I got tagged by the adorable, frequently raunchy, always awesome Katie Schwartz to reveal 5 things you regret and 5 things you don't. Go check out what she wrote, and when you're finished go and see what Amy Guth said about her regrets and non-regrets, and then check out Write Procrastinator's take on it.
I mentioned to MizBubs, over a delicious apres-work blueberry martini, that I had been tagged, and I explained the regrets theme. She replied that she certainly wouldn't want to share her regrets with other people, which surprised me. Turns out what she was describing as a "regret" was what I'd refer to as a mistake--basically, something I'd done wrong, someone I'd mistreated, some way I'd fucked things up. A failure. An embarrassment. Well, no shit, I don't want to discuss that stuff either.
You know that feeling that you wake up with when you wish you hadn't had too much to drink? Or danced like a monkey to Louis Prima, told a coworker "PIPE DOWN, FAT-ASS" and then puked three times before being delivered by a more sympathetic coworker to your front door at 3am, only to have your wife think you've suffered a head injury at work because she can't understand your pre-verbal grunting as you crawl up the stairs, and then you have to sleep until 3 in the afternoon the next day and you still aren't right, you know that feeling? Oh, wait, you don't? Well, anyway, that's not regret.
That's shame, and a sense of it is a healthy thing to have. Regret, in my opinion, not so much.
When I think of "regret" I think of sitting and wondering what if--not knowing what was behind that door you didn't open, what was down that side road you didn't take. I think of regret as a state of mind, a wistful way of looking back. It goes quite well with equal doses of melancholy and nostalgia. That's regret. And regret, especially in a middle-aged man, is (if you'll pardon me) regretful. I think of it as a potentially debilitating condition:
- Main Entry:
1: sorrow aroused by circumstances beyond one's control or power to repair
2 a: an expression of distressing emotion (as sorrow or disappointment)
b: plural : a note politely declining an invitation
That's the thing about regret: most of the time, you can't do anything about whatever it is you're regretting. It's over. Maybe you can try and do better in the future, hopefully providing yourself with fewer things to regret as you get older.
I have said before that I am a lucky man, and things have worked out better than I ever would have dreamed 25 years ago. For a good part of my teens and early 20's I never expected to live this long; I had a difficult time even imagining it.
Truth be told, I don't have many regrets:
1) I'm kind of sorry I never joined the regular Army or the Marines when I thought about it in the early 80's. I was already in the Army National Guard, and I came close to going full-time at a low point when MizBubs and I were in splitsville. Here's the thing, though-- I know that if I had gone, MizBubs and I would never have reconciled, and never have married...and I have had nightmares about not being married to MizBubs. So I guess this is maybe a semi-regret?
2) I regret not taking risks and traveling when I was in my late teens and early 20's. I wish I'd ditched whatever crappy low-income job I'd had at the time, taken my chances and done something like hitchhike across Europe. When I visited Galway City with my family in 2003 I had a strange moment. I had an intense physical sensation of sadness; sadness that I had not visited there 20 years earlier as a kid.
3) There are a few friends I've had over the years that I feel pretty shitty about not keeping up with. Same goes for a few of my cousins, who I love dearly but hardly ever talk with or see.
4) Sure wish I'd learned to manage money better about 10 years earlier than I did. It's ok now, though.
5) I don't know how I could've worked this, but there are times I wish we'd started having babies sooner, had a couple more than we did, and that I hadn't had to work so hard when they were in grade school. I wouldn't mind having a few years in the mid-90's back again so I could be a better dad.
Non-regrets? I got a ton of those. Here's a few for a top 5:
1) My crazy stalker behavior at a parish carnival paid off, and eventually MizBubs married me.
2) I've got two smart beautiful daughters who aren't embarrassed to be seen in public with me.
3) I've had a great career as a cop. I've been lucky enough to have a job that is at once its own penance and reward. I'm making an income that in my starving art student days I would've regarded as obscene. I've gotten to save someone's life once or twice, I've helped put some very bad people in prison, and I've been able to comfort people who needed help. I think, overall, I may be a better man now than I was 20 years ago. Lord, I hope so.
4) I was able to have some really good conversations with my dad before he died.
5) Did I mention MizBubs and the girls?
This was an interesting experience. I'm reluctant to tag anyone specifically, but I'd encourage anyone reading this to give it a shot.
"There was no point in looking back, fuck no, not today thank you kindly. My heart was filled with joy. I felt like a monster reincarnation of Horatio Alger; a man on the move, and just sick enough to be totally confident."
--Hunter S. Thompson