Carnett: 'Do-over life' sounds good at first blush

What if you could do life over? Would you change anything?

Lots of things?

Filmmaker Woody Allen observed in a recent newspaper interview: "I never trust people who say, 'I have no regrets. If I lived my life again I'd do it exactly the same way.' I wouldn't."

Nor would I, Woody! I, too, have regrets (like not being 6-foot-5), and I'd do some things differently (like never eat my first nacho).

Would I consent — as though I had the option — to being born (again) in rural Orange County, Calif., in the final months of World War II?

Yes, absolutely! It was the perfect time and place to commence life. If West Virginia, as John Denver described it, is "almost heaven" then 1950s and '60s Orange County was unadulterated nirvana. It offered perfect weather, pristine beaches, pastoral orange groves, snow-capped mountains over our backyard fences, breathtaking canyons and lots of space.

No, I'd make my first detour at age 4. That's when my parents enrolled me in kindergarten. The second time around I'd advise them to wait a year. As it turned out, I graduated from high school at 17. A late bloomer, I didn't catch up physically or intellectually with my peers until my freshman year in college (and some posit that that still hasn't happened).

As a result, my immature pre-college grades were so-so, and my undersized physique precluded athletic achievement.

With more attention paid to high school academics, I might have been accepted at a university like UCLA, Syracuse or Virginia. A four-year East Coast education surely would have changed me. But for the better?

At 19, I did attend an East Coast institution, albeit a U.S. Army school in New York. I spent three years in the military — and grew up.

I came home and earned an associate degree at Orange Coast College, a bachelor's degree at Cal State Fullerton and a master's degree at Pepperdine. I don't disparage those experiences — they were perfect for my circumstances — but living four years in an ivy-covered environment was a dream never realized.

Looking back, I might opt for a different college major. I majored in communications. With a restart, I'd perhaps settle on a foreign language. Or international relations. Or history.

No matter the major, next time I'd definitely learn French and Spanish.

As a full-time college student, I also worked full-time. In a "do-over life," I'd work only sporadically and immerse myself in the college experience. I'd enroll in a semester abroad program and, after graduation, I'd live in Europe for a while.

Upon reflection, I should have learned to play soccer (although during my childhood, soccer wasn't played in my neighborhood). My introduction to the sport came as a 21-year-old soldier stationed in Asia.

I should have learned to play an instrument. I should have been involved in church in my 20s (I didn't become a Christian until I was 33).

I married the right girl. No changes there.

Did I select the right career? Well, I spent nearly 37 years as an administrator at OCC. I loved it and felt it was the ideal place for me. But there are other things I could have done.

"I might have been happier if I was a novelist," Woody mused in the newspaper interview. "Or music might have been a better thing."

Personally, I think he made the perfect call. He became one of the leading filmmakers of our generation.

Sure, I can see myself as a gasbag history professor at a small liberal arts college, or as a bombastic Shakespearean chewing scenery in struggling backwater theaters or as a news bureau chief in Paris, Tokyo or Jerusalem.

But really?

Yes, I have regrets, but I wouldn't change things that really matter — like my wife, my four children or my eight grandchildren. And, like I said earlier, my career couldn't have been more satisfying.

Now that I think about it, perhaps I'd go ahead and do life just as I've already done it. It turned out pretty sweet.

Sorry, Woody.

JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.

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