Regrets, we all have them and if you don’t, well, you’re lying. Everyone has regrets, it all just depends on whether we would do anything to change them. Maybe not choosing an opportunity leads you to a better one – we can all see the silver linings if they are obvious enough. But what about when regret doesn’t seem to pull the cord of the life-saving silver lining? What if there is no blessing-in-disguise to save our conscience and instead we are left with the guilt-ridden, shameful mindset that we just blew our lives to smithereens.
For me, regrets have stemmed from the simplest of choices to bigger long-term decisions. There’s shopper’s remorse that makes shopping for a pair of sneakers a very difficult, tedious and drawn-out process. There was not following through with the swim team in high school, something I was naturally good at and could’ve been great for me to follow. Then there was not getting involved in college sooner, which delayed opportunities or made them completely unachievable. This lead me to think I wasn’t as good as my peers, that I was behind and that I wouldn’t be as successful because I lacked the ambition to just go for whatever I put my mind to.
But the thing about regret, is it isn’t as negative as many people think. Usually, out of our regrets we find an answer, a much more meaningful message as to why things played out the way they did. When we really take a good look at our life choices, we realize all the puzzles pieces, whether we put them there or not, come together to lead us where we are meant to be after all.
Sure, it is very easy with regret to get bogged down with guilt and disappointment. It’s hard not to when it comes to something big we feel we missed, or something difficult we caused to happen. But regret isn’t the end of the world and neither are the choices that leave us feeling disappointed. I say it’s just the beginning of something even better.
When it came to college, it took me a good year or two to really start getting into the swing of things. I was finding my footing, getting involved with things I loved to do and it took me some time to get to that level. As a result, I missed chances to meet certain people and embark on certain opportunities. I wasn’t able to study abroad (regret #1), I didn’t apply to be an orientation leader, who come to be known as the leaders of the college (regret #2) and I didn’t get to further my education and professional development through internships or research opportunities (regret #3). There are other regrets I have, but when it came to college, these three seem to be the whoppers that still leave a sting today.
When I look at these regrets, I can find a reason as to why these opportunities didn’t work out and more importantly I understand that by not working out, I was still given amazing opportunities for myself. They were different than what I initially anticipated but nonetheless fulfilling. If I had studied abroad, I wouldn’t have competed in Mr. Canisius – the male beauty pageant of sorts at Canisius College. Some of my friends still laugh that winning this contest was one of my most prized achievements, but it really was. It pushed me outside my comfort zone, made me meet new people that became my best friends and I became a leader in my own right on campus. Not to mention, I stood for a charity I was passionate about that got amazing recognition. Just as not doing an internship wasn’t the end of the world – I ended up doing one in graduate school, and even had some service-learning organizations to partner with as a part of my curriculum.
We may have missed an opportunity back then, or even right now. But who is to say we can’t learn from that and be welcoming to an opportunity in the future? That is what I take from regret. Even when there doesn’t seem to be a nice silver lining to make us feel better, we somehow still learn something, even if it is to change our apprehensiveness. When I lost my grandpa, I immediately hated myself for not going home more for Sunday dinners to see him, or calling my grandparents to check in and see how they were. It kills me that the last year of my grandpa’s life could be summed up within a week worth of visits. But now, even with him up in heaven, I still maintain my relationship with him. Next to God, he is who I pray to most, and it may sound crazy but I believe he hears me. So while I regret how I spent my time in what happened to be his last few months on earth, I have made a new resolve to be more present and giving to my family. Sometimes that lesson is the silver lining even though we can’t bring people back, or do things differently.
I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, so those who believe that absolutely nothing can happen for a reason, or worse that something can happen for no reason at all, may think I’m far too optimistic. They would be right. But optimism doesn’t mean I’m any less immune to regret than the next person. Regret still sucks. It sucks for us all. But I take that suckiness and embrace it. I feel the disappointment, the guilt and the shame for all its worth. Then I use it and choose to keep moving.
In my young life, I’d rather have a million regrets now because identifying those guilt-inducing choices has inspired me to be a little more daring, a little more open and a hell of a lot more true to myself. Most of all these regrets have pushed me to take the rest of my life, which I hope is longer than the years I’ve already put in on this earth, and live life to the absolute fullest. To not hold back, to choose bettering myself, all the while being present to those I love, exploring and learning from this world and never once refusing to believe that everything that happens or choice I make, whether sucky or not, is in someway making me the very best version of myself.