Apr 132008

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.

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 Posted by at 10:21 pm

  5 Responses to “Two things I’d change”

  1. Honestly? I’m one of those people who does spout the “everything I’ve done has lead me to this place” mantra, and really, the place that I’m in right now is pretty damned good – I’d be afraid that tugging on one of the strings would unravel the whole blanket.

    That being said, I do wish that I’d not gone in for the “starter marriage.” I did it out of a desperate need to belong somewhere, to be validated and valued, and it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. We managed to get out of it more or less whole, and my ex and I have a really good friendship now, but it was embarrassing and difficult and ugly for a while there. If I have to claim a regret, that’d be it. (Of course, having said that, the reason I met my current husband is because I was living next door to him. If Brian and I hadn’t been together, I likely never would have ended up in that particular apartment. See what I mean about tugging the threads?)

  2. I would have bought that Microsoft Stock someone tipped me off to when I was 21.

  3. I would have followed through more often on opportunities to get laid.
    (And I didn’t skip many of them).

    Really, what’s the use wallowing in regrets? Down that road lies madness.

  4. Gerry: You don’t have to wallow in them to acknowledge them! Self-assurance is lovely, but shouldn’t it be tempered with realism? I can love who I am and still point to some things that probably would have made me a bit better.

    Yeah, and you mention a fertile regret ground, don’t you? Heh. I had all sorts of delightful weirdness fall in my lap for the taking one night over a drink, and I passed. There are some things a guy doesn’t blog in detail about, but suffice it to say that Lea and I almost certainly wouldn’t have gotten married had I green-lighted the, uh, situation.

    (And there we’re back to pulling on threads, as Mrs. Chili raised.)

    Still, there’s being married well, and there’s the concept of a “soulmate,” which I reject utterly. I’m delighted with how things have turned out, but that doesn’t preclude the possibility that I’d have been just as delighted under different circumstances, nor does it diminish the importance of what I have now to say so. It just is.

    All too often, people treat life’s chaos as this amazingly delicate thing. I understand that to a degree–there are lots of interconnections along the way. Sequence, timing, etc.–they all have large impacts. But I don’t understand the thinking of a happy person who says “good thing that happened, because…” and then the natural assumption is that whatever else might have happened would be worse. There’s no reason to think that.

    After all, truly happy people manufacture happiness, not just consume it, do they not?

  5. I absolutely agree about “manufacturing” happiness. Happiness is a decision.

    Sometimes I say in conversation: “If you say you are unhappy, you’ll always be right. If you say you are happy, you’ll also always be right.”

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