It might have been a philosophical (or not) conversation with a friend that brought the thoughts to the surface. It may have been the question we posed. Generally though, the thought usually comes to you when things have gotten exceptionally shitty in your life. You think back to all the things that you could have done differently, and live a kind of “Butterfly Effect” like daydream of the “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve” type. Only you can’t actually change the past, or even affect the outcome of it. So you get sucked into a time vortex and you get lost thinking about it and all the things that might have gone differently, all for but one choice you made.
That’s just about when regrets begin popping up in you mind; very similarly to weeds.
It was during a night, lost in thoughts of the past, opinions divided, that here at Pillowfights we decided to put it to a vote among our readers: Looking back, what is it that you regret the most?
As it seems almost half of our readers are completely fed up with their day to day lives. Which makes sense to a point. There are so many things that demand our attention, chunks of our very being, pieces of us that we are not even willing to give. It’s logical to get sick and tired and ask what the use is. We regret giving our strength and time, putting in the effort and getting practically nothing in return. So much so that, when looking back to what they regret, 46% of our readers don’t have to go that far back in time; maybe just a couple of hours worth. The majority of them voted that they regret putting up with the shit they put up with every day.
You do see the irony of it though, right? See, if something is in the present and, at the end of each day, you regret being dished out crap to deal with, so much so that you choose it as your ultimate regret, why don’t you just tell them all to go to hell? It’s not something so far in the past so it’s unchangeable. In fact, you have the ability to put a stop to it. Now. Why is it then, that you don’t? Because, if you look at it in the right way, you’ll see, there’s nothing to regret; except your inactivity in the present.
Besides, by definition, regret concerns things that are in the past and that can’t be altered. What’s gone doesn’t come back; and even if it does, it’s nothing like what you passed up the first time round. Things change, people change, times change. Words not said, now mean nothing. Actions not taken, now have no purpose. Things not said or done, opportunities all gone, the chance to do it and say it right, dust in the wind.
Now, those are regrets worth writing whole novels about. In fact, many have been written on precisely that basis. And our readers were equally divided between the two; 23% regret the opportunities they missed, and another 23% regret the things they never said.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it a million times over again. It’s better to regret what you’ve done, than what you never went through with. So? You made a mistake. Big deal. Scratch it out, write it off, move on and never do it again. Even mistakes are not worth regretting; you got a pretty good lesson while making them. You learned through your own experience, you’ve got a good story to tell. But those damn “what ifs” are what nightmares are made of. Literally. Parallel Universes, alternate realities, other paths, with other outcomes, things that might have been but will never be… the potential of a circle that never closed properly in your mind is enough to drive the sanest person to lunacy. (But that’s another article for another time in its own, now isn’t it?)
On the far side of our conversation, looking at us from some dark corner of the room and laughing is our final 8%. That small percentage of our readers who claim that they regret nothing, that they’ve done everything in the past, and they continue to do everything to this day, exactly to their liking, and everything has gone precisely the way the wanted and anticipated they would. Okay, I’m sorry, but really? Seriously? Nothing? If there’s a secret, please let me in on it because I truly do not understand how one does everything right. And I don’t mean to be biased but, if someone were to actually say that to my face, I’d probably laugh. Because if you’ve reached the third (or fourth -cough, cough- sorry, something got stuck in my throat) decade of your life and you regret nothing, then there are two possibilities, the way I see it. Either you have lived an extremely guarded life, not doing things out fear that the day will come when you will have to give explanations and justifications for yourself and your actions. You haven’t lived, in a nutshell. Or you just might be so arrogant and self-centered to think that everything you’ve ever done is right. Even Gandhi had regrets and he was practically a saint. Who are you again?
Regret is the most useless of emotions. Nothing constructive ever comes from it. There’s nothing to be gained from it, no purpose in wallowing in it. If you are sick of your life as it is, change it. You can, you have the time to, you have the ability, and apparently, the inclination. Get up off your ass and do it, stop regretting what you can change. If on the other hand you regret things that have passed, things that you didn’t do or didn’t say, know, that it’s never to late to correct them.
And -since I’ve been dancing around it for the past 1000 words- there are two emotions that go hand in hand; regret and love. (See how everything magically goes around in circles till it ends up right in the same place?) It might make no difference anymore but, rather than spend your whole life wondering, call up that person and ask for another chance. Send that text you’ve written and rewritten a million times, only to chicken out and delete it before you hit “send”. And that grand gesture, the one that totally goes beyond and against your nature, the one that you regret not making, get your ass on the move and do it. Now. At least you’ll know, right?
Say what you wished you had said “back then”, do what you wished you had done, go back and try to find that opportunity you lost. It might be hiding under some rock still waitng for you to grow a pair and do something about it. See if what you think you missed out on is really what you’ve imagined it to be. If you already regret it then what have you got to lose?
On the contrary, you only stand to gain; be it a mistake, a lesson or a memory.
Maybe even a damn great story.