August 29, 2004


Regrets. Odd aren't they? I notice memes floating around online and invariably they ask something like "If you could do something in your life over again, would you?" or "Do you have any regrets in your life?" Does anyone actually believe when you answer an emphatic no to either of these questions? Didn't think so.

So, my regrets? Let me start at the beginning...

I regret that I suck at math. Sucking at math ruined any chance I ever might have had at becoming a physicist or an engineer. Not that I ever actually wanted to become a physicist or an engineer but that would have come in handy when it came to building the time machine I've always wanted to invent. History degrees and English don't come in all that handy when you're trying to piece together something with which to transcend time and space.

So, regrets - math, physics, engineering, inability to create time machine.

At this stage of my life the time machine would come in really handy. And no, I'm not talking about solving the world's problems. I'm being especially selfish here. Since I don't have superpowers and couldn't fly around the earth, rotating it backwards to bring Lois Lane back to life, and since I'm not currently the captain of the Starship Enterprise and see no real way to slingshot myself around the sun thus bringing be back to an alterable past, really, the time machine is the only thing I've got (or would have) going for me. Not that I'm trying to avoid the Tough Issues...not that I'm trying to get out of confronting said Tough Issues.

There are lots of things I'd like to undo. Because I'm a passionate person (or maybe merely crazy), I still carry around a lot of guilt for the silly, little things I'd done in my life. You know, all that shit you do as a kid that pisses your parents off or all the dumb crap you managed to almost get away with in high school. If I had the time machine, or the skills with which I could invent one, maybe I'd be able to rectify those. And at the same time, maybe I'd get some of the peace I've been looking for for awhile.

But there are larger issues - the ones that involve Real Life, the ones that have hurt Real People, the things that I would, if there was any way under the sun, go back and change in an instant. There are trusts I wouldn't have betrayed, friendships I would have valued for what they were and hard truths and consequences I could have kept myself and others from having to face. And I, by virture of living in the present would still have learned all the things from those situtations I'd need to grow. I'd just be able to spare others the pain.

Whenever anything bad happens, I'm notorious for being optimistic and saying, "well, good or bad, at least I can chalk it up to a learning experience and move on, that much smarter." I think maybe that gives me a little too much credit for being optimistic and hides some of the true guilt and regret I invariably feel over such episodes.

The truth is, guilt and regret weigh heavily on me now. And that tether I talked about a couple days ago? That tether that I said you couldn't let go of no matter what? I believe it. I think its true. Clench your fists around it, tie it around your waist, do whatever it is you have to but don't let go. But I do acknowledge that its not as easy as writing it down in a quick blog entry and posting it.

So, regrets. Math? Check. Physics? Check. Engineering? Check. Time machine? Big checl. But how would I answer those questions?

If you could do something in your life over again, would you?
Hell yes. I'd study math, physics, engineering, take lessons from Superman or learn to fly around the sun if only to fix some of the things I've done. Am I still a good person? Sure. Could I have been better? You bet.

Do you have any regrets in your life?
Plenty. But then, don't we all? But at least we can chalk them up to a learning experience.

Posted by Chris at August 29, 2004 9:41 PM

Regret is a strange thing. On the one hand, if we always did everything perfectly we wouldn't have any friends cause we'd piss everyone off and we couldn't relate to their flaws and failures which is why Martha Stewart finally took a swan dive . . but I digress. I think we have to fuck up. The key is, to learn from the fuck up. I guess I would have regrets if I kept doing the same stupid freaking thing over and over and got the same stupid results and didn't change the behavior. Which sometimes I do. Which I always regret. Feh.

Posted by: bluepoppy at August 29, 2004 9:48 PM

Even at 20, I have one big long running mistake, and I've apologized to the person I hurt til I was blue in the face, and it doens't seem to fix anything. I truly wish I had a time machine.

Posted by: Heather at August 29, 2004 10:08 PM

I spent a lot of time regretting things, saying "if only i had done this or that", then I realized it wasn't doing me any good. I realized I needed to learn from my mistakes and change what I could, and let go of what I couldn't.

Posted by: mandy at August 29, 2004 10:25 PM

Ah, so many regrets. That time machine really would come in handy. If only because I'd love to be able to go back and do college over. Not for the education, but to go back and have all the experiences I had in college and be with all the people I knew then as I am now. Now that I've matured a lot, and now that I've gotten help for some problems that caused real issues back then.

I regret that I waited so long to get happy, because I think I really missed out on a lot of good years there. But one good thing about that is that it helps me be more proactive about enjoying my life now.

And if you ever need any math or engineering assistance? I'm your girl. Can we make the time machine out of PVC pipe and duct tape? I think that would make it even more cool.

Posted by: Kerry at August 29, 2004 10:31 PM

See, the thing about a time machine is, if you were able to go back in time, it likely wouldn't be selective. You'd have to undo everything that happened from the original point of regret to now, with no guarantee that you'd re-experience the events that made you who you are, or be able to have the things in your life that you love returned to you, when you fast-forward again. Who is to say things could be any better??

Posted by: girl at August 30, 2004 1:51 AM

Ah Mr. Cactus! Regret is a very funny thing. When I was young I had a lot of anx and a lot of regret. I was flawed. I was human. I was in fear. I made lots of mistakes. But then I heard this wonderful quote from Maya Angelou "When you know better, you do better." Some how I wrapped myself around that and found comfort.

Now seriously when I look back in my life I have no regrets. Because if I did regret the things that brought me to where I am today, I would be dishonoring myself. Instead I embrace myself with all of my flaming flaws and choose to heal instead of hurt. Oh, don't get me wrong, I take responsibility if I hurt someone, I change my behavior when it is inappropriate, and I evolve. I always evolve. It is when you choose NOT to change that you will have problems.

Time machine? Not for me. I am finally in a place that I am happy, I have the love of my life, I have a good life, I have embraced happiness. Life is still hard, but I am happy. So no time machine for me, if I change one thing, even my abusive childhood, I would not be who I am today. And believe me when I tell you I have lived through a lot of pain. Life is not perfect, if you are living it right it is messy! It's ok that it gets messy, embrace the change, and embrace your faults. You can't put life in little compartments and expect a perfect will always bust out. Times get hard, but then the sun always shines again, living through the hard times makes the best in life wonderful. That is called appreciation, and gratitude...a joyous life...hang in there! Each one of us has a journey we have to take and the adventure is what we find to learn along the way.

Posted by: Gypsy at August 30, 2004 2:02 AM

Hmmm...regret. I'm one of the those people who try and chalk up everything, good and the bad to the learning experience. Does that mean I don't make the same mistakes? I wish I could say I don't. I really think though that a huge part of life is about making mistakes. The people we hurt unintentionally hurt along the way, the people we love the most...maybe it's all a test of ourselves and of their love. Or maybe it's a wake up call. If I had to pick a regret, it would be that I wish I wasn't overly understanding of my ex-husband's drinking problems. If I had been more hard on him about getting help, maybe we could have found a way to get through that hell together.

In terms of having a do over in my life...I would have taken that scholarship to Berkley and dumped my first boyfriend.

Thing is...everything thing that I've experienced to this point, the good and the bad, makes me the person I am today. If I could change the past...who would I be today...and would I like that person? I'm loving myself today just fine thank you. :)

Posted by: groovebunny at August 30, 2004 2:23 AM

I guess if I got my time machine, I wouldn't be the musician I am today, and I don't think I'd give that up to undo my teenaged broken heart.

Posted by: Heather at August 30, 2004 5:57 AM

I try to not regret things. Because all the steps I've taken in my life so far, have brought me to the place in life where I am now. If I'd gone back and change it, I would probably not have had the relationship that I have now with Mr. Sweety.

Also some things we can't change. Things that happened over which we had no or very little influence. Like you, I take those as learning experiences. How ironic that my feel sometimes.

Posted by: Sweety at August 30, 2004 6:09 AM

The problem with regret is that is keeps you focused on the past rather than the present or future. If you spend too much time wishing the past undone you just miss your opportunity to learn and benefit from it and give up the chance to make it better.

Posted by: Beth at August 30, 2004 8:19 AM

I'm with Gypsy, if I hadn't done the things I have done in the past, I surely wouldn't be where I am today. Certainly, I wish I hadn't fouled up some relationships, hurt some people, done a few stupid things that still follow me around at times... but I like the state of my life for the most part, and I'm not sure I'd want to change those things.

Also, my regrets have taught me how to be a better person... all I can hope is that they don't come back to bite me in the ass later on.

Posted by: PinkStiletto at August 30, 2004 10:02 AM

You should read the book "Replay" by Ken Grimwood.

Regrets and trying to undo what you've done can be a tangled mess. Every decision we make has consequences. How can you know that changing that one little decision won't have catastrophic results? As everyone has said, without the screwups, none of us would be the person we are today.

Posted by: Lisa La Chance at August 31, 2004 11:04 AM