With the onset of old age come the regrets and remorse of how I should have lived my younger life if only I’d have known then what I know now.

Screen Shot 2021 02 18 at 12.08.03 PM
Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at leepitts@leepittsbooks.com.

Why didn’t anyone tell me that it would be the last time I gaped in wonder at the Grand Canyon, the mighty redwoods, the beauty of Lake Tahoe, and the haunting Badlands? If only I’d have known it would be the last time I saw a show in Vegas, listened to the poets in Elko, rafted the Rogue, or flew into Seattle and Sydney, Australia, on a sunlit day. I wish someone would have warned me that I’d never again experience enchanting New Mexico, the Alamo in San Antonio, the Lincoln Memorial, the village of Williamsburg, and the music on Bourbon Street. If I only knew, I’d have lingered a little longer.

I would have said goodbye a little differently if I’d known it would be the last time to tell my mom I loved her, to give my horse Gentleman one last carrot and my dog Aussie a big old bone. I would have been with my Grandpa the day that he died instead of regretting it the rest of my life. I wish I would have asked Grandpa to teach me how to troll for fish and how to barbecue a steak. I should’ve paid more attention when Grandma tried to teach me how to play the piano. Who knew that I’d one day become a leatherworker and would have benefitted greatly by letting my mom teach me how to put in a zipper, construct a gusset, and the proper maintenance of a sewing machine? After all, she kept us all fed by working 14 hours a day as a seamstress.


I wish I’d have made a list of all the books I ever read so that I’d never read the same book again. Life is too short to read the same book twice.

If only I’d have taken advantage of the opportunities given to me to learn how to operate a backhoe, truck crane, milling machine, and lathe. Why didn’t I learn to speak Spanish better than I did after studying it for five years in school? I wish I’d have read more novels, fewer People magazines, and definitely more directions. (Hey, what can I say, I’m a man.)

You may laugh, but I wish I’d of raised a goat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I raised sheep and cattle for a living, but I’ve always been curious about goats. It seems they have several advantages: you don’t have to sheer them, they aren’t the picky eaters that horses are, and the kids are so darn cute.

Speaking of kids, had I known we couldn’t have any, I’d have held more babies, been a 4H leader longer, and read to more toddlers. I wish I’d have known how valuable our first cars would one day become, and then we might have hid them away for decades. And why didn’t I collect land instead of old and rusty horse bits? 

Why didn’t someone tell me to always wear a leather jacket when arc welding, to never wear flip flops in the shop, and the right way to sharpen a knife? I should have paid more attention in my one computer class in college. If only I’d have properly appreciated the eight hours of undisturbed sleep, I used to get instead of having to get up at least twice during the night. If only I’d have known to always floss my teeth, eat fewer sweets, run more marathons and walk every day. I should have taken more adult education courses, paid more attention to pool sharks, learned all about diesels from Uncle Buddy, kept on tooling leather after a couple sessions in Cub Scouts and gone to auctioneering school. If only I’d have known I’d one day become a writer I’d have taken a typing class in high school instead of trigonometry. I’ve regretted not knowing enough about electricity. If I knew I’d one day become a cowboy I’d have fallen in love with horses a lot sooner.

If only I’d have known … I would have fished more, worried less, done more doodling and less dawdling. 

Why didn’t anyone tell me these things? 

Maybe they did, and I just wasn’t listening.