May 09 2019
I don’t think I have met anyone without regrets. To a certain degree, regretting things is part of the human pattern. They are the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we didn’t let ourselves into, the job we turned down, the secret we didn’t keep, the hand we didn’t hold… The list could go on, from big things to small things. Regrets are everywhere, but sometimes they grow bigger than the actual thing we regret.
A long, long time ago, back when I was teaching English in Spain, I sat around a kitchen table with my roommates debating whether or not to apply for a second year of the program. Three of the five of us had already decided against it. I was on the fence, so I decided to apply and make the decision when I saw my placement come through. Where I was going to end up would assist me in my decision, surely?
May came with my placement in Málaga, a coastal city of southern Spain with beaches, nightlife, and elegant rows of palm trees. But by May, I was ready for America. I had big dreams, goals I wanted to check off my list, and people I wanted back in my life.
Three days of torture ended with me at 10pm confirming my rejection of the placement.
Flash forward six months and I was in a spasm of regret. I was job hunting, working an hourly position from my childhood home with minimal income, trying to figure out what I wanted. I felt panicked to justify why I had turned down that second year- where was the job I thought I would get, the rented apartment full of friends, and the big dreams I had felt sure I would achieve?
Regret has a way of pulling out other emotions like anger, sadness, and nostalgia. That’s the reason why it feels so potent. It also pulls us away from the present- what we can do now that we regret something and realize it.
Accept that regret means a lost chance.
That’s the truth, right? That you did or did not do something. Perhaps you let emotions win, or justified something into a corner, or just plain gave up.
Pulse check. Are you still breathing? Do you have the power to fix or redo or try again at that thing you regret? In most cases, the answer is ‘yes’. I’m not saying try to repeat yourself. I’m not going to re-apply to be a teacher in Málaga. I could, but I have also come to realize the way that specific regret truly manifested within me.
Not to me, to yourself. To the person who is no longer in your life (you can whisper it out into the universe), to your friend, to your heart. And then let it go. We all make mistakes. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be human.
Turn around and jump.
Remember that time you had two (or sixteen) decisions before you and you chose one of them- consequently the one you are now living? Wherever or whatever you are now was a choice. We make them all the time, even if it may seem like there is no other option, there always is. We are beasts of comfort and routine. The mind craves what it knows because it knows that is safe. And your brain is right. When you make choices you already know the outcomes to, you are safe. You likely won’t have any heartache or regrets come out of those choices. That chapter in your life will also be incredibly dull…but so be it, right?
Make the scary choice…because I have a crazy feeling that if you don’t you will end up regretting it.
And we are here right now getting over regret, remember?
A line from a book.
“Tell your heart that fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. No heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”