Inspired by: “Regrets” (1999), from the Ben Folds Five album The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner
As we hurdle through life on this dying planet, there are often points in our lives where we are given a choice of what path to pursue. Often these inflection points aren’t known at the time. We just idly go through our lives, letting the fates or whatever take us on our merry way. It’s only in hindsight that we see that a different choice could have led us down some unknown path, some alternate reality where some other version of us from the multiverse is living a different version of our same life.
I used to “regret” some of those choices I made once upon a time. Like what if I had decided to apply to West Point instead of just thinking about it, or what if I had asked that crush from high school out instead of looking for connection on the internet. But a lot of those regrets stemmed from something about how I felt in that moment; the West Point dream was when I was dissatisfied with where my Army career had ended up, the girl when my first marriage was crumbling around me. Not that I wanted to necessarily go back and make different choices. I’m sure the alternate version of me in those realities was having different struggles and looking back at different inflection points.
Regretting these choices doesn’t do much other than take you out of your current existence. Yeah, it probably would have been great if X had happened, but than the great Y I’m currently living in would not be happening either, and at the end of the day, we lack the ability to actually go back and change those things, no matter how hard we try.
I’m reminded of a movie called “About Time.” In it, the main character Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) learns from his father (Bill Nighy) that the men from his family have the ability to travel through time, which he uses to help his love life. He finds a wife (Rachel McAdams), gets married, has children, but attempts to fix a problem that ultimately ends up altering the present because he traveled back too far. Then, he learns that if he wants things to stay the same in the present, the birth of his children are gates in his life that serve as “points of no return”: should he change something before then, everything else from that point on will be altered, sometimes for the worse. He resolves not to travel beyond those dates anymore to change things, but then is faced with a decision that ultimately leads him realize that time travel isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that it’s better to live each day once, and he decides that he won’t use his time travel powers anymore.
This isn’t to say that we should live our lives devoid of regret. There are small instances in our everyday life that should probably be reflected on in attempting to become a better person. Like that rude interaction you had with a stranger for no reason. Or choosing to spend money of NFTs of monkeys than actually investing for your future. Those regrets will hopefully help you make a better choice the next time you are faced with it, and can only help to improve the various facets of your life for the better.
It’s important to find the medium between the two. A life full of regrets and living in the past means that you’ll never learn to accept the present, while a life with little to no regrets means that you have nothing to ever learn from and potentially become a better person. It’s okay to rue about the one that got away, but not at the sake of potentially finding the next person that might make your life full. Use those past inflection points as a guide when presented with a similar choice in the future, and maybe the regrets will become fewer and farther in between.