AN ETERNITY of Hope and Regret

It’s easy to get lost. To shop around and suddenly end up wondering how you have here – and just why it seems up to now from where you thought you’d be. What wrong turn did you take? Will there be still time to return and begin again? To be the individual you wished to be? To do the items you should do?

1 day becomes a year, which quickly becomes a decade. Before very long, you’re miles from the life span you imagined.

“Tomorrow,” you tell yourself. “Tomorrow, I’ll fix things.”

But tomorrow comes and goes and you keep up down the same path, swept up in the surging river that’s life.

Reading entries for my round-the-world trip contest brought regret to the forefront of my mind. I saw so a lot of it from the strangers who entered; strangers who poured their heart out if you ask me about loss, pain, suffering, snuffed-out dreams, and second chances.

Yet beneath all of the worry, regret, and sadness, there is hope.

The desire to have a new beginning. An opportunity to be the individual they wished to be; to find purpose within their life; to escape another they didn’t want – but one which felt so inevitable.

As writer and blogger Cory Doctorow said, “Your home is your own blooper reel and experience everyone else’s highlight reel.”

When you ask people why they would like to travel the world, and 2,000 people keep coming back with stories that end with a version of “to start out fresh,” it brings this obvious but forgotten realization back to your brain.

My very own life is a minefield of regret – both big and small: Regret at not traveling sooner, partying an excessive amount of, never becoming fluent in a spanish, never studying abroad, letting a particular relationship slip away, not residing in touch with friends, not saving more, not moving slower, rather than following my gut. Then there will be the day-to-day regrets – things such as not closing my computer thirty minutes earlier or reading more or laying off those french fries more. There are countless regrets.

In considering our very own issues, we often forget that everyone all around us is fighting their own inner battles. That the grass is never really greener. That whenever someone is snappy at you in the supermarket, short with you in the office, or sends you an awful, trolling email, they, as if you, are coping with their own inner demons.

They, as if you, think about second chances, missed opportunity, and unfulfilled dreams.

We’re taught by society in order to avoid “an eternity of regret.” “Haven’t any regrets!” is our mantra. But I believe regret is a robust motivator. This is a teacher, a manual to an improved life.

Regret teaches us where we went wrong and what mistakes in order to avoid again.

Reading these entries initially weighed me down. I couldn’t help but think, “There’s a whole lot of unhappy people out there.”

However the more I considered it the more I realized they weren’t unhappy. Yes, there is regret, pain, and sadness in those contest entries – but there is also a whole lot of hope, determination, and energy. These entrants weren’t likely to wallow in regret. These were searching for a way to go forward. They felt inspired, motivated. Many promised that regardless of the results of their entry, these were determined to create a change.

Reading these entries taught me that regret, as it happens, is life’s best motivator. Two thousand people said, “Not again – I won’t do that twice!”

Maybe having a “duration of regret” means you truly have lived.

Regret, as it happens, isn’t such a bad thing in the end.

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