It’s impossible to get older and wiser without doing something that leaves us with a regret. The word “regret” has a nasty connotation but it’s life experience we can glean wisdom from- or not. In my experience, the people I know who, “Live with no regrets!” are generally foolish, or bound and bent for trouble.
Learning from a regret takes away its power over our lives. It can become a gift of foresight, intelligence, prudence, sound judgement, discernment, and create some good ol' gumption.
Not long ago, I was putting away laundry and paused to look at Facebook (no wonder my laundry never gets put away). A comment I read stirred tucked-away regret I have about college.
In Canada, we have trade school, college and university, with the latter being the most “prestigious”. At the age of seventeen, I went to university (with scholarships, might I add!). As the second in my family to go to post-secondary school, after my father, it was a big deal.
I felt the pressure to perform. But to be honest, I was a mess. Sure, I was intelligent enough to go to school but I wasn't mature enough to handle it. I blew it. I passed everything but my business class (oh, the entrepreneurial irony!).
Being a smart... smarty pants! I reasoned I should not return the second year because it would be foolish to be $120,000 in debt to become a writer when one could write for free.
Regret number one: college dropout.
At the time, not returning to university felt like the worst thing I could do. It wasn't.
Believing the McDonalds employee with an English degree and $80,000 of debt left to pay was more successful than the one who didn't (because main-stream culture teaches we will be blue-collar failures if we don't go to post-secondary), I went to college the second time around to pursue the less-abstract career of becoming an interior designer. The environment was extremely competitive; think, falling into the middle of the ‘Mean Girls’ movie. As a ginger with a past fraught with bullying, it was not an environment I thrived in. I rebelled. Fitting in the only way I knew how- drugs and alcohol.
My college experience may have turned around (remember, I was now only eighteen at this point), were it not for the 'Lemony Snickets Series of Unfortunate Events' that transpired on my nineteenth birthday.
I was waiting for the arrival of my long-time, lifetime, love of my life (there’s a story there) as we were seeing one another again. He didn’t show. I phoned my best friend, who lived in another city, and she told me he had gone out with another girl we had gone to school with.
Must have forgotten it was my birthday.
It was one betrayal too many. I spiralled into a dark, depressive mourning period and most days, refused to get out of bed. My dreams died as I tried to snuff out my heart's flame while college academics went out the window. My parents recognized my mental health was declining and after the first semester, I moved home totally and utterly lost.
Lesson number one- work hard and stay in school, but don’t go until you’re ready.
Regret number two: pining after a boy for much too long
In my book, “No One Brings You a Casserole When Your Husband Goes to Rehab,” that I am now re-writing (yep! All 50,000 words! I need a whole weekend alone #HUBBYREADTHIS), I introduce you to my childhood “love”. Let's call him “blond church boy”. I’d like to tell you I had a healthy “recovery” from a blond church boy birthday disaster, but unfortunately, that’s not true. I had been in love with him since I was eleven years old. He was my first love, first real boyfriend and first um, first; if you know what I mean (I know you do). From age eleven to nineteen, I mean, those are some formative years.
I did a lot of reckless things out of the hurt of unrequited love, if that’s even what it was. Personally, I think he was afraid of commitment. Which didn’t work out so well for him, might I add. I was “marrying material,” and he wasn’t ready for that at such a young age. I'd had my wedding planned since I was seven, so I was good to go.
Ladies, do you feel me?! LOL
Where I went wrong was in the waiting. I should have never waited. Waiting made me insecure and unhappy, but we do that, don’t we? Wait on people to change. And how much do you want to bet that had I been comfortable in my own skin, moved on, lived my life and dated other guys, that the blond church boy would have come right back? Men don’t love women who pine after them. It’s in their scientific nature. [source1] [source2]
"Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex. We cannot fight for love, as men may do; We should be woo'd and were not made to woo."
-Helena, A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Lesson number two- women were not made to woo (at least not overtly).
Regret number three: too much everything.
Speaking of spending less time on men, I should have spent less time on a lot of other things as well. Less time talking about my problems, less time accumulating “stuff”, less time worrying about what other people thought and maybe, it would have led to less time getting into trouble.
In return, I should have spent more time on God. More time reading my Bible. More time studying and put more time into things that give back. More time working toward goals. More time into planning finances and saving money. Travelled more. Gave more gifts. Gave more love to the people who loved me.
Lesson number three- less of the wrong thing leads to more of the right things.
I don’t know if any of this means anything to you. We rarely change our ways based on other people’s experiences as we’re stubborn and like to learn our lessons in the way of regrets! But I suppose, I want you to know that regrets are not always a bad thing. We can glean much from mistakes and hopefully, use that wisdom to create a better future.
A small challenge for you!
Name one regret below and something you learned from it. You never know, maybe YOUR wisdom will help another reader (or myself!) to make fewer epic life fails in the future!