I am always baffled when I hear someone say, “I have no regrets in life.” This is usually followed up with a statement like, “I wouldn’t be who I am if those things didn’t happen to me.” I have heard this particular pairing of comments at least a hundred times in my life, but I have never said them myself. I guess, once again, I find myself on the outside looking in – not quite normal.
I do have regrets in life. Not the kind that make me want to throw myself off a bridge or anything like that. There are things I have done, or in particular, said, that I now wish I hadn’t. I can’t think of a single time when I lost my temper and I didn’t regret it later – regardless of how righteous I felt about the issue at the time. I was a pretty good father, but like most young adults, I was figuring it all out on the fly (American saying that means I wasn’t prepared). Yet, I regret laying my own insecurities and frustrations onto my children at times. I could cite many other regrets but it would all be too personal, but I certainly have more than one or two.
Now the 2nd part of the statement – “I wouldn’t be who I am if those things didn’t happen to me.” I guess that is more about our inabilities to learn from others, instead preferring to learn from direct experiences. Giving advice to someone is usually a great waste of time (and my advice is only good about 50% of the time anyway.) We seem to have some sort of built in design that makes most of us only value our own personal learning experiences. And indeed, some of the most boring people I have ever known were those who seemed to follow the advice of others… especially if they were authority figures. Still, connecting the 2nd statement up to the first statement isn’t really necessary.
I have a friend who told me one once, “Just because I say I apologize doesn’t mean I am sorry.” “What?” I said, “That doesn’t make sense to me.” I did a quick, informal survey of nearby people. Many of those I asked agreed with my friend’s statement. I was puzzled and I still am. It is like the standard telephone recording, “We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you.” I guess they just left out, “but we’re not sorry for it.”
Oh, well. What do I know? When I was a little boy, on occasions I would do something that was really not that smart of a thing to do like the time at the bus stop when a kid said he was stronger than Superman. I said “No, you’re not. Nobody is stronger than Superman.” He disagreed. I pointed to a puddle that had frozen into a small block of ice and Little Superman said, “Superman could get hit over the head with ice and it wouldn’t hurt him.” So I bent down, pulled the half inch thick ice puddle up and raised it over my head and with Little Superman’s sort of permission, I brought it down on his head. He was not stronger than Superman. The other kids immediately pointed me out as a possible would-be assassin to the arriving bus driver as I picked up L.S. and tried to clean the mud off of him. I regret doing that and I sincerely hope Little Superman has forgiven me. He seemed to be just fine through high school. (I also took a few blows on my upper body from similar experiments with possible super powers, sort of a cosmic payback.)
During these types of events, my father would look at me and ask, “Why did you do that?” I would respond with “I don’t know.” He would counter with “I don’t know is not an excuse! Why don’t you know?” I would come back with “I don’t know why I don’t know.” This exchange could go on for awhile depending upon the severity of my actions. It often would end with my father saying, “Well, I don’t know either.” That felt like a small victory to me. If he doesn’t know, how should I know? I made the mistake once of trying to explain the reasons behind my inappropriate actions to him, but it got so messed up I learned never to stray from the tried and true response, “I don’t know.” The alternative approach was too psychically disturbing, I think, for both of us.
I wrote a song a few years ago about that human tendency to make the same mistakes over and over. It is titled “I’ve Done It Again.” Brett Johnsen is playing all the instruments. I hope you enjoy it.
While you are at it, check out someone who I think is one of the best songwriters on Soundcloud, Mark Jurgen Mayes. His songs are incredible. Here is a link to his song “To The Bottle Tied.” Mark is also a wonderful poet and author of fiction. His book “The Blue Box” will make you think.