What Were The Worst Decisions of Your Life?
Looking back, I can find three of them that changed the course of my existence. At the time I made these decisions, they felt OK. But, through the “retrospectoscope,” I can see these refusals closed doors I would have benefitted by walking through.
Here’s the first one: It has to do with dance.
I started dancing when I was about three years old. I love to dance. Moving my body through the air fluidly, sometimes gracefully- sometimes not, sometimes with music- sometimes without, fills my soul with joy.
As a teenager, I studied dance with Hanya Holm. She was one of the founders of the US modern dance movement. Holme’s technique enforced the importance of pulse, planes, floor patterns, aerial designs, and spatial dimensions. Her approach emphasized the freedom and flowing quality of the torso and back.
Her technique put words and structure to my innermost feelings about how to move. It was a combination of intellect and motion that appealed to me.
By now, you must be wondering, so, where’s the mistake?
When I was in college, I lived in a sorority house that employed a student House Boy. He was a dancer, and when he learned of my knowledge of the Hanya Holm method, he said, “I’m starting a dance group. Why don’t you come and join us”? His name was Paul Taylor, the famous Paul Taylor. His dance troupe was formed in1954 and performed all over the world. I refused the offer. How different would my life have been if I had said yes?
By that time, I had decided that the dance world would not fulfill my dreams. The phrase, “Up a steep and very narrow stairway,” written by Edward Kleban, the lyricist for A Chorus Line, described part of the backstage world of dance.
But, atop the narrow staircases was the squalor of dressing rooms, the dirt and roaches skittering around. I didn’t love that part of the equation. How shallow was that? There were other reasons I said no to this outstanding opportunity.
My family functioned better when I was at home, so I always had to return ASAP after completing my final exams. I was allowed out of the house for academic pursuits only. Once completed, I felt compelled to return to the dysfunctional household I had temporarily escaped at college.
I felt too restrained by my responsibilities at home to commit to demanding extracurricular activities.
And, added to those reasons, I was scared shitless that I wasn’t good enough.
My next mistake had to do with Bloomingdales.
Even before I graduated, Bloomingdales hired me for their Executive Training Squad. It was a great job that would lead me directly to an exciting long-term career. After completing that first part of my employment, I became the Assistant Buyer in the Hosiery department.
My boss was terrific and included me in all vendor activities, lunches, and outings at famous and expensive places. What fun!
During that period, Maggie de Mille was the Fashion Director of Bloomingdales, who had a few young women assistants. I was getting ready to leave my job, and management tried to convince me to stay. They offered me a job as one of Maggie de Mille’s assistants.
Can you believe I turned it down? It was a terrible decision. I would have flourished under de Mille’s direction.
My at-the-time boyfriend said he would take me skiing if I didn’t have to work on Saturdays. So I gave up this fantastic opportunity. And we never went skiing, besides. Instead, we broke up.
What a jerk I was.
My next mistake happened when I lived in Providence, R.I.
I was a member of B’nai Brith, a prominent Jewish women’s charity organization. A local TV station invited us to attend its morning show, and the producer needed someone to read the weather report during the program. The regular weather girl was absent that day.
I think they selected me because I was wearing a gorgeous green dress. So, I read it. After the show was over, the producer invited me to discuss employment.
I refused the invitation.
At that time, I had three little children at home and a difficult, cranky husband. The opportunity to say yes tempted me, but I had prioritized my life’s choices, and being a TV weather girl didn’t fit the picture. So maybe this last one was not so much a mistake but rather a disappointment.
Mistakes generally don’t lead to permanent self-destruction. The human spirit for survival allows us to manipulate our lives to make sure we can develop an alternative plan. We have the power to modify our original objective.