My only regret is that I wish I’d had more confidence in art and in my abilities, so that I wouldn’t have wasted so much time being scared that I couldn’t make a living, or that I couldn’t write or paint. I wasted too much time working at jobs just for money, and I wish I had been more creative in living. I spent much of my time being depressed, thinking that this is just the way life is – you have to get a useless job. I guess I’m talking about times when I felt lost in my art and I didn’t know that I could do what I really love, and the money and all that takes care of itself. I wasted time heading in the opposite direction from where I really wanted to go. The joyful thing would have been to do my writing, my painting, to spend time with what I really loved. That’s what we need to do instead of thinking what we ought to do, which is, ‘I ought to make a living,’ or ‘I ought to have a sensible job.’ I didn’t need to do that. I could have gotten right to it, right to doing what I truly love. That has to do with self-knowledge; we must discover what we love and what work we are meant to do. And we need to find out as early as possible, before the world is successful at confusing us with expectations about what our roles are, and what our jobs and duties should be.
Maxine Hong Kingston, interviewed in On Women Turning Forty by Cathleen Rountree