I completely understand what you mean by this. It’s the best feeling ever.
While there are many things that I wish were different about my life - I wish I’d been braver, I wish I’d taken better care of myself, I wish I’d believed in myself - looking back, I can only say, “I did the best I could under the circumstances”. That buys me some relief.
What finishes the equation is the knowledge that nothing is permanent. Nothing is forever. I can be braver now (and have been, at least a little bit). I am at least trying to take better care of myself, and I sure as hell believe in myself (mostly). I can’t change the past, but I can make sure that my future won’t hold the same sorrow and regret.
I feel bad about the way certain things happened,sure. BUT: every thing that I ever did put me where I am today: pretty happy with my life. There’s no promise that doing something in the past “better” would improve my circumstances today. Regretting something, wanting to change it–well, as we all know, minor changes can have unintended/-desirable consequences.
I have a nice tightly sealed box that only opens when I cram more bad shit into it. When some pops out I post it here on the boards. I’m not a real believer in “dealing with it”. I just have to hold the box closed for 20 or 30 more years, have a stroke and die.
That’s the plan.
There were a lot of things in my life for me to be sorry about. I could have been eaten up by guilt and regret, but at some point I realized it would be foolish and unhealthy to carry that around all the time. And I have to echo the other posters who say that everything they ever did brought them to where they are. Where I am now is so much better than anywhere I’ve ever been, that I can’t say I would have changed things. My wife and my new life may never have happened to me. The way things were caused me to make major changes, and they were all for the better. So I remember those things that happened as life lessons, the kind that I strive never to have to relearn.
Jeez, is there an echo in this place?
Another vote for learning from it and moving on. You can spend a lifetime in regrets, but one lifetime is all you have, so why waste it?
I sort of regret that one time I did not grab a classmate in college and drag him to the cafeteria to explain why in God’s seven hells was he paying stupid little debts at that time. Normally people do this when they’re about to go on a trip, when the school year’s ending… but he wasn’t going anywhere and it was February.
He drank arsenic the next day (a Friday), died on Tuesday after a very painful agony.
But the thing is - even if I had tried to force him to tell me what was wrong, would I have been able to help? I don’t know. So I made a vow to never, ever, say “he’s got closer friends than me, he’s got his brother, I’ll respect his privacy” again… but I don’t flagelate myself over his death either.
My other regretful things are more of an ongoing “gotta do this better” list. You know, “gotta handle Mom better” - it’s not really a regret.
The worst times of my life came from decisions where I didn’t have a hand at all, yet they made me stronger and better. So I don’t regret those either.
I hope to get there myself some day.
I like this story. It helps put life’s events in perspective:
Once, a Taoist farmer’s horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. “Your farm will suffer, and you cannot plow,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible thing to have happened to you.”
He said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The next day the horse returned but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came to congratulate him and exclaim at his good fortune. “You are richer than you were before!” they said. “Surely this has turned out to be a good thing for you, after all.”
He said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses. He was thrown and broke his leg, and he couldn’t work on the farm. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the incident. “There is more work than only you can handle, and you may be driven poor,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible misfortune.”
The old farmer said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of his broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came again, they said, “How fortunate! Things have worked out after all. Most young men never return alive from the war. Surely this is the best of fortunes for you!”
And the old man said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
Sadly, I agree. But sometimes even talking about regret makes items just jump out of the box.
I regret that when I was 4, I fought with another little boy who was 4 and hit him in the head with a rock.
I regret not leaving earlier for little league tryouts, because if I had, I wouldn’t have been hit by that car.
I regret some of the fights that I had growing up, but I realize that many of the people I had fights with I never had problems with again. Looking back, a weeks worth of bruises might have been well worth a few more of them.
I regret letting principals & teachers talk down to me and degrade me when I knew I was right and when I knew that they were just ‘keeping order’.
I regret going to that batchelor party when I was 17. In the end, it made things less than they could have been.
I regret not kissing Carol M. freshman year. I liked her, she knew I liked her, but somehow I couldn’t muster the guts to do what I felt. And yes, it hurt every time I saw her boyfriends using her.
I regret smoking pot in front of the roomate of a girl I was dating later that same freshman year. I was so surprised when 4 days later I got dumped. It hurt. And to put a positive spin on it, I never smoked pot again. Thank you, Karen.
I regret buying my first car, with my first car payment. It was a ball and chain that kept me in a job I hated for far too long.
I regret not proposing earlier.
I regret not looking for jobs harder when people were intentionally making my job more diffiult than it had to be.
I regret being as subservient as managers demanded I be in the work place. In retrospect, a little critical feedback would have helped them a lot more than the ‘yes’ they wanted.
I regret faithfully respecting and seeing as a mentor a former manager. He was a man who always smiled at me and fooled me into thinking he cared as a friend. He forgot me awfully quickly though. I worked and earned through hard work and long hours far above what was expected a sterling reference from him. What I got was a reference that no employer would be impressed with along with a proviso that I should only list him as a ‘professional’ reference, and not as a ‘personal’ one. After all I did for you, Bill, that hurt.
OK, box is closed again.
How do I deal with regret? I drink. A lot.
Seriously, I try my best not to think about it - yes, sometimes I wish things were different - sometimes I get depressed about it - sometimes I daydream “what if” - but I can’t let it get to me. I think olives is right - we’re all entitled to a certain number of screw ups - I’ve used a bunch of 'em, and now all I can do is learn and move on.
Doesn’t always help, but it’s what I have to do. Move on (hopefully having learned something in the meantime). KWIM?