When I was 22, I promised myself I’d live with no regrets. This seemed like a good idea at the time—a healthy way to view life as a journey and any mishaps or blowback as learning experiences, not mistakes.
It was so simple then.
Now, at 66, with more years behind me than ahead, I find myself with plenty to regret—letters unanswered, calls unreturned, friendships neglected, career path going awry, giving up on a relationship too soon or not soon enough, mountains of things undone, and so on.
I don’t usually dwell on these things, but lately I've been finding myself looking back more often and wondering what if, and if only.
What if I’d said this instead of that, chosen that instead of the other thing? If only I had turned left instead of right, taken the other fork in the road, followed this advice instead of that.
Where would I be now?
With the benefit of hindsight, surely I’d be able to fix things that went wrong, make the right choices this time, or at least better ones. Surely I’d regret less!
Or would I?
If I were somehow granted the grace to do any of it differently, would I actually do it? And would it make any difference?
And if it did, maybe I’d just make the same mistakes in different ways. Or make different mistakes and still end up exactly where I am now, or maybe even worse off.
Maybe changing one small thing changes everything, but the end result may be no better (as in the film Sliding Doors), or maybe it makes no difference to the ultimate outcome (as in the Netflix series Dark). So if I went back and followed a path that I now believe would have been better or wiser, who knows what fresh hell might come from that?
Besides, even the things I regret the most are integral to who I am today. Most days, I wouldn’t change that, regrets and all.
But that doesn’t mean I want to keep doing things the way I’ve always done them. Many a time I’ve made a resolution never to do that again!
This, of course, hardly ever works—humans seem destined to make the same mistakes over and over again, or make different mistakes with the same results—and I am no exception. So I've stopped making resolutions altogether, since they always fail and always lead to nothing but more regret.
When I first began writing this piece in early January, I'd been hearing a lot about resolutions.
If the media are anything to go by, in the run-up to New Year’s Eve, life is all about making resolutions; in the early weeks of the new year, it’s all about which ones you’ve broken already.
Now, for all I k