Regrets

We all have them.

I know it’s fashionable to claim you don’t. Then maybe you wouldn’t be the person you are today. Maybe you’d be living some other place with other children and a different job, all of them the wrong ones for the simple fact they aren’t the ones you possess now. Perhaps it shows a lack of strength of character, or a self-perception thereof. But I know many people who claim to live a life completely free of regrets.

I call BS.

We all have them.

Maybe you regret not calling your grandfather enough the year he died. Maybe you regret not taking that one chance to kiss the one who got away. Maybe you wish you’d visited that library one more time before they tore it down or that you ordered the pumpkin pancakes before they took them off the menu. Maybe you let your regrets go like balloons, fading in the sky, never weighing you down. Maybe you collect them like books on a shelf, gathering dust and shut in a room you don’t enter. Maybe you fill your pockets and your heart and the space all around you and use them like armor to shield you from hurt.

But you do have them*.

I will never forget the boy with the sandy blond hair I met while waiting in line for the Questor ride at Busch Gardens in 1995. I was 13-years-old, on a trip with my Girl Scout Troop. He and I chatted in line and laughed about all manner of teenage hilarities, our friends rolling their eyes at how we’d taken to each other almost instantly. We sat side-by-side on the ride, and my stomach fluttered the tiniest bit as we stood up and filed out of the theater-style room. We paused briefly after coming back out into the sun, and his friends immediately set off for the next attraction. He looked at me with a bit of frustration in his eyes and said, “Sorry, I’ve gotta go!” I wasn’t that sad to see him go. It wasn’t as though I expected some fairytale love to grow from it. (Hell, this was before things like AOL were commonplace enough that I could expect to have any means of communicating with him. I have no idea if he was from Tampa, or Florida, or Canada for that matter.) But it hit me about 10 minutes later, long after hope of finding him in the crowds was gone.

I never found out his name.

That’s a baby regret.

My mother tells me the story of the day she had my father’s sealed adoption record in her hand, pulled from a file by a newbie clerk who didn’t know the rules, who realized at the last moment she should not have handed them over and asked for them back. My mother regrets not holding on tightly and running from the building. This was in 1983, only a handful of months before my father’s birth mother died. Maybe she wouldn’t have seen enough in the record to have made a difference in the small sliver of time she’d have had. But.

She might have found out her name.

That’s a heavy regret.

We all have them.

And, as Arthur Miller put it, perhaps all we can do is hope to end up with the right ones.

* Subsequently, I’d really love to hear your regrets shared in the comments. Go anonymous, if you’d like. Share big ones or small ones (or some the size of your head) and we can let them go like balloons together. Then we’ll sing Kumbaya and free some animals from a testing facility and it will probably cure conjunctivitis. Or, you know. My heart will be warmed by the comments. EITHER WAY, you obviously still ought to do it.

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24 Comments

Filed under NaBloPoMo, Probably too serious

24 responses to “Regrets

  1. ttmcconnell

    My father always wanted grandkids. I was 35 when we had our first kid and it was amazing to watch my dad with her. This year, my dad suddendly passed away (when I was 8 months pregnant with our second daughter). I regret not having kids sooner so my dad would have had a chance to be a grandfather for a little bit longer.

  2. ttmcconnell

    I also regret that in my initial comment, my poor grammar may seem to imply that my dad and I had two kids-oops! The “our” is me and my husband-yikes!

  3. I regret that I never had sex with T.B.

    Just don’t tell my husband.

    But sometimes…. sometimes I think about it.

    I think it would have been mind-blowing.

  4. i regret not saying goodbye to my grandfather before he passed away. we were all up visiting (the whole family, cousins and all), and everyone was supposed to take a few minutes. i guess i was creeped out by his sickliness or just afraid or something, but i didn’t say goodbye and then he passed away during dinner.

    but, i turned that regret into a life lesson and made sure i said goodbye to my grandmothers before they passed away.

  5. Oh boy, do I have a LOT of regrets. Like, enough to probably crash this site with my uber long comment that’d take up so much data everyone would cry and the big guys upstairs would totally come down and whoop my ass like whoopie goldburg and captain Picard in a death match except I’d be Picard because, dude, whoopie is DANGEROUS.

    Uhm.

    I think one of my biggest regrets is, a long time ago, not trusting my intuition on something. A BIG thing. And it absolutely ruined my life because I just kept ignoring my intuition. I mean, sure, I have learned a lot from being so stupid. But honestly? I think being half the ignoramus I was would have given me enough emotional crud to be able to have therapy for the rest of my life.

    But yeah. I think I could probably write books and books on my regrets. Silly regrets. Things I never did but jebus I should have.

    Ha. One little one I WISH I’d done so bad: For some unknown reason, the biggest, most brawny (most thuglike) guy in school and I were on strange, friendly terms. Not friends, but he seemed to provide me some eternal blessing on his behalf. It was weird. Especially as every other person who he liked was, you know, a thug and such (and trust me, I was not a thug at this point — or, well, ever). I remember this time when I went to the toilet during one of my english lessons and he was sat right outside of my classroom, on the floor, just with… sadness… emotional fatigue on his face. And I remember crouching down and talking to him to see if he was okay.

    Obviously, he wasn’t. And the thing was — the most amazing lesson in my life — was that behind his ‘front’ of being this toughguy, thuggish, annoying-to-teachers exterior, he was actually just trying to get acceptance. We talked for a bit. My huge regret?

    I wish so badly that I’d gone and sat next to him instead of crouching there. It felt like I was doing the exact same thing as all the people — teachers and family — who were supposed to be caring for him were doing: keeping distance. I wish I’d just sat next to him and, you know, been where he ‘was’, so to speak. I’ll forever regret not being fully there with him when, of all people, I think I was probably the most able to reach out to him and to show him that there was someone willing to be on ‘his’ side. That quiet, hidden side of him which had been repressed by the expressive, rough, uncouth mask he’d been wearing.

    Sigh.

    This is one good post, hon!

    • Thank you, love. 🙂

      Those missed connections in life are always the big ones, aren’t they? The things you might have said, the way you might have said them, the shoulder we offered or didn’t offer … I bet he appreciated you listening, no matter your posture.

  6. Ian

    My grandmother used to give me knitted dolls as present. And, you know, I was ten years old. Knitted dolls didn’t impress me. It wasn’t until years later, long after her death, that it occurred to me she’d sat there all that time, knitting these things for me, and I hadn’t shown a hint of gratitude. I just feel absolutely horrible.

    • Dude. I am totally going to write a letter to my grandmother to thank her for the blanket she crocheted me when I graduated. I’m honestly not sure she was ever thanked properly or formerly, and I wrapped myself in that blanket for all of college.

  7. Matt

    If I thought about this for a while I’m sure I could come up with a lot of these, but there’s one obvious one: being such an idiot when it comes to you when I was younger.

    We can go back now and say maybe it’s a good thing it took us so long to finally get together, maybe it helped us grow up some and figure out who we really are. Or maybe I wasted years of happiness with you by not realizing sooner that you are the love of my life.

  8. I’ve got the pins & needles sensation in my nose that signifies impending tears after reading your entry and the comments. ❤

    The biggest regret overshadowing everything right now is not getting in the car the day after getting the "your grandpa's not doing well" call instead of dithering about it. Granted, I likely still would have been too late (we would have gotten there after visiting hours were over, and he passed before visiting hours would've started the next day), but I probably wouldn't feel as guilty.

    • I’m so sorry. It seems the missed opportunity for good-bye is a common theme in regrets. My only grandparent is thousands of miles away, pushing 97, and the last time I left her I SOBBED. I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance, and it breaks my heart.

  9. That last “Matt” comment? Had ME in tears. What a great guy!

    My regret? Losing contact with my “boyfriend” in 5th grade. He was goofy and smart, and could always make me laugh. Nerd Alert: At recess, we play-acted The Muppet Show and The Love Bug. It was a riot. He defended me when someone threw a snowball in my face that got stuck behind my glasses and made me cry. In sixth grade, my family moved away, but he and I kept in touch. He knew that I loved horses & unicorns, and he won me a giant unicorn at the fair. Just kept spending money until he won it. Then, he made a trip to where we had moved to give it to me. We were just kids, and it was just a first glimpse of love, but we connected in some way that has never let me forget him. I regret that I let that friendship fade away and somehow lost track of him.

    I hope he’s happy and that his life is amazing. I think we’d still be friends.

    Ed Placencia! If you’re out there, reading blogs, or Googling your name, you touched my life and my heart remembers.

    • You’re making me want to find this guy. Come on Ed Placenia! Find my little obscure blog!

      That is such a touching story. Thank you for sharing it here.

  10. I regret not getting a time card punched on the last day of a temping job in 1999. It would have been $50.

    I regret passing a little boy on the street and not calling the police when he admitted he didn’t have an adult with him. He was so sure of himself. Still.

    I regret purloining alcohol from my dad’s liquor cabinetin high school when I knew he would have just given it to me.

    I regret every time I ever borrowed money. Ever.

    I regret letting my oldest grow so quickly.

    I regret letting her brother stay young so long.

    I regret the day I humiliated kelly m at lunch in seventh grade. I was projecting my own miserable existence onto her.

    I regret the three years I didn’t have my best friend, because of a guy.

    • I think most of us have lost friends over a guy. Sometimes worth it, sometimes not. Usually not. I’m glad you and your friend found your way back.

  11. I’m one of those people who lets regrets go like balloons, so quickly that I’m having a hard time thinking of any right now.

    I will say that I wish I could go back and be a better person in all the moments of my life. Some more so than others. Be kinder, listen more quietly, love more. Make my life more about others than it is about me.

    I guess that’s kind of a reminder for tomorrow, isn’t it?

    I don’t comment enough (because of always reading blogs on my iPod where it is wicked-hard to comment) but Diane, I am so glad you are writing here. You’re one of my favorite reads.

    • You floor me, Arwen. I agree — I wish I could be a better person in all moments of my life as well. Some moments painfully moreso than others.

  12. I, like Arwen, seem to be the “let the balloon go” type. As I sit here now, I can’t think of anything.

    I used to think I regretted not kissing someone when I had a chance, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m glad it never happened.

    I think I spend a lot of time living Garth Brooks'”Unanswered Prayers.” I’m so thankful for my life as it is now that I wouldn’t want to change the past, as it wouldn’t get me here.

    On a regular basis I think about how I don’t tell the people in my life how much they mean to me. Perhaps I’ll miss an opportunity and that will one day be my regret.

    For the most part though, I’m pretty regret-free.

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