Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Life through the rear-view mirror

I am often surprised by the cavalier disregard for the past people are given to express after a life changing experience. Encapsulating this attitude is the statement "I have no regrets". I don't understand what this means, or at least, I don't see how it could be true. A critical step in any irrevocable alteration, the curious boast seems to me little more than denial.

I lead an easy life. Although, in no sense of the term, financially endowed, still I lack for no necessities and am even able to pursue my hobbies with few restrictions. I like who I am, for the most part, and many of the decisions I have made seem to be right, or at least right for me. In short, I'm doing okay. And yet still, I have many regrets.

In fact, it seems to me that life itself is little more than the aggregation of regrets, and triumphs too, interest compounded from the choices we have made. The story of our lives told, in black ink or red, each entry one path over the other. To do one thing, we must neglect another. Opportunity costs and time eventually foreclosed some routes forever.

Already at the age of twenty-six (which I know to be no great achievement, but it is the only age I can be) I feel the weight of my regrets. Personal, professional, intellectual. Who I am. How I treat others. Where I am going. Even so, my discontent is not general, but specific. It has less to do with how things are now than how I got here, and what it cost me along the way.

Some of these disappointments may stay with me my whole life. Others might fade over time. Perhaps a few will make a better person out of me. Certainly they contribute to the eclectic host of talents, beliefs, and faults that consist this one man. In the end, I do not bemoan my fate.

I like who I am.

But I wonder if I could have been better. Better to myself maybe, or perhaps to others. Better not financially or professionally (which for me means scholastically), although those would be fine improvements too, but better in the sense that I had done more with what I had, or given more to others. I have my regrets, and they are as much a part of me as my jubilations. I have them, I keep them, at times I even brood upon them, and I have no regrets about that.

7 comments:

Grafxgurl said...

"In the end, I do not bemoan my fate"

thats exactly what the term " i have no regrets" means...

and thats also what points out what you might want to change in the way you behave in the future..

i do have regrets...a lot of them...but i know that i can better myself because i have recognized those regrets... thats so important

Jackson said...

I've always wondered at "I have no regrets" myself. I suppose it's an innocent enough sentiment on its own but I think if you don't regret anything you're not really paying attention. The important thing is learning from our regrets and doing what we can to do better in the future, or at least pay attention to the costs of things, as you said. The really hard choices are not the bad vs. the good, but the good vs. the good. There are always situations where you will give up something good to get something else good - and I think in such situations there is always some element of regret. Maybe not regret that says you made the wrong choice, but some regret that it could not have been both ways.

Geeze Jeff, I don't write fancy-like but after reading an entry like yours it's hard to write informally.

SKY said...

Everyone has regrets, but I'm definitely not the type to dwell on them. I think that's what people mean when they use that phrase. However, there is a danger in being too flippant about past occurrences. I guess one would have to find the balance between the two.

Moon Goddess said...

Ah regrets.

When there is something I regret, I always wonder if I could have done something differently. I wonder where I would be right now if I had not done as I had, and usually, I find that I am happier now than I would have been in the unknown of the Land of If.

I regret the way a friendship of mine ended. But if it had gone differently, I may have lost a different friend, and I wouldn't lose that friend for anything.

I regret that I backed out of something I had agreed to do for another friend. But I was morally conflicted, and if I had done what I had said, I may have gotten in severe trouble, and my entire summer would have been different.

I regret that in social situations I am not more outgoing than I am -- it takes me a long time to get to know, and to trust people, and I don't have many friends at school. But this is what makes me the introspective intellectual that I am. It is part of my creative drive. And I wouldn't change that part of me for anything.

So I have no regrets. It may seem for a while as if I do, but as time passes and I am able to re-examine the situation, I realize that it isn't a regret afterall. It was just another path, one that I didn't take. It is in the unknowable Land of If, a land that I don't necessarily want to be a part of. And one I certainly don't want to obsess over.

Balaji S Rajan said...

There is no point in regretting for what has happened in the past. Living on one's own decision gives a great satisfaction. If we fail, we learn something. At the same time there is nothing wrong in being cautious. Looking back, is just like reviewing ourself. Your thought of looking back at yourself, shows that you want to improve. A way to progress..

thethinker said...

Finally, someone else who can admit to having regrets.

I think everyone has them. Most people are just reluctant to admit to the fact that they made decisions or performed actions that even they weren't proud of or satisfied with.

Laura said...

In reply to your comment - First, thank you for the early birthday wish. :) Second, basically I don't have internet on my computer because I'd have to pay for it. I pay my cell phone bill and that's enough for me right now. :) Especially since I don't have a job...

I really liked this post... it's true that if we didn't have regrets we wouldn't be who we are today. I sure wouldn't be, at least. I would've never gone to college if it weren't for one person who told me that I really needed to. Sometimes it takes someone other than your family and friends to tell you something before you realize that it's the truth.