On Regret

Think Kit, Day 2: Yes. I am thinking hard. My brain: *pant, pant*

Starting Point

Today’s Think Kit blog post challenge was to “[conduct] a poll and share the results.” I admit I may have entertained an inward groan when I read the prompt, because at first ponder, there was nothing I wanted to ask anyone. I couldn’t think of anything. And I didn’t want to be trite. I didn’t want to be trivial. Trite/trivial =/= Jackie. Yuck.

So I pondered all morning. (I may have stewed.) I asked a couple of work friends for ideas. They reminded me it was my blog and I ought to ask about something I wanted to write about. (I stewed again.)

I said, I don’t really care what anyone thinks! 

They said, you probably don’t want to say that on your blog.


The Idea

Sometimes when I stop being such a freak about trying to be brilliant an idea will come to me (like I’ve said before, the Muse is never far). After I’d stopped whining to my coworkers, I suddenly knew that I would ask people about the concept of regret–whether or not people have regrets; what they are, if so; and if not, why that is. I also asked, regardless of whether or not someone thinks they personally have regrets, if there is value in regret, and if so, what that value is.

I don’t know why. I just knew that–that I would. So I did.

And then I waited for the answers to roll in.


Our Regrets

“I regret hurting people in relationships. I regret it for the obvious and cliche reasons – you don’t want to hurt someone you were close to/loved, even if the relationship needs to end.”

“The night before my Dad died he called and wanted to go out to dinner, I said we would do it another time. That time will never come.”

“I regret all of the times I’ve acted selfishly at the expense of others. I regret it because it sucks to be trampled and used.”

“I regret every single time I have ever hurt someone. I want everyone to treat me well (whether or not they do, or care to, doesn’t matter) and so I strive to treat everyone with kindness and respect. I hate myself when I hurt people.”

“I regret not doing a semester in London during my undergrad because I was too enamored of my boyfriend to leave the country for 15 weeks. We eventually broke up.”

“I regret times when I could have been more sensitive to other kids. I regret making some bumbling comment that hurt someone when I should have been more gracious. I regret ever hurting anyone.”

“I regret how I treated this new girl in 8th grade whose name was Darcy. I basically pulled the whole “mean girl” thing to gain some social status points. It was mean, petty, vile, and shameful. Shameful because I knew how it felt to be her and that didn’t stop me from doing it when I saw a gain for me.”

“[I regret] not having children. Not getting into therapy sooner. Not being braver.”

“I regret not being able to give my oldest child the “typical” nuclear family experience. I also deeply regret the four years of her childhood I had to spend away from her while enlisted.”


The Results

Do you have regrets?

Yes – 85%

No – 15%

Is there value in the notion of regret?

Yes – 100%

No – 0%

Most Fascinating Comment

From my friend Carp – I look at regret as a companion to negativity. Oddly, people usually look at regret as a positive experience, an awakening to something to improve upon, and an opportunity for change. But they think of negativity as hate or ignorance. They are both the same really, it’s just that the recipient is different. Both are a realization that things aren’t quite as good as they could be. If neither of those existed, people would have no reason to improve or make things better. I don’t trust people without regret or that aren’t mostly negative. If you’re too accepting, then you’re probably not contributing very much to the world in the form of progression. Not that the world doesn’t need positive people to sustain it, but regret is the seed of inspiration.

“Regret is the seed of inspiration.” Regret–which is to me always a momentary looking back–is what moves us forward, like a gust of wind that hits us in the gut when we turn and pushes us into the future, and we are gasping but oh so aware.


Last Lesson

This evening, on the way to pick up my two-year-old from daycare, my six-year-old, Oliver, asked me if we still had his big teddy bear. I knew we didn’t–Oliver had insisted, despite me advising him to reconsider, on putting this bear in the Goodwill pile this summer. I don’t like him anymore, he’d said.

Now, months later, I could hear sadness–regret?–making his little voice waver. Then he asked, “Mommy, do you have a picture of the bear so I can remember what he looks like?”

“Maybe,” I had murmured, and he was quiet then, satisfied, I supposed, for the moment–maybes are hopeful.

Perhaps regret had helped him recall, helped him remember, helped him situate himself in relation to a thing. No–no more just a thing, no more just a possession. Maybe now a treasured memory. Maybe now a treasure.

9 Replies to “On Regret”

    1. And I didn’t say this in the post but yes–that (that regret is useful) was the overwhelming conclusion of all respondents. Those who said “no regrets” simply noted that anything that could be classified a regret was a learning experience that brought them to where they are now. So in the end we are all thinking about it the same way, with the same hopes for progress as individuals.

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