For regret-free writer-in-residence, another shot at life

 

Kita

Jennifer Shore | Staff Writer

Joe Kita didn’t make his high school basketball team.

It’s like the Bruce Springsteen’s song “Glory Days” — he carried around the regret for 20 years, he said, and then it was time to mend what he lost. At age 40, with permission from his editor at Men’s Health, Kita found himself back in a gym and trying not to be dropped from his team.

After two weeks of tryouts, he made the cut, and after the story was published, he got hundreds of letters from all over the country.

“What was surprising was guys weren’t congratulating me,” Kita said. “They weren’t saying, ‘Hey, great job. Great story.’ They were saying, ‘I remember this, and I wish I had another shot at it.’ ”

A light bulb went off, and Kita wrote Another Shot: How I Relived My Life in Less Than a Year, in which he faced his 20 biggest regrets — including asking out a crush, missing his sexual peak and never learning how to surf.

“I was kind of having a mid-life crisis I guess,” Kita said. “I made this whole list and took about a year of my life to go back to those crossroads to see as best I could what would have happened if I made the other choice. I learned a whole bunch of lessons along the way.”

That will be the topic of Kita’s, prose writer-in-residence for Week Four, Brown Bag Lecture, “Have a Regret-Free Life,” at 12:15 p.m. today on Alumni Hall porch.

Another Shot landed him on “Oprah,” which led to a phone call from Crystal Cruises and an invitation to give a lecture. He accepted and went on a cruise or two per year to speak to the rich and successful vacationers.

“They had so many fascinating stories. I thought, ‘People would probably like to write their memoir, their life story,’ ” Kita said. “They had so much money that leaving a legacy of money didn’t really mean much to them, but leaving a legacy of their life experiences and what they had learned, that was, my sense, even more valuable to them.”

He proposed the idea to teach a memoir class on a four-month world cruise.

“My wife and kids laughed at me,” Kita said. “They said, ‘They’re never going to go for that idea.’ I’ve never let them forget that they did go for the idea. They thought it was fantastic.”

Suddenly, Kita was at a crossroads. He had two kids in college and a six-figure salary at a company he loved. He asked the company if he could have the months off to go around the world, but as a vice president of international editorial development, they simply couldn’t leave his position vacant for so much time.

“It was risky, but I thought, ‘Hell, if I turn this down, I’m always going to regret this,’ so I quit the job,” Kita said.

Six years ago, he and his wife took their first trip around the world. She teaches yoga while he teaches memoir writing, and although they struggle to make ends meet, Kita said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I love writing, and I would probably do it for free even if it wasn’t my career,” he said. “I never had any doubt as to what I wanted to be.”