I believe that living a life “without regrets” is a virtual impossibility. I’ve heard enough people say it: “I lived life on my own terms; I have no regrets.” It sounds good. I just don’t believe it.
Sure, I can conceive of some lucky person getting through their entire life without any major regrets. But, no regrets? None?
Regrets happen. They are a natural by-product of life and living. Each new day brings with it fresh opportunities to either embrace or rebuff; chances to reach out or retreat, to ingratiate or insult, to choose between the high road, or something a bit lower. Has any one of us made the right decision every single time? Personally, I have taken that low road far too many times to ever claim a life free of regrets.
On the last day of my senior year of high-school, I surreptitiously wrote a cruel limerick on the blackboard of our English classroom, disparaging a strict, but fair, teacher. I still remember every word of that poison poem, and still regret having written them.
I cheated on a midterm exam in a college statistics course. I never got caught, but I still regret having done it.
I was too busy with my “career” to bother attending my own Grandmother’s funeral, and I regret that.
In anger, I’ve raised my middle finger to a fellow driver–a fellow human being–who’d somehow provoked me in heavy traffic. Another regret.
I’ve been too loose with the purse-strings in my own self-interest, then too tight with them in the interests of others. I’ve literally walked right past people in need, as if they were invisible. I regret these slights.
So many things I could have done differently, wish I had done differently. Alas…
I’ve tried to make amends where possible (although I never did locate my old high-school English teacher); but, most of them I cannot change; they are mine to live with, and hopefully, to learn from. For example, I haven’t flipped anyone ‘the bird’ in years; I know now to drop everything to attend any significant family event; and I’ve made a concerted effort to not only see those downtrodden, destitute souls in my midst, but to see them as my fellowmen, and fellow citizens of this planet.
I believe we all have our own individual regrets (whether we admit them or not); but I also believe it is in the honest recognition and sincere acknowledgement of these regrets that we begin to find and to nurture our better selves.