How many things do I regret in life? If you’d ask me while out for a coffee, I’d pretend to think very hard, try to remember what has happened to me and if I would do things differently. And after a while, I’d say something along the lines of “I don’t think I would change anything or do things differently as they made me who I am today”.
And it is such a good answer and it makes me look humble, wise and you might want to talk to me again later to impart my knowledge on you if you need it. And I’d feel happy about my answer and I’d be proud of who I am, of what I said. And I’d believe it to be true. And I’d go about my day and enjoy it probably, depending on what was going to happen or the people I’d meet.
Now, let’s take a closer look a few hours in the future. In bed, while waiting for the sweet dreams to take me, my mind goes back to that question you asked me. And I’d really think this time.
Take each moment when I was taken by surprise and I did not know how to react, how to speak or respond. Look at all the decisions I took and evaluate each one of them, take them apart and image what would have happened if I did not do that, if I would have chosen a different path. I will look at all the times I was awkward towards a guy I liked. How I acted and how, when saying goodbye, I tried – every time – to prolong the moment, to stay a little bit longer and not leave. And how all of those were so horrible that I would think of them for hours, days, hell, even years and face palm myself on how stupid I was.
When I was a kid, I did not have big birthday parties until I turned 11 or so. And when the time finally came, I understood why everyone was so excited about them. It was about the times you spent with your classmates (I used to invite all of them, never left anyone behind) and the great food you ate together, which was pizza or burgers and it was the best, every single time you had it. The games were a lot of fun and the presents always welcomed. I got a small parrot one year. From that moment on, the period of owning parrots began and my parents were more than happy with me having birds as pets. It taught me responsibility for when we finally got a dog and to be honest, I really needed those lessons.
When the time for opening presents came, I was excited. And not just about the presents themselves. It was more about the surprise, the unknown and finding what was behind the wraps and ribbons, I liked the most. To this day, finding the unknown and discovering new things, the mysteries all around me it’s still the best. About half way through, I stumbled upon an envelope with my name and the name of its owner on it. Inside was a card and hidden in the envelope, deep down was some money. Being young and full of excitement with opening presents and having my first birthday party, I did not realize this was the present I was being given. The one thing that person (family more specifically) afforded to give me.
“Where is your present?”, I asked the shy boy that gave the envelope.
He looked down and told me that it was not there.
I looked a bit puzzled at him. “Where is it?”, I asked again, thinking he did not hear me due to my other friends talking and laughing pretty loudly near me.
“I don’t have one.”
And he moved slowly far from the crowd. I nodded and continued to open the other presents but I could not stop looking at him. That was when I registered what I have done and how I embarrassed him just because he could not afford a gift. And kids were mean. They did not forget about it for days. And it was not me who was the centre of attention.
I remember talking to him after the party was over. He apologized to me for not being able to give me something. That was so messed up. I should have been the one apologizing, not him. I told him that it was ok, nothing to worry about. But the deed was already done. The same night, I thought about what had happened and I felt so bad. For all of it, the way I acted and how I kept repeating the same question, over and over, maybe by saying it again might make him respond with “Yes, here is the present. I wanted to give it to you only after you asked me twice. There you go.”
I thought for so long how I would have done things differently, not just at the party but after, in the days that followed. Even now when I think of it, it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. It makes me feel ashamed of what I have done. And the worst part is that I can never change it, take it back. The boy probably forgot about it weeks later, maybe months and not thought of it again. I moved from that city a few years later. So he might not even remember me now. But I will always recall him and that day. Not as a fun birthday party but as a day when I did something wrong and I upset someone else, embarrassed them in front of everyone. And even though I talked to him after and we were still good friends until the day I moved (no cell phones or computers back then, so we lost touch after a while) it still does not feel right. This is one thing I regret doing.
Many things come after this. A list of events or talks or decisions that I would have done differently await me at night and keep me awake. Remind me of past failures, of things I should have not done. But with age comes wisdom, right? And it is true.
When the night is over and the first light shines over the sky, the sun warming everything, my thoughts are not as dark anymore. I still remember everything and it is not pleasant but I also remember all the good things that showed up because of all that happened before. I remember that just by regretting the things I have done and feeling bad about them, it means I have a conscience and that I do care about people, my friends, family. That I like to make them smile, make sure they are good and try and help them whenever I can. And that whatever happened before, I now know how to act and respond in similar situations because I have been through them already. Different but at the same time so similar, and I can make or try to make the right decision, do the right thing this time around.
Do I still regret them now? Of course. It is not something it can just go away.
For so long.
But knowing that I am here, being this version of me that I do not mind that much, because of what happened or what I have done, makes it a little bit better. And when the dark thoughts surround me and wish to take me away, I am not trapped by them for as long as I used to be. I manage to get back up, put myself together a little bit faster each time.
I like to think that one day, this will happen instantaneously. But the truth is that with each year, the dark part grows and grows. But since I grow as a person too, the other part, the good one, grows as well. And if there is a chance of balance, I am happy.
Does this mean it will always be like this?
Some days are darker and some days are lighter. Some days I do not want to get out of bed and some days I am so cheerful that I believe I was replaced by someone else and I feel like I should go and find the ‘real’ me.
Right now, I am in the middle of regretting taking a chance and doing something about my life and being happy for finally taking control and not waiting for the world or the people around me to somehow do what I want. And it is annoying because I know I did the right thing, that in order to get an answer, I need to ask a question first. The result was not what I expected or wanted so I hear the small thoughts that are always in my head telling me it was a mistake and I should have not done it. That more horrible things will come.
But the other part of me is shouting “You don’t have the whole answer yet. It is just the first paragraph, not even a page has passed so you don’t know what will happen. Do not assume the worst and act like it already happened! Wait!”
And it is the truth. We need to take a day at a time and focus on the present situation and not over exaggerate the past or make it more complicated than it actually is. Not assume that the worst will happen, but wait and see. Maybe it will not be that bad or it will actually turn out good at the end.
We don’t know. So we have to wait.
Will we still regret things? Yeah.
Will we ever be able to avoid doing the wrong thing? No, we all make mistakes.
Will we be able to fix them? Not all of them.
Will the wait for all to change for the better be painful or long? Yes, and yes.
Will we ever see the light at the end of the tunnel? Of course but it might take time, sometimes a very long time.
Will it be worth it? HELL YEAH!