Regret. Defined as a feeling of sadness, repentance, or disappointment over an occurrence or something that one has done or failed to do.
Much like getting a perm, we were always warned to avoid regret. One wrong choice, and you’ll pay for it for the rest of your life.
I would argue that you can, in fact, live a happy and fulfilling life, riddled with regret. Let’s unpack.
When I was 13 years-old I dreamt of being a magazine editor. The rough draft of my life plan stated that I was to a) be a jetsetter, b) rub shoulders with the likes of Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell and c) have a closet overflowing with Versace. In addition, I also wanted to have this particular life in Japan with my handsome husband and two precious children.
Now, perhaps my plan was slightly off-brand for an Afrikaans tween residing in Stellenbosch, but already then, I knew that life was supposed to be lived according to a certain code: study, work, marry, reproduce…the recipe for success!
Fast-forward about 20 years, and…
- I’m divorced
- I don’t live in Japan, but in da burbs
- I am not planning to have children any (life) time soon, and
- I spend the entire day WFH in my fluffy slippers.
Oi vey, poor teen me would be so bitterly disappointed.
We are expected to make the ‘right’ choices at the right time in our lives, or else…Regret taunts our every move. Much like the way in which algorithms trick us into believing Skims are so chic, and corn is the holy grail of vegetables, we've bought into the idea that if we don’t have certain milestone experiences, we’ll live to regret it.
I might not have a big 40th birthday party. Or bare children. Many say that I will regret these things. I might. But why should it deem my existence as sub-par? Why should I force myself to Asana my life when I choose to rather improvise in Canva? To assign dates to tasks that need to be completed by a certain life stage in order to reach happiness OKRs, just seems a bit unnatural to me.
I am content where I am now, so why change in order to fulfill my future self? Past me is already very disappointed with how I turned out. But I’ll have other experiences that might, just maybe, also validate my existence.
Venturing down a different path, one that is paved with ‘regrets’ or we can call it mistakes or lessons, character-building experiences or roadblocks that force us to grow or to jump even higher to reach some of our dreams, can be a smashing alternative to sheepishly following a set trajectory of time-stamped societal expectations.
Debunking regret means refreshing the way we value our and others’ life experiences at every stage.
Regret. Redefined as a feeling of contentment, satisfaction or happiness over an experience one has or has not chosen.