Living with Regret

This idea just came to me today, so I got fired up and told myself I would sit down and write it out when I got home. In reality, I stayed up way too late playing Overwatch first, which really in the mood to write this. What better way to write about regret than to have a fresh one, right? I hope you guys can give me some feedback on it and maybe I can make it into something really fun in the future. Enjoy.

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People live for regret. That heavy feeling anchors us into our everyday lives, a sweet, pungent stab to the heart that bleeds out sighs. Something about the splendid moment when the incident sinks in to your permanent memory can be quite addicting. You look back and curse yourself for being you, wondering what might have been different had you chosen differently.

You know how people re-watch movies and re-read books that they really enjoy? It happens to be the same principle with regrets, the memories replay over and over in our minds, taking center stage and captivating the audience in ripping suspense. It’s the sort of experience where you want to look away and close the book, squirming in your seat while you anticipate the unfortunate antics of the characters onstage. Only the lead actor is yourself. We keep watching of course, the scene must be vital to the story somehow, even though it leaves us slamming our fists down in a single blow of frustrated protest.

We think we could rewrite the story to be much better, looking at it from the outside. In our heads we might change a detail or two, minor tweaks that leave the hero more justified or socially acceptable, more successful or cool; generally, with less adverse consequences. But the play goes on, it has already been written.  Don’t know the feeling? Imagine you’ve changed jobs, feeling up to the challenge of something new and looking for a better deal, only to find that you would rather have stayed where you were. You draw in a slow hiss of a breath and let it out all at once, and you look up at the sky as if it had any answers. Somehow you know you’ll keep on with the new work, even though your downcast spirits and crying. That just about sums it up.

What would we do without regret anyways? In that moment when your body is urging you to talk to that girl you like or ask her out on a date, your mind holds you back. This could be so entertaining the mind whispers in your ear, we could watch it again and again while trying to sleep and never have to let go of this feeling. It draws us in like moths to the fire, so eager to burn and dance gleefully in the pain. If the situation occurs repeatedly, all the better. If you come into contact with her on a regular basis and still can’t find the courage, then you can have multiple scenes to agonize over for the price of one overarching regret, producing entertainment for hours on end.

It might be the only thing that motivates you to grow. One piles up regrets and decides that there are going to be some changes made, dreading that grimacing gripe that thinks, “If only, if only,” far too many times. Though you redesign your faulty traits and move forward, you’ll always carry with you a trophy and a record to remind you of what might have been. Amass enough regrets and maybe, just maybe, you can motivate yourself to make tomorrow better.

So we go looking for regrets, setting up these moments of agony for ourselves to enjoy at leisure. Why is the thought of being a wizened old man who tells cautionary tales to young whippersnappers so appealing? Because we love to feel that grim set of the jaw and teeth grinding as we ponder our past mistakes. Why else would we subject ourselves to so much humiliation?

2 thoughts on “Living with Regret

  1. Truthfully, Matthew, while I don’t believe this has to do with my not being a very good man at distant criticism (I’m more of a group setting, hop into discussion kind of guy) , I find this piece very well written and its topic very well said.

    What criticism I can give it, depends on what it is you intend to do with it.

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