This is a response to this article about the author’s top ten regrets.
1) Not travelling more – Travel is overrated. 99% of what you find when traveling–the part that actually matters to one’s soul–can be found at home. Granted: travel can be an excuse to open up and see what you are blind to. But I think if we’re going to talk about life-scale regrets, a bigger regret would not be opening up like that at home. So travel a little, and use what you learn to open up where it matters: inside every day of your life.
2) Losing touch with pals – Oh, palleeze. How many of those pals had to go? Were you a genius in your youth, that you accumulated a bunch of pals who were worthy of lifetime pal-hood? You kept the good ones if you were smart. Those were the people who really loved you, and you don’t get to have too many of those outside of family. (And let’s face it: even some family need to go. They aren’t all angels.) Hear me, oh you would put lost pals into the lifetime regret pile: new people, new friends, and especially new intimacies not only keep you young, they build out the promise you hold inside, and that would otherwise never be stimulated into growth.
3) Not exercising enough – Yeah. This one is real.
4) Not saving more money – An easy one to regret, but it comes down to how you squandered, or simply never earned, that money. Don’t just jump on this one; ask yourself: what did I get out of life instead of salting something away for later? A practical point: the deepest (and surest) regret here is not putting away a chunk in your 20s. After that, you are mature enough to gain a lot from supposedly frivolous adventures. You have to pay for travel, right?
5) Taking up smoking – Let’s rename this to “the stuff I did that turned out to be just plain stupid.” ‘Nuff said. Think about this category for 10 minutes, and then move on.
6) Being lazy at school – Irrelevant. School is school; it may or may not have had anything to do with learning. I would put “not spending more time at the library” way ahead of this one. If you were lazy about learning, well, I suggest dumping a major guilt-trip on yourself right now and keep pounding away at it until you develop some curiosity. Once you have curiosity, you can skip the weeping and moaning about the time wasted not learning stuff. You are on your way, and regrets would only hold you back.
7) Choice of career – Oh, come on. This is a waste of time. How much choice did you have? The real question here is: what have you done with your choice of career? I don’t care what your career is; you have had chances to do Good Things with it – skipping those is where you should put your regret. Because now you can do those things. Go on; get the hell out of that chair and teach some kid how to do what you love. Go on; my remaining regret diatribes are not as important as that.
8) Wasting years with the wrong partner – This is the most egregious piece of bullshit in the entire post. (But see my note below.*) Wasted? Worst case: you learned to deal with an idiot/bully/self-indulgent asshole. This is a critical life skill! Best case? You found out the ways you are an asshole (even if you only learned that in retrospect) and fixed it. Either way, you are a better person today. Wasting time is an illusion, anyway: none of us is smart enough to really know in which direction our best forward progress lies. Getting your face torn off by walking into a jet engine is actually good for your soul, if not your ego. If you bruised your ego, in fact, the odds are that you benefited much more than you realize.
* A note of caution: some people are much worse than just idiots and bullies. If you spent time with one of these, then I hope you believe in karma. Because no one should have to suffer that. But something like that is far beyond wasted time; it’s not something to regret, it something to forgive yourself for, and accept the strength that your victory over hell as given you. As much as it hurts to obtain, that kind of strength is a miracle waiting to be shared, and you will have a life that few around you can even aspire to. You’ve paid the price for that kind of wisdom; invest it wisely, and don’t settle for less than the deepest love imaginable. (That was my road; focusing on the strength, rather than the pain that made it, has been transformative and I hope you can find your version of that future.)
9) Eating unhealthily – The only reason to regret this is to get on your own case hard. Guilt trips are OK if they work. If not, tell yourself to suck it up and then deal with the guilt. Here’s my secret (he says, weighing in at 255lbs, which is only good when you consider they he is now down 15 pounds from when he finally got some sense): I look at the food I’d like to eat, and then I imagine what it will do for me. A salad? I can see that scrubbing out the crap I used to eat. A cake? I can only see that turning into x ounces of fat somewhere on my body. I usually pick the grossest place to put that imaginary fat. (I’ll spare you, but use your imagination: where would you hate to have [more] fat the most? Put that fncking cake down now!)
10) Not asking more about our grandparents’ lives before they died – OK; you had easy access and you wasted it. Get over it. There are plenty of people around you who are still older than you, who come from places that are foreign to you, who have had experiences that will blow your mind. TALK TO THOSE PEOPLE RIGHT NOW!
See how easy it is to deal with regret? Isn’t it funny how all of them boil down to action? Yep. Now get going. Write that novel. Volunteer. Talk to people as if your life was going to end some day. Start each day with this thought: what’s the most important thing to do today? Then do it.
(I’m going to make my body work hard today, to burn fat, and then I’m going to not give it as much food as it thinks it wants, so it can’t make more fat. Go team!)