

No, this extends to everything in your life.

If you’ve always wanted to be a doctor, then get your butt in school and be a doctor. Who is stopping you? Okay, financial issues? Go back home. Live with your parents, explain it to them, take out the loan, and do what you have to do.

For me, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write books on top of books. I’ve written two full-length pieces. Sometimes I act like it’s not a big deal, “anyone can do it.”

Maybe anyone can, but not anyone does. I have a lot of determination. I’m dedicated to one task, and I get the job done. I start a lot of projects, but when my heart is in something, I get it done. It’s all I think about. When I wrote Love, Ava, I thought about it every day. Every run was plagued with thoughts of her journey. Everything I did inspired me to finish that novel. So, yes, most days I act like it’s nothing, but occasionally, I pat myself on the back (in private) for staying the course.

My next novel isn’t as inspired, but I’m a few chapters in, and I will finish it.

When people tell me they don’t have a passion or they don’t have a goal, I don’t really understand it. I’m driven to express my imagination. Whether anyone likes it or not isn’t really my concern (though, it’d be nice to be a best seller someday LAWL!). I write, because there are ideas that need to come out. I’m inspired every day to write something. Most times it’s just a short story, but that’s something.

I can’t say how anyone else should live their life, but I will anyway.

Follow your heart. I think if you always go with your heart, it will never steer you in the wrong direction. Like I said, you’ll be disappointed, things won’t go your way, but nothing good comes easy.

People will judge what you do regardless, so do what you want and forget anyone else. They don’t pay your bills, they don’t help you sleep at night.

Don’t turn 30 with a regret. Don’t turn 26 with a regret. Don’t turn any age and wonder “what if I had just…”

Just do it.

One (serious) thing to note: some people will envy you for your gusto. Some people will have a hard time swallowing the fact that you know who you are, what you want, and how to live. For whatever reason, they don’t know what they want, they don’t subscribe to the way you live (following their own heart), and they’ll feel inferior to you or insecure (sounds crazy, but you’ll see).

I haven’t met all of these people, but the few I knew were confusing and an important part of my life (at first, anyway). In the beginning, they’ll find you interesting—people are attracted to something different, but after a while, they’ll start to feel insecure around you.

Again, some people don’t trust their own heart or their own feelings. I don’t understand it, but they’re insecure around someone who knows what they want, and someone who has no qualms going into battle for it.

It’s a weird feeling. It’s not all of a sudden, but you’ll slowly start to feel judged. For instance, when you talk about an accomplishment, or how you’re going to tackle the next obstacle in your course, they’ll seem irritated or disinterested.

Eventually, they’ll say something rude, and that’s when you’ll be shocked. “Excuse me?”

That’s what I’ve said. Then you’ll want to defend yourself, but don’t bother.

But no, the good in you will want to understand where their insult came from. You’ll wonder why anyone would insult you over doing what you want, being able to, and knowing all that you’re capable of. It’s not like you’re shouting from rooftops, you’re just being open with someone important to you.

One day, though, it’ll dawn on you. It’ll hit you like a sack of bricks off the Empire State Building.

Insecurity.

If I could change one thing, I’d have said, “I’m sorry that you’re insecure and have no ambition. Don’t take your self-pity and self-loathing out on me.” Then I would’ve disappeared.

These people don’t have anything going for themselves and find you threatening. God forbid you excel at something you want in your life—you’re passionate about—while they wither away in their small town and do nothing with their lives.

This has happened to me a few times.

Word of advice: you’ll never forget these people, but you will use them as motivation (as if you need any heh). Let their negativity, their insecurity, their unaccomplished weak hearts be the fuel to your fire.

Don’t let their what ifs, their should’ves, make you doubt yourself or your goals.

Believe me: if you’re anything like me, these people will temporarily shock you (just their stupidity), but you will bounce back higher than before.

You will feel alone at times. You may doubt yourself occasionally. You will wonder if maybe you should just quit, because what’s the point.

Your happiness. Always do what makes you happy. Forget anyone else. Your career, your dreams, your goals, they won’t wake up one morning and say, “I found someone I like better than you” or “I don’t love you.”

Your life will be there for you, because you make it what you want.

Here’s a quote that resonates with me more than any other. I found it when I was fourteen, and I’ve carried it in my wallet for the last 12 years.

“Those who have spontaneous feelings can only be themselves. They have no other choice if they want to remain true to themselves. Rejection, ostracism, loss of love, and name calling will not fail to affect them, but once they have found their authentic self, they will not want to lose it. And when they sense that something is being demanded of them to which their whole being says no, they cannot do it. They simply cannot.” – Alice Miller

Always follow your heart.

You’ll make it, and you’ll make it well.

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