Some of us escape the pain of regret by making the right choice. Some of us have little time for regret because we’re looking forward to the future. Sometimes we have to fight to come to terms with the past, and sometimes we bury our regret by promising to change your own ways.
But our biggest regrets are not for the things we did, but for the things we didn’t do.”
This quote is a voice-over from One Tree Hill, one of my favorite TV shows.
I’ve always thought regret to be one of man’s worst qualities. I’ve spent an awful lot of time trying to develop a sort of immunity. For a long time I’d much rather believe in destiny, in the fact that bad things happen for a good reason, than spend hours and hours sobbing after what could no longer be.
Then I found a neat trick: I’d tell myself that all the bad things that happened in my life, or the things that I lost, were actually helping me write. In a way, it does make sense: art offers a refuge, an escape from what we can’t accept in the world.
But there was one thing that I didn’t realize until much, much later. This type of thinking is really close to an addiction. I became addicted to suffering, just because I thought it was making me write better and faster. And you know what they say about addictions… sooner or later they become the only thing that defines you.
They become you.
The truth is, we can’t help it. Take me for instance: there’s so much I’ve managed to do in the past year, so much I’ve accomplished, and yet I keep asking myself if I could have done things differently.
If I could have written more and better, if there was one thing I didn’t do in order to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional writer.
And then, inevitably, I think about all the time I’ve spent away from writing, I think about all the time I’ve been daydreaming about becoming a writer, rather than sitting down and my desk to actually write.
So, in a way, we do regret most the things we didn’t do. The missed opportunities, all those hesitations, the over-thinking, the moments we were scared to take the plunge, no matter what.
It’s not the battles that we’ve lost that keep us up at night, but the battles we almost fought.
If you spend an awful lot of time like this, you should end up realizing that the bad parts, the bad experiences, and every single nightmare, all of them add up to create the person you are right now. It’s not just the good in us that defines who we are, but also the bad: the pain, the bitterness, the sadness.
All the dark feelings and experiences, all the memories we wish weren’t real. All the crazy dreams, the expectations, ambitions, and our undying hope that things will eventually turn out for the better.
Regret, much like fear, can’t be killed, but it can be beaten. In the end, it’s just a matter of perspective: your life is what you think it is.