Living Life Without Regrets

I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life.  If forced to name them, I have a list of three to choose from, but people laughed at me the one time I talked about how I forever regret choosing to study for my constitutional law exam instead of attending my very first Brad Paisley concert, so I have become less open about sharing my life regrets, as shallow as they may be.

In having so little regrets, it helps that I’m generally content with where I am in my life.  But I also take to heart the saying that there’s very little point in dwelling on the past because what’s done is done and time and energy are far better spent thinking about what do in the present for the future.  If I were to add a corollary to this cliché, it would be that even if one can take back a moment from the past, the alternative path that would be chosen may very well lead to another regret.

Carpe diem, as the old Latin phrase goes, and I suppose there is some truth in the belief that in order to avoid having regrets in the future, I have to make the most out of the present.  Whatever may become my regrets as I continue to live my life, I’m fairly certain that the regret of having wasted time away would feel the most empty of all the regrets.

But carpe diem seems far too easy of an answer to the question, how should I live a life without regrets?  What I’ve learned over the short time I’ve been alive is that life is far too unpredictable to be able to know now what my regrets may become.

One of the regrets I have is that I stopped playing the piano, not because I think I would have been a good pianist, but because I think learning to appreciate the piano would have gone a long way towards making me less of a philistine.   In college, I had a brief drive to get back into playing it but I never followed through.  The truth is that never in my childhood or collegiate days did I think that I would wind up regretting my inability to play a musical instrument.  Back then–and now–if I were to seize the day, so to speak, I wouldn’t have seized it with the piano.  Yet here I am, having wished that piano was part of my life.

And then there are times that I expected would be a moment of regret as I lived through it, only to find out that life is often unexpectedly pleasant.  I didn’t have the most successful of college and law school application process, and back then, I thought that I would always wonder what more I could have done to end up on the road that I had either hoped (in case of college) or envisioned (in the case of law school).  Now that I look back on my years of higher education, though, the only regret I can think of is if I didn’t have those seven years at Boston College, Rutgers University School of Law – Newark and Boston College Law School.

If there are regrets that unexpectedly came to be and those that unexpectedly became not, then there are also moments that became regrets as expected.  The most painful one is from my senior year in high school, when I got an unexpected chance to play in the county tennis tournament.  I can still vividly recall how I imploded in that match and how the only thing I was hoping for during the entire time I was playing was for the experience to be over as soon as possible.

If there’s one moment that I could take back in my life, it’s that one hour.  I don’t know whether I could have won that match or whether I could have even made the match competitive, but that’s precisely the point.  I didn’t give it enough to find out.

That time I spent on the tennis court  was an insignificant event in my life that can be counted in minutes in a lifetime that spans years.  Regardless of how the match would have turned out, it would have had absolutely no bearing on how my life came to be.  Yet it remains the greatest regret of my life, not for what I chose to do or not do, but for not going all in once I chose to do it.  I can live with losing the piano because I chose to prioritize other matters.  And my pride with my academic career has much to do with the fact that I gave it the best I could not only to get there, but also after I got there.

Regret, I’ve learned, isn’t about what could have been.  It’s rather that perpetual, irrecoverable feeling that I could have done better.

I’m living my life hoping I never feel that way again.


2 Responses to “Living Life Without Regrets”

  1. 1 Joseph Lee July 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    It is never too late to learn how to play the piano. Carpe Diem! Though admittedly not even the desire to know how to play the piano makes practice any more palatable.

    • 2 joesas July 21, 2013 at 1:56 am

      Thanks, Joseph! You’ve convinced me that the piano is not worth pursuing. That’s one less regret off my back!

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