I believe every last person in this world has regrets. Yet I also believe everyone has the power to move on, start fresh and put their regrets behind them.
Many times I have heard people say, “Oh I don’t have regrets, just learning experiences,” or “Life’s too short for regrets.” I have thought about these statements often. Even more often, I have tried to make myself believe them to be true.
Whenever I made a mistake or stupid decision I made myself believe it was a learning experience. I told myself life is too short for regrets.
When I finally broke up with the boyfriend who manipulated, used and emotionally abused me for over a year, I tried to tell myself I did not regret the relationship. It was a good learning experience. Never mind that I essentially wasted a year and a month of college. Never mind that during that time I pushed my true friends away. Never mind that during my sophomore year and first half of my junior year my life revolved around one person, who was not worth even a minute of my time.
I liked cloaking my mistake under the veil of the words, “learning experience.” It was a comfortable solution. I did not want to regret that part of my life because I could not go back and change it, so in a sense I lived in denial about it.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that I do regret that year and a month, and I regret other things in my life as well. I’m sure there will be things I do in the future that I will end up regretting. But having regrets is not something to be ashamed of. And regrets can still be learning experiences.
The key, as I have realized, is the ability to accept and move on. A lot of people would argue this is easier said than done. I do not dispute that. Yet I still believe it is a necessary part of life. You can’t stay sane if you dwell on the mistakes you have made. How do you move forward in the present, into the future, if you are stuck in the past?
Coming to terms with the regrets I have in regard to my past relationship has not been easy. Once I admitted to myself that I regretted the relationship, many more specific regrets about it began to surface, the main one being the time I lost being stuck in the situation. It is time that I will never have back. All I can do is make the most of the time I still have from here on out.
Yes, life is too short for regrets, but that does not mean they won’t happen. And, unfortunately, life does not give do-overs. That is something I have to live with.
However, in the end, by admitting a regret instead of lying to myself, I was able to start putting the past behind me. I was able to move on with my life.
I believe being able to do that is important. I believe in having regrets. I do not believe in disguising them as learning experiences or anything else. I believe in picking up the pieces and moving on. I believe in new beginnings.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.