The Kid and I were on our way out Saturday night — he with his friends, me with Sean — when I caught a glimpse of him before he headed out the door.
He looked weird, even for a teenager.
“That, that thing on top of your head.”
“It’s a new beanie. Why?”
Why? He was heading out wearing something that made him look like a cross between a dweeby alien and Pippi Longstocking, the kind of thing that if anyone snaps a pic of him in it, he’ll look back one day and wonder, “And why, exactly, did I ever think I looked good in that?” — and he’s asking why?
I almost told him the truth, but, I didn’t. Moms of teenagers walk around on eggshells, anyway, so I wasn’t going to go there.
“Thanks, Mom! OK, see you later.”
“Have fun!” I said, but in my head I thought, if you can, looking the way you do!
And then I said a silent prayer that the girl of his dreams would show up another night, a beanieless night.
Sometimes I look at him and think, yep, there’s
a kid who’s perfectly OK making decisions
he’ll regret when he’s older.
But, don’t we all?
I certainly have had my share of fashion faux pas, especially in my hippie days although, honestly, the disco period wasn’t much better. Spandex and Lycra and jumpsuits, oh my! Most people want to reconnect with old high school pals on Facebook to rekindle friendships; I want to reconnect so I can pay them whatever it takes to destroy those pictures!
Then there were the eras of the Bad Hair— the Pixie cut; the experiment as a redhead; the perm; the other perm a few years after the first …
All of that is entertaining, actually, if somewhat horrifying. Real regrets, however, aren’t that easily laughed away — the times we hurt somebody or lied; when we unleashed our anger
or were passive-aggressive; when we were more interested in being right than understanding or held grudges beyond their expiration date; when we had sex when we really didn’t want to or didn’t respect someone who did; when we stood by and did nothing while others suffered or let our inflated expectations destroy relationships. All the times we promised we going to stop doing whatever self-destructing behavior we did, only to be outdone by one too many Lemon Drops. Sending that e-mail or making that phone call …
(Of course, we often — foolishly — think others will have regrets about us, like dumping us.) Sorry; life isn’t a Nick Hornby novel most of the time.
Or maybe our priorities were screwed up, and we didn’t do all the things we wanted to do out of fear or inertia. Darwin wished he’d spent more time reading poetry and listening to music, although I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what he regretted most when on his deathbed.
I have made a conscious effort not to live in regret. I’m made mistakes — many! — but the past is the past, right? Can’t undo it; just make amends, make changes and move on.
And I try to live life now consciously and purposefully so I won’t have anything to regret in the future, even though some researchers say that, compared with other emotions — anger, jealousy, disappointment, sadness — at least regret offers some positives; it can help us be better people in the future because we’re learned something about ourselves and we’re not going there again.
Yeah, well, maybe.
I’ve always believed that whatever happened in the past somehow got me to where I am now, and if I’m in a good place, well, what’s to regret?
Still, I am aware of my mistakes; one huge one, the rest not so huge. I don’t dwell on them, but I acknowledge them, and I have forgiven myself for not having the experience and understanding at the time.
- What do you regret?
- How have you learned from that?
- If you could live a part of your life over, what would you do?
- Do you dwell on past mistakes, or move on?
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