Sunday, January 23, 2005

Regret: Alex

“On coping with the march of time: It's like a fire. It goes through a journey, and each stage is interesting. I don't regret the passing of time. I try to live in the present, which should mean my life's full."

~ Francesca Annis (1944-)

As I draw closer to my twentieth birthday, I find myself looking back upon my life in retrospect. Retrospect, in itself is rarely such a negative experience, as hindsight can often provide lessons to us that we were blind to in the present; however, hindsight walks hand in hand with regret, and as I look back upon my life, I’m overwhelmed by the weight of my regret of bad decisions. Thinking hard upon a list of my worst moments can be incredibly demoralizing, but it’s most important at times such as these to recognize the present. Not the present day, but the moment.

The organ in your skull, the physical mass that makes you who you are, is your brain. Your mind does not exist in a physical sense. The mind is a phantom, soaring through your past and future, focusing on past events or the possibility of future ones in order to bring about emotion. Emotion is, as I’ve stated before, healthy – and important to embrace – however, when one can’t help but cling to an emotional state, a sad one, for instance, that emotion can develop into regret. Regret is a reflection of our unwillingness to accept the past as it occurred; it’s a depression we create based on how we feel the future could have been. Regret exists not in the present, but in the past and future, not in the brain, but in the mind.

As I look back on my life, I regret little of my childhood, as childhood is a period of our lives when we do nothing but learn. Children make decisions without the perversion of age’s cynicism, they learn from their mistakes, and accept the world as it is. It’s as we grow older that we find ourselves in situations that we refuse to accept. Our teenage years are filled with attempts at adulthood, relationships, and catastrophe. Our longing for companionship is never stronger than in the twilight of one’s adolescence, and it finds us in positions where our actions do not affect only our own emotional well being, but also that of someone else. With a mere twenty years under my belt, I have only a few years worth of legitimate regret, however, I’ve already made enough bad decisions to fill what seems like a lifetime.

When I think back to my experiences in High School, I tend to ignore my first few years, as I only came into my own in the second half of my stay at Mount Anthony Union High. My memories of High School are nearly all positive ones, all of which revolve around three things – my friends, football, and a particular person whom I shared a great deal of time with. My senior year, however, was burdened with the realization that I would never play football again, and it was as a result of this injury that I learned the reality of regret for the first time.

I didn’t experience the intense pain and sorrow of real regret again for more than a year, and despite my incredible love for the sport of football, I was hit even harder by my second bout of regret; for the first time, I regretted not only putting myself in the position I was in, but I regretted hurting another with my actions. The guilt that comes from making such a person cry can be overwhelming at times, but it was because of this regret, this guilt, that I was forced to reconsider my perspective of life.

I’ve learned a lot in my time, some lessons will probably hold true for the rest of my life, much of what I know will probably be subject to some revision, but the only thing I’ve found that I’m utterly certain of is that the best of things can come from the worst, and, in turn, the absolute worst things can come from the best. Breaking my leg was the worst thing that had ever happened to me at the time and it completely changed the direction of my life; some time later I found myself in a similar situation, a turning point, and instead of ignoring the lessons made available to me, I’ve chosen accept that I am flawed, as are we all, and I’ve decided to learn from what I’ve done to myself, and to others.

Lessons that we choose to ignore will continue to arise, over and over, louder and louder until we get the point.

Regret, however, isn’t a healthy emotion. Just the opposite, in fact, as regret will hinder your actions. Instead, recognize what you’ve done not as mistakes, but as opportunities to learn – if you learn from what you’ve done, you won’t doom yourself into a path of repeated failure, repeated sadness. In order to live in the present with an open heart, one must be ready to release their grip on the past and the possible or impossible concepts we have of the future. We must get past the shallow depth of the mind and use our brains. Forgive those who have hurt you, and recognize that you will be hurt again. Ask forgiveness with pure intent – don’t ask it to comfort you in your regret, but ask it in the interest of helping those you’ve hurt come to peace with their past. Perhaps most difficult, we must also forgive ourselves for the mistakes that we’ve made. You’re going to hurt again; you’re going to hurt others. That’s life. We are all on a path that’s headed up the mountain, when our eyes are fixed on the summit, we may trip occasionally, but it’s important that we never lose sight of our goal.

To those I’ve hurt, I ask your forgiveness. I need not know that I’ve been forgiven, I just ask for the allowance in your heart of a forgiven man, that your memories of me not be tainted by my weakness.

I leave you with wisdom from Souza, but presented to me by a person who taught me more about life than I thought anyone could.

Dance as though no one is watching you.
Love as though you have never been hurt before.
Sing as though no one can hear you.
Live as though heaven is on earth.

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