REGRETS

Randal - seattle
Entered on March 6, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

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.