the only regrettable thing

beachedboat“Never regret thy fall,
O Icarus of the fearless flight
For the greatest tragedy of them all
Is never to feel the burning light.”

Oscar Wilde

“What is your biggest regret?”

It’s a question often heard but rarely analyzed. Regret. What is it, really? And how does it affect me? Should it affect me?

I don’t have any regrets. I’m not kidding. As I look back on my life, I see a path of overturned obstacles and a little girl and a young woman. My childhood is over, and my course thus far has brought me to where I am — 30 years old with a love for life that years of heartache have only helped ignite: My passion is stronger because I have seen the “other side.”

I have seen the pain of loneliness and of trying and failing and trying and failing and trying and . . . I’ve seen love come and go, families fall apart, children in streets, cultural seats . . . I’ve seen faraway shores and looked through others’ eyes . . .

(That’s all this world needs, is to look through others’ eyes.)

And the times I’ve misstepped have been the times I’ve learned the most. The year I gave up going to Austria for a boy (we didn’t work out) was the year I met one of my very best friends. (Love you, Gwyn!) I learned a lot from that relationship and am a better person because of it:

My heart smiles when I think of him — and of you.

Because deep down I believe we all have a heart, and that our hearts are good. We may be selfish by nature but can choose how we cultivate our natures. The wise person sees: Selfishness gains nothing; selflessness, everything.

And so what is there to regret if, seeking good, we misjudge and stumble and fall?

The only regrettable thing is when our hearts cry, “Go!” and, silently, we watch, wait, think, wish, say, “No.”

“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

For a dear hatted boy.

Image: Pinterest (Artist: M.C.)

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21 thoughts

    • Thank you, Sean. And I’m glad you agree. If people took the time to try to understand where other people are coming from, and how their life experiences have shaped them, and how they themselves would be different if they’d grown up in difference circumstances… This world would be a much better place.

  1. Here’s a life philosophy for you: See an open door, take it. It’s better to see the other side and wonder what you were thinking, than to stand outside once it’s closed and wonder what’s on the other side. :0)

  2. Jessica, you did it again. Struck a chord. Made me think. Gave us another glimpse of you. Prompted a thought for life. Selfishness versus selflessness. Thank you, and keep writing.

    • I myself struggle with whether or not I think our hearts are “truly good.” I think we are by nature selfish, and that that selfishness is something we must fight. I also believe that non-material items have far more worth than anything money could buy. That is why selflessness is far more rewarding than selfishness…

      Much of my thought patterns are formed by my Christian upbringing. I don’t preach Christianity on my blog because I myself struggle a lot with religion, and I would never want to alienate any of my readers. But those thoughts are something I am still trying to reconcile with “real life.”

  3. Great post Jess. I agree with what Vance says above: see an open door, take it. As the old saying goes, ‘you’d rather look back at life regretting the things you did instead of regretting the things you did not pursue.’

    There is always my favorite line as well from my Godfather: “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention…” which seems to fall in line with your take on life/regrets and the great Oscar Wilde quotes :-)

    • I like that quote from the Godfather. I really think the times we end up regretting are the times we cave in to peer pressure when our hearts say “Run,” or when we cheat on that test, or do something we know we shouldn’t, or… Because those moments are the things that shape the people we become, and the people we become shape our entire existence. In other examples, when we hesitate to act when we know we should, when we don’t take that risk, when we are too scared to try. To me, those all come down to listening to our hearts.

      I love the Oscar Wilde quotes, too!

      • So true, taking risks is a part of life ~ and while people all have different tolerances for risk, I would guess that everyone experiences some small regrets, which teaches them not to let the big opportunities to go on by without taking a chance.

  4. I, too, have no regrets. It would be easy to regret because regret often turns into an excuse to be unhappy or unsatisfied. I believe there is a reason for everything, or at the very least, something to be learned. Great insight in this post!

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