Saturday, June 08, 2013

Regrets, I have a few ...

It frustrates me to no end when I see the youth casually using YOLO--"you only live once."  This writer at the Guardian sums it up well, for me too:
This, as the distinguished internet scholar Matt Muir puts it, is "carpe diem for people with an IQ in double figures". A friend of mine reports her children using this out loud. This has to end.
If only the young would really, really, understand the profound truth that there is but only one life to live.   YOLO is not the reason why you should try that insane stunt but the reason why you should really think, and think a lot, about that insane stunt.

Every decision that we make is also about the options that we did not choose.  Throughout life, we opt for some and disregard other choices.  There is simply no way that every decision will ever be the correct one. It is impossible.  The incorrect choices we commit ourselves to, and ones we omitted, add up.  Some of us then have more to regret for than others do.

Statistically, I probably have at least another forty years left in me.  Perhaps more, given the genes and my lifestyle choices.  I wonder if the number of decisions over those years that I will live will lead to fewer or more than the number of regrets I have over the decisions I have made until now.  How would I sum up the regrets at my deathbed?

If experience is a great teacher, then I would choose a lot more wisely going forward.  But what if it is true that we do not learn from history, including our own, and end up repeating the mistakes and adding to the list of regrets?

The writer here divides up regrets into three categories; I like this structure:
  • The things you did that you wish you hadn't.
  • The things you wish you had done but didn't.
  • The heavy cost of the time you've wasted.
The following points resonate with me:
I myself am a very happy guy. I’m always aware that I have done better than most people, even in the U.S. I have never suffered, much less caused, a premature death or other tragedy in my family, and I've never been challenged by some significant handicap or misfortune, nor any big injustice committed by or against me. I don't want a "do-over." But I really can't take seriously those people who say they wouldn't change anything. Maybe they mean that they are quite content with how it's going, as I am. But I could have done a lot better. There’s no question. If others say they can't think of something they'd change, they have a very limited imagination.
I don't want a "do-over" either.  In addition to living a relatively lucky life, it is also because to a large extent I have made my peace with the regretful decisions, which might not seem anything big at all to an outsider looking at my life.  But, small or huge, our regrets are our own regrets.

At the same time, I could just easily make an argument that to be who I am now would require all those decisions that I made.  I wouldn't be who I am and where I am otherwise, would I?  And if I am by and large happy with who I am where I am--which is indeed the case--then I couldn't have reached this place without those regrets too?

To quote from that wonderful song that Paul Anka wrote for Frank Sinatra to sing and make it a timeless classic:
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.
Regrets, I've had a few.
But then again, too few to mention
I did it my way.  YOLO!


Ramesh said...

Our regrets are our own regrets indeed. And yes, we learn, over time, to live with them.

Of the three categories that you have stated, the one that is most difficult for me is the heavy cost of time I have wasted. I know it and yet I cannot avoid doing it time and again. Experience is not a great teacher for me, at least in this :(

Another profound post from you. You are in the best of forms philosophically.

Sriram Khé said...

now do you see why in the "bhaja govindam" post i wrote that i have reached a stage in life when i can easily set up an ashram, say a few things like this, and make money in the process, instead of blogging for nothing? ;)

yes, we learn to make peace with our regrets. that is, i would argue, one of the toughest things to do in life. but, if we truly do it, then that peace inside will be awesome, i imagine, when the feeling inside me is already quite wonderful. there are a couple of demons within me that i want to exorcise--perhaps i will end up carrying them with me until that last breath ...

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