Milk was a bad choice (copyright DreamWorks)

I’d say with a good deal of confidence that regret is generally a bad thing: as a verb, it’s to feel sorry or disappointed about something and, as a noun, it’s a sadness associated with that  something (for the various definitions, take a look at wordnik – great website for wordies).

Regret also makes several appearances to support the theme of my novel-in-progress (which is more generally around truth and acceptance) and, before writing this evening, I thought I’d try to tap into it (nothing like getting a little regret to get into the mood).  Though my character’s regret is tied to his quest for truth, and is fairly heavy and emotional with respect to his own admissions, I’m not sure regret is altogether that bad.

I am immediately brought back to my time in Tokyo, several years ago.  I interned at an international manufacturer of steel electrodes and, on my last night in Japan, I wound up at the company’s private karaoke bar.  Surrounded by the folks that I worked with, we celebrated one of the most memorable cultural experiences in my life. 

Then that “something” happened.  They passed me a mic.  I passed.  They tried again.  I passed, again.  I was too embarrassed and shy to give it a go.  I still remember their faces, reddened by sake and surprise. 

On my flight home, I realized they weren’t surprised, at all, but rather they were disappointed.  I sunk deep into my seat as I accepted that there was an even better chance that they were offended.  With nothing but cloud in front of us, sorrow inched into my very being: they had given me a gift that I would never forget, and I offended them.  I regretted my actions, and I felt regret.    

It wasn’t long before I realized there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it and to look back on it now, I realize that it was an important, if not pivotal, experience in my relatively young life.  I learned a lesson that has served me well:  I’m now more observant and, hopefully, respectful in both my personal and professional travels.  If given the opportunity to go back in time, I would have taken a hold of the damn mic and butchered a Credence Clearwater Revival song.  But we all know time travel, for the time being, is limited to fiction and disillusion, so the only thing I can do is apply the lesson learned.

My regrets can offer value to only one person, me, but only if used properly: regret is an apology, an admission that I let myself down, but also a promise to do myself right the next time around.  We all make mistakes, some massive and others benign, and anyone who says they have no regrets is either in denial or truly hasn’t lived. 

I’ll return to my writing now, but with a slightly different perspective than I held just a few paragraphs ago:  regret as a four-letter word, spelled RE-GRET; it’s a do-over under different circumstances, an opportunity to accept the past and support the right decisions going forward.  Though, at times, an impediment to the pursuit of what we are after, once we accept our misgivings and take the free-pass, we can turn regret into just the motivation we may need, especially if what we are after is the truth.

Categories: Creative Writing

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3 replies

  1. You’re so right when you said that regret should be “a promise to do myself right the next time around”. Everyone should look at their regretful moments as learning experiences so they won’t make the same mistakes twice, doubling their regret. 🙂

  2. Well said brother. Great perspective on an emotion that everyone visits from time to time.

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