Regret is a word that gets bandied about like “fear” or “hate.” Recently, I have come across two mentions of the word that caused me to once again consider how I really felt about the word and what it means in my life.
One of these thought-sparking moments came from a “secret” from the 10 Day You Challenge (that I was actually going to start today, but decided to talk about this instead). In her comment, Sara (who I a) adore and b) totally see where she is coming from) cried foul on when people declare that they wouldn’t go back and change their past because their mistakes have molded who they are today. She goes on to say, and rightfully so, that she finds it hard to believe that, regardless of how great someone’s life is, that there isn’t one single thing that they wouldn’t go back and change.
Two: As part of the #sharesomethinginspiring campaign, Lorna Jane of Lorna Jane Active tweeted a quote by Lucille Ball, one that we all know and love: “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.”
What does regret mean to me, and why am I bringing up this discussion?
Also, don’t get me wrong, I love a good “YOU WILL RUE THE DAY” threat. It just makes me laugh.
In my mind, “regret” is like “fear”: Fear corresponds with a rise of emotion in response to anticipation of a real bodily or emotional/moral threat. Likewise, “regret” is not just about “well, shucks, I shoulda had the grilled chicken wrap instead of the doubledown.” Regret is not about “shoulda.” Regret corresponds to a compromise of morality, principles, or standards. I used to think that I regretted certain decisions, like the one to go to Columbia. I felt so much guilt about the fact that I didn’t think Columbia taking me in the direction that I wanted to go. I felt guilty that I was making Alex deal with the long distance thing, that my parents were paying for my schooling. I was angry that I didn’t see what was going on, that I hadn’t chosen the right path that would help me realize my dreams to pursue my passion. I regretted not staying at UVA to get my Masters and PhD in Architectural History or my design degree to practice architecture. I felt that I regretted my decision.
In short, I felt that I regretted not making enough out of my life.
But, looking back at the whole situation, did I regret my decision? Would I go back and change it, stay at UVA and go after my other options?
If you had asked me then, HELL YES. But ask me know.
Susie, do you regret going to Columbia? Do you regret the fact that you are essentially a professional failure in architecture and historic preservation? Do you regret that your parents bled money to give you a future that you have been unable to repay? Do you regret that you are throwing away their money, your future, to become a lowly little personal trainer, a profession that anyone can secure?
First off, &^(%(&^(&^%&^$*&$% you.
Secondly. NO, I do not regret my decision.
When I made the decision to go to Columbia, I did not make it lightly–I really did struggle with my choice. But I made the decision that I though was best: with the knowledge I had as to what the program would offer me, where the degree would take me, and who the famed “Columbia Network of Connections” would introduce me to, I thought there was no way that I wouldn’t be able to make rainbows and unicorns appear, albeit after time apart from my boyfriend and following a significant investment.
This decision did not compromise me–it did not change who I was or cause me to act against what I stood for. I do not regret it. I made it, of my own volition, and I own it, whole-heartedly.
Would I change my decision? Again, if you had asked me not even that long ago, I would have answered with an emphatic yes. Now? I can’t say that I would.
In a Liebster Award questionnaire, I was asked if I could go back and talk to my younger self, what would I say? I answered “Nothing, because that would change who I am today.”
Columbia may not have taken me to where I thought I wanted to go, but it has brought me here, to where I am sitting, talking to you. Without Columbia, who knows if I would have started running the way I have? I started reading blogs while I was there, and became a big reader and runner to take breaks from my studies. Had I stayed in Charlottesville for my graduate studies, who is to say that Alex and I would even still be together; I needed to get out, to take a break. He needed to concentrate on boards, he needed the freedom to be able to study when he needed to, or go and play video games or work out at weird times. We could easily have self-sabotaged our relationship.
Professionally, I got the chance of a lifetime. And though Columbia did not pay off monetarily, I have gained a great deal of invaluable experiences: I have presented my own work at conferences and symposia; I got to indulge in drafting and a little bit of design; I got to work with people who wrote the books I had studied in the past; I wrote a thesis that led me to an editorial position on a book that is going to be published by Fordham and that brought a greater awareness to an era and community that otherwise might have not have gotten its due.
Most importantly, I learned to question myself, to believe in myself, to trust Alex and I as a unit beyond the easy road, to trust my love for him, to push myself harder mentally and physically than ever before, and, most importantly, to feel guilt but to know that it isn’t the end of the road.
Do you agree with my understanding of regret, or have anything else to add? Play devil’s advocate!