Here’s to a Life Lived With Regrets

My regrets make me who I am, and are as significant as any of my triumphs

The stories find their way to my newsfeed all the time, and the headline is always a variation of the same theme. It's usually something like: "40 Ways to Live Your Life With No Regrets." Or, the even snappier: "LifeHacks to Living With No Regrets."

Really? There's a way to hack my life so it's regret-free? In just 40 simple steps? What if I've lived close to half of my life and have already racked up a bunch?

There are no do-overs, and I'm old enough to know there's just no planning your way to a lifetime of zero missed opportunities. So I'm not going to try and lifehack my way to a better regret-to-reward average. I don't have time for that crap. Nobody does.

I've got regrets, for sure. I never learned to play guitar. I never went to culinary school. I didn't break up with that one really dreadful guy until I'd already sacrificed five miserable years. There's no undoing any of that now. Sure, I could take guitar lessons or cooking classes. But realistically, that ship has sailed. My brain is already too hardwired and highly un-teachable, culinary school is expensive and there's no getting back those five years in relationship hell.

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Plus, there's the fact that I've changed. I'm just as happy to play the ukulele and watch the Food Network now, and I found a guy who is as wonderful as the ex was terrible. My regrets stand in contrast to my current contentment, reminders to not take any of it for granted.

And the whole time I haven't been doing all those things I regret not doing, I've done other stuff. I learned how to play a decent barroom piano. I went to Harvard and I also went to beauty school. I've got a folklore and mythology degree and a nail technician license. I turned my time with Hell Boy into a bunch of country songs. Who's to say I would have done any of that if I'd been learning guitar and enrolled in the Cordon Bleu? And if I'd dumped what's-his-face the first time he acted like a braying jackass, maybe I'd be struggling for song fodder.

My regrets make me who I am, and are as significant as any of my triumphs. They're nothing to hide from. I regret not calling my grandmother more while she was alive, but no amount of time with her would have sufficed. When you love someone, there's never enough time. Maybe I'm lucky to feel the pang of missing her, of wishing I could do it over. That pang of regret tells me time is precious, and reminds me how much I still love her. Not feeling it would be far worse.

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So I have regrets. Some can be rectified, some cannot. I regret it took a cancer diagnosis for me to stop beating myself up over my weight. I regret not keeping in better touch with my childhood friends, and so many are strangers to me now. I regret missing so much of my nieces' and nephews' first years on this planet while I was off playing musical chairs in Nashville. I regret the hours I've spent watching bad TV instead of writing.

I'll continue to rack them up no matter what I do, because to regret is to live. No regrets would mean I only ever made correct decisions and thought every single thing I did was incredible—and that would make me a delusional crazy person. It would also mean I got around to trying every single thing I ever wanted to try. No thank you. I hope to go out of this life wanting more of it, with stuff still left unchecked on my bucket list.

Even if it were possible to live without regrets, wouldn't it be incredibly boring if your lifetime playback reel was just one great moment after another? You need the low points, the tears and the defeats to make the story worth watching.

There's no predicting what you'll be sorry about, and no avoiding some amount of disappointment in your life. There's only doing your best. Fix what you can, then keep on moving. Embrace the regrets just as much as you do the good stuff, because you can't have one without the other. That is my lifehack advice, in one easy step.

Tags: memoirs