Why It’s Okay to Have Regrets

Sometimes, if I close my eyes hard enough, he’s there. I see his face, feel his breath, and I cringe. I shudder. I shake my head, sigh, and try to think of something, anything else to make him disappear.

Because the time I spent with him was a waste. It was a total and complete waste. He took my attention away from important things. I obsessed over his smile instead of spending time with my friends. I worried about looking good for him rather than feeling good for myself. And if I’m being completely honest, I was more focused on the idea of him rather than looking closely at who he actually was—a narcissist.

And when we finally, so uneventfully ended, and I tried talking to my friends about it, I didn’t get that release of tension I usually do. I didn’t feel better about it, no matter how encouraging they were being.

“Hey, it’s OK, we all make mistakes, but there’s no reason to be down about this. It’s over and you learned something, right?” one of my friends asked me. I nodded, looked down at my knees and changed the subject.

For the longest time I tried and tried to convince myself that she was right. That I should live my life with no regrets, that yeah, it happened and it sucked but it taught me something, so I couldn’t really regret it, could I? We’re not supposed to have any regrets in our society it seems. We live our lives, we do what we want to do. We go for it. And I went for it. I went for the guy abroad. I went for the narcissist who told me he had feelings for me while we were in Jerusalem and I was trying to focus on other, more important things. I went for the guy who distracted me, and then pretended I didn’t exist once he had my attention.

And, ya know what? I really, really regret it.

Yep, you heard me. I can’t “own” my past, because I hate that part of it. I can’t just look back at it and shrug, because it usually makes me dry heave, if I’m being honest. It makes me sad, to realize how completely and utterly stupid I was. That I let a boy deter me for so long. I regret it, all of it.

And I think that’s OK. I know we live in a world where we’re supposed to not have shame over who we are or what we do, and while I love that mentality for the most part, it doesn’t always make sense for each facet of your life. Because I definitely own my mistakes and recognize that they happened and I can’t change them, but, God, I wish I could take some things back.

And while I fully recognize that living in the past is no way to live, and that all these things help make me who I am and the future choices I’ll make, I still think that sometimes, there’s no other way to feel about something is to just plain regret it.

I think that we make choices that in the moment seem fine, or like they’ll have no consequences, but every so often, they do. They’ll haunt you, they’ll appear in dreams, on your way to work they’ll come on the radio, lyrics echoing in your memories. The truth is, memories are hard to erase, and when a memory is painful to experience, the past never really stays in the past.

I was only with him for a month, that’s it. But it’s stayed with me for almost a year now, crowding in on my thoughts, my consciousness. And he’ll stay with me forever, because I made memories with him, and memories never go away.

So, yeah, I regret it. All of it. I regret letting myself get so carried away, and allowing myself to spend so much time with someone who I’ll never see again. I don’t hate myself for it, not at all. I know I’m human and that I’ll make mistakes, but I also know that sometimes, I’ll do things that really have no redeeming value to them, they just plain suck.

It’s okay to have regrets. It’s OK to look back at something and just shake your head. It is. Because maybe there wasn’t a lesson in what you did, maybe it really was just stupid. But regretting it validates that. Regretting something lets you realize that you aren’t happy with what you did. That pang of remorse, that feeling of anguish? They’re telling you something. They’re telling you that it’s over, that you can move on.

Regret isn’t a bad thing. It’s therapeutic. If you’ve done something, even as simple as spending too much money on a pair of shoes, regretting it doesn’t make you weak or small-minded or less-evolved than those around you who maybe aren’t having regrets. It just makes you perceptive and introspective, maybe a little different. But isn’t that a good thing? Don’t regret having regrets, I promise, it’s OK.

View Comment (1)
  • Thank you for writing this. I’ve been trying to erase this feeling for ages, but I think accepting it makes more sense.
    Also, well done for only staying with him for a month. My regret lasted 3 years.

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