I read an article recently entitled “Why I Quit Guarding My Heart” – a considerably less stupid reflection than its title might suggest on living fully by unleashing your relational inhibitions. The article, written by a young woman who, through her grandfather’s recent passing, had begun to understand that in order for her to live the life she desired, she needed to stop preserving her long-term emotional goals and issue in a reign of truth and vulnerability. I appreciated her openness in explaining her newfound life, even though I felt the reading could have come with a complimentary box of pumpkin flavored macaroons and an agave pumice scrub. But I’m digressing, mainly because a pumpkin macaroon sounds good. Life is tricky for us all. Growing up and into the person we are has that delicate balance between choice and reaction. Some of us might be more proactive, headstrong than others and tend to fall more in the choice than reaction category, our mantras and t-shirts screaming “Just do it!”. Others might be the thinkers, the cautionaries with backup nuclear war survival plans. But in both of these thoughts, neither are mutually exclusive. People don’t instinctively latch to one and remain true. What I think I’m trying to say is, plans can be made but we’re not in control of the outcome. We can strategize but in a moment be faced with an inconceivable decision. It’s like that clever vitamin water super bowl commercial a few years back where the Shaq is a competitive horse jockey. Is it possible? Sure. Is it probable? For the equine’s sake, I hope not.
There is very little out there that hasn’t already been spoken up for on matter of regrets. I’m told everyone has them but on social media outlets, many of my friends and acquaintances tell me they don’t have any. And in a way, I accept both. I understand the beauty of focus and hindsight. Hindsight in many ways makes things better, even if it not as truthful. Or is it more truthful? Lately I have become fascinated with perception, perspective -things that can change at any given moment and yet people toss them out like rabbinical law or something. I want to believe that nothing is a waste, a mistake, that I can regret nothing. But I don’t know that my experience can fully attest that. I haven’t had enough life experience to look back and be certain whether I truly regret or truly do not regret. I tend to think people are prone to be their own god and make the call to live with or without regret, like it’s their choice to make. And in a way, if it helps them make sense of their experience, I can’t disapprove. I don’t know if living without regrets is a flawed philosophy but I do know that in my short amount of life I’ve lived, I regret in this moment, looking back. Maybe these regrets will dissipate later on. Maybe not.
I struggle with immediacy and I struggle with vulnerability. In the moment I hold back, hoping the future me will be grateful later, only to just regret not jumping in and figuring things out in the first place. To me, this has always seemed good in perhaps the invitation to make bank making meth or something but really bad at the opportunity to make a friend at the coffee shop on High Street. Sometimes I feel I squander myself in this quest of self-preservation. I, too, feel delicately stuck in between my choices and predisposed reaction in these situations. Maybe I wouldn’t give two hoots whether or not regret is a ‘thing’ if I were simply an extrovert, too busy gathering energy and experience from other people to even consider it. That’s what I want. And yet, without consent I regret not possessing the ability to be that person. I cling to the narrative I hope my life holds, the narrative that because of who I am, something or someone changes for the better despite my oddities.
Humans seem so attracted to meaning. Meaning and stories through conflict. I am no exception. I love the idea that all the world is a stage. I need to know if regret is a good or bad thing so that my life has a clearer narrative, that in the moment, I understand that this, this is the inciting incident I was born for. But the reality is, no one is closely examining my story. It’s just me and God, and even then, so much of my life happens without my consideration anyway. Sooner or later I’m going to have to give up on the hope for a picturesque, killer closing, fits without flaw sort of a life story, this side of heaven. And I’m also going to have to repress the urge to hammer an ice pick in the eyes of one who so staunchly does or does not regret their life’s actions merely because I have an inkling it can’t be that simple. But still. Making friends at the High Street coffee shop could never be simple.