Is Regret a Matter of Perspective?

Last night after completing my nightly routine of washing my face, staring at it in a magnifying mirror and groaning, brushing my teeth and flossing since I have “my mother’s gums,” as said by my dental hygienist this past Monday, and applying lavender essential oil behind my ears, because yes of course I use essential oils, the phone rang.

Self admittedly, I’m not a phone person. I’m not the friend that picks up the phone and calls everyone often. I’ve always been a better texter, seeing as it gives me the chance to edit and articulate my words and especially as a writer, that’s always been appealing. However, I appreciate that there’s something authentic, albeit vulnerable about hearing the sound of someone else’s voice. There’s no planning, copying and pasting or editing your words, they just come as they are.

Somebody better be dying over there. (Twitter: fijiwaterpapi)

A post shared by Elliot Tebele (@fuckjerry) on

 

So in the midst of my phone call last night, I was asked a personal question, you know, the meat and potatoes of all late night phone conversation. The vulnerable, raw, but good unmasking of the personality that Dashboard Confessional songs are bred from

“What is the one thing you regret in your life the most?”

I was silent.

Part of me was caught off guard, you know, since most people my age use the phone for everything but phone calls that contain deep and insightful subject matter. But I was silent, not because I have some life-changing opinion-altering deep, dark secret I was afraid to share. Not because I’m embarrassed of my past shortcomings. No, it wasn’t any of that. I thought for a moment, and then for a few more before replying back,

“I actually have no idea.”

What a killjoy I am, right? How the hell are you supposed to get to know somebody who can’t even give an open answer to a candid personal question?

Now I’ve been thinking about it since. Since 10:25 pm last night, I’ve been sincerely wondering what my deepest regret is. Spoiler alert: I’ve still come up with nothing.

Is is even remotely possible I’m living a life of no regrets?

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Part of me hopes this. The other part is hoping I haven’t gravely dissociated myself from all traumatic past events of my life and am currently living in a happy, impermeable bubble of rainbows and fluffy, long-haired unicorns. Based on the fact that I’ve managed to make peace with even my greatest and most impressive fuck ups, however, I’m thinking not.

Thinking back on all the things I’ve royally screwed up, I’ve always ended up okay. I’m sitting here right now, on a laptop I bought myself, bearing my soul to the internet, after all.

Is regret simply a matter of perspective?

This isn’t to say either that my life has been pretty drama free and I don’t have much to regret, because it hasn’t. The majority of my childhood was pretty traumatic, to be blunt, and some of the decisions I’ve made coming out of it have been pretty stupid on top of that. But even my greatest losses, my deepest wounds and heartbreaks… they’ve all given me a perspective I’m so infinitely grateful for. At the time, obviously, I wasn’t prancing about during my worst moments thinking, “This is going to give me a great handle on life someday!” Nah, at the time I can assure you I was a pretty miserable little fucker. But even with the poor decisions I’ve made (we all make mistakes, and are bound to make more) I’ve always attempted to take away something I learned from every instance on the list of Jeanine’s Personal Fuckery.

At this moment of 1:17 pm Eastern Standard Time, I don’t have any huge life regrets that I feel have so gravely impacted me that I can recall them in just a few seconds on a phone call. I don’t think even the mistakes I’ve made that have been purely of my own merit are worth beating myself over the head with in the present. Why? Probably because I haven’t accidentally killed someone yet. Or maybe because even in wake of all the truly heartbreaking, shocking, life changing mistakes we can make, there is hope, and lessons to be learned for the future, if you want to take them with you.

Needless to say, being 24 years 6 months and 16 days old, I’m still what most consider young and therefore, still have plenty of time to make some huge mistakes I might very well end up regretting. But I’m not sure I will. I’ve managed to make it this far without any, here’s to hoping I can continue to live my life that way for as long as I can.

#NoRagrets,
Jeanine

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2 thoughts on “Is Regret a Matter of Perspective?

  1. I liked this post, because I think I’m very much the same way, but I never thought it about it as a matter of perspective, so I thank you for that perspective, because I probably should have. Like you, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve kind of accepted the fact that mistakes are going to happen and all you can do is try not to make them again and learn from them. There are definitely people that were in my life that I wish still were, but because in a moment of emotional irrationality I said something I shouldn’t and as a result things got ugly and we went our separate ways. I do regret those things, but I’ve also made peace with them.

    I guess perhaps the better question to answer first is, what do we mean by regrets? Is this some colossal mistake that we spend the rest of our days looking back at, depressed and/or angry, knowing we would be much better off not having made them? In Canada growing up, I used to put hockey cards in my bicycle spokes so it would make a cool flapping sound when I rode the bike. I am quite certain I destroyed cards that would be worth in the 10’s of 1000’s today. I could regret that I suppose, but I was also a kid with no real understand of the value of money or the capacity to understand long term investments. LOL So I do think perspective plays a big role. Being committed to living in the moment and trying to build a better future so that the mistakes of the past don’t turn into regrets.

    I do think age has something to do with it. It’s hard to see any mistake as that big when you have so much ahead, but I do think that when you have more life to look back on you can better see how perhaps a certain decision, going the other way might have saved you more pain in the long run. Regretting that you spent too much time with work and not enough with family, would also be something you couldn’t really regret until much later on. Ultimately we are dynamic creatures, constantly changing and so it’s not unlikely that the wisdom that age often brings might highlight a certain action as more of a bad idea than it seemed at the time. Overall I just don’t find it that helpful to chastise my former self, when that moment is gone. All I can do is try to be a better future self. 🙂 Thanks for the thought provoking post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really liked this post Jeanine. I would have the same trouble answering that question. I never thought of it as a matter of perspective, so thank you for giving me some perspective. I always say that I want to live a life of no regrets, but what does that mean really? Maybe the first question to ask is what do we mean by regret?

    I think we tend to sort of see it in the extreme. This thing gnawing at you everyday of your life, making you wonder what if, and why didn’t I do this or that. I guess it’s quite true to say that I have done regrettable things. Said things when I was feeling emotional and should have kept my mouth closed. As a result certain people that I really cared about are no longer in my life. I think what really separates a mistake from a regret is that propensity to keep looking back at that action and never letting it go. If I make a mistake I certainly want to be introspective, understand why I did what I did, because I want to make sure I don’t do it again, but ultimately living in the past gets you know where. I don’t want to keep scorning past me, I want to build a better future me and thus regrets seem overall a waste of energy to having happiness in life.

    I will say though that age probably does make a bit of a difference. With so much life ahead it is difficult to dwell on past mistakes too much given you have much time to correct your course. The wisdom of age may also give you a perspective on things in your past that seemed minor at the time, but had a greater impact. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20. That wisdom with age can also help you forecast better into the future and start making changes so that you don’t have regrets 20 years down the road. Ultimately it is that introspection and an emotional awareness that I think helps one live that regret free life added to a willingness to let go of the past regardless of the mistakes we have made. From what I’ve read about you so far, you don’t see to be the type of person who is going to have any deep regrets when you’re older.

    As I was reading this post I was reminded by a quote from an author I like, Tom Robbins:

    “So you think that you’re a failure, do you? Well, you probably are. What’s wrong with that? In the first place, if you’ve any sense at all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. But fail with wit, fail with grace, fail with style. A mediocre failure is as insufferable as a mediocre success. Embrace failure! Seek it out. Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of us will ever be free.”

    Liked by 1 person

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