We all have regrets, that’s for sure. You can not lead a life without them. You may regret your first stumble and fall — if you remember it. You may regret dropping that toy or that cell phone. You may regret letting go of the balloon or a house that rose dramatically in value right after you sold it. You may regret throwing away food, furniture, or clothing. But why cry over that?
As you grow, I guess there are plenty of things to regret. How about the day you did not do your homework? How about the time you got caught with your hand in the cookie jar, literally or figuratively? How about the time you were grounded for not doing _________ (fill in the blank).
School years can be filled with regrets. Many of them will actually have to do with getting caught, rather than what you did. Of course, if you fell off old man Jones’ garage and broke your arm, you will probably regret that. If you picked on someone smaller and got your butt kicked, you probably regret that too.
When you could not work up the nerve to ask Sally or Janie or Billy to the prom, you may regret it years later. This especially stings if you find out the person you wished to ask, liked you too and was hoping you would ask him or her out. There are a lot of friendships, especially at the high school level, they may have developed into something, if only you had the courage to move forward.
This is especially tough for gay boys and girls who feel they may be the only gay ones in their class and are afraid to approach anyone on this topic. Recently, I learned a high school classmate was gay so I went back to look at his yearbook picture. I wanted to see if he was the person I remembered. He was smart, handsome — someone I would not have thought I could approach.
Adult life may be filled with a series of sorrows over decisions made. Should you have gone to college? If you went, did you pick the right school? The right major? It is easy to spend time at the fraternity parties and local bars. Will you later wonder if studying harder would have made a difference in later life?
There was a good friend of mine through elementary and high school who also went on to the same University as me. We took many of the same classes. We frequently studied together. Many times, our studies started with a trip to a deep-dish pizza place where we would order pizza and pitchers of beer. Since deep dish pizza took a long time to make, we might get 30 to 40 minutes of studying done before the pizza was delivered. After that, it was just pizza and beer. I guess I don’t regret this one too much.
After college, I cultivated many groups of friends. A lot of these friendships revolved around hanging out local bars watching sports and drinking beer. In later years, it might involve karaoke. We enjoyed our nights. As I look back on those years, I am not sure I remember who came along or what occasions were special. They were just nights out. It was more about killing time than fulfillment.
Then, of course, it would be easy to regret all the money we spent in these various places. Some nights, we poured money over the bar just as fast as they poured drinks into our glasses. Buying drinks for others, especially if they did not have a lot of cash, seemed like a great idea. They probably do not remember me, just as much as I do not remember them.
My mother spent a lot of time in the local lounges, one in particular in my lifetime. The time spent took up more than 50-years of her life and all of her spare money. At these places, I am convinced she felt she made a number of deep friendships. It was important to get to these places on Friday or Saturday night to see her “friends.”
When she had a stroke at 73, a couple came to see her once or sent a card. After the first few weeks, over the next 16 years, we never saw any of these people. I wonder if she regretted the time spent at the lounge. I will never know.
If you married the wrong person, you may have deep regrets. If you joined with several incompatible partners, you could pile up many regrets. Falling out with family members always leaves plenty of regrets, even when there’s nothing to be done about it. Friendships and marriages are often chosen in haste. They need to be corrected and forgiven (at least forgiving yourself) rather than regretted.
Then, there’s Edith Piaf:
The thing about regrets? There’s nothing to be gained from them. You should learn from mistakes, but regrets aren’t worth anything. You can’t get back time lost. You can’t get back money spent. You can’t undo a painful history. There’s nothing to be gained from dwelling on mistakes.
Take the lesson. Move forward. Dump the regrets and find a more positive approach to life.
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.
Don’t look at yesterday when today encourages you to look ahead. You can never change what already happened. Maybe you don’t really want to. Everything you’ve done — good and bad — is part of you.
That’s true too, but not necessarily the healthiest way to go.