I like these questionnaires that float around, commonly called memes. I enjoy reading others’ answers, and I appreciate the partial pass they afford when I want to blog something, but I’m not feeling particularly inspired.
There’s one question that shows up on a lot of them that I can’t stand, though: “if you could go back and change anything about your life, would you?” And then, if many of the answers I see are indicative, you’re supposed to say no, of course not, and then vomit this sappy pseudo-transcendental shit about how all of your experiences have made you the person you are, and that’s such a doggone great and wonderful person, and gee willakers, if any little thing had gone differently then it might not have turned out so well, and…and…(sniffle)…I love ya man!
What a crock. (Nothing personal if you’ve answered similarly. Well, unless you’re an asshole otherwise.) Everybody screws up, and not all of the mistakes are the learning, character-building kind. Some of them are just fuckups.
Know what I did when I was not quite 16 years old? I systematically cultivated a smoking habit. It was a deliberate, considered decision, utterly devoid of peer pressure, desire to be “cool,” or any other ABC Afterschool Special reason. It was “hey, I might like this. I better check it out.” More or less.
Now find me a positive, mushy, journey-is-the-destination side to that. There isn’t one. Do I wish I’d never smoked? Hell yes, I do. I’d love to give back my elevated health risks. I’d love to not know how much I enjoy it. I’d love to not have it on my mind 21 years later, still being tempted.
One that isn’t as serious is that I wish I’d written more as I was growing up. I tried to keep journals several times, but never managed one any longer than two or three weeks. I hate that now. I look through some of what I did write and save, and I don’t know the person I’m reading. Mind, all of it’s pretty banal, but still, I’m reminded of stuff that I had forgotten completely. I wish I had more.
Having regrets isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of being human. “No regrets” is a tidy little sound bite, but I don’t believe it often.