No regrets, just lessons learned

“Live and let die”, “Forgive and forget”, “Nobody’s perfect”, “No regrets, just lessons learned.”

Adages we will hear time and time again, but to what end? Do such proverbial statements hold any real substance when applied to our real lives? There are times when we don’t want to forgive, times when it’s not that easy to forget. And we are taught that these lows are just as positive in the grand scheme of things are the highs. They make us who we are, we learn from our mistakes and are better people for it. But who can honestly say they wouldn’t go back and change things if they had the chance?

I certainly have regrets, and I find myself questioning whether it wouldn’t just be easier to erase them completely or to accept them for what they are rather than spin them into positives, as such icons as Dappy and Drake have suggested, championing the adages of “No Regrets” and “YOLO”. Dappy and Drake may have no regrets; but then they also has wads of cash and brands that just keep giving – life hasn’t worked out so bad for them. The whole concept of ‘yolo’ is, by definition, easier said than done. I for one want to live my one life right, and whereas ‘yolo’ implies courage based on fear, not on confidence, I would like to think that my decisions could be founded on something a little more concrete. I, as a mere non-celebrity, have a whole host of regrets that I would rather just hadn’t happened in the first place than were now summed up for me as “life lessons”. But there are some that have changed me for the better, I admit. And it’s these regrets, the ones that make you think differently about aspects of your life rather than cringe away from them, that are worth remembering rather than regretting.

My main regrets revolve around how I saw myself when I was younger. These self-made self-impressions imposed restrictions that, looking back on them now, certainly held me back.  Most of all, I wish that I had been more confident when I was younger. I wish that I felt some sense of self-identity that I could have been proud of. I wish I hadn’t put myself in a box and set limits for myself. I wish I had pursued more activities outside of this box. I wish I hadn’t held myself back from trying new things because I was scared of meeting new people. I wish I had seen myself as more than the girl who got good grades. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings and my point of view. I wish I had taken Advanced Higher Art and Maths, instead of taking the sensible subjects. I wish that I had pushed myself more and recognised my own abilities. I wish I had found myself before I moved to university, and not tried to be a person I thought others would like, because they didn’t anyway. I look back at myself in my teenage years and mostly cringe at how I behaved. And honestly, I can’t agree that I am happy about it. Lessons learned? No, trust me, just regrets.

But why is regret a dirty word? It would be too easy to erase them, to go back and create a perfect life. Life is more fulfilling when we strive for goals and self-improvement. You can’t change the person you used to be, but you can change the person you are now, and that’s ultimately the role of regrets.  All those memories make me realise who I wanted to be and what I needed to change to achieve it. Five years later, and I think I have become more like the girl I was trying to be. I not only push myself to try new things, but I enjoy doing it. I can get up and give a presentation without feeling like I want to run away. I can accept my flaws rather than punish myself for them. I can go along to a new club by myself, because I want to. I can become a producer of student TV never having done anything quite like that before, because I actually think I will be good at it. Sure I still have regrets, and no amount of motivational quotes will deny that, but maybe the greatest thing that they have done for me is show me who I want to be now. These quotes may be corny, but at the end of the day who am I to argue. So let’s conclude with another, from Louisa May Alcott – “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Thanks, Louisa, I feel better already.

I still wish I’d been cooler as a kid. The blessing of hindsight, eh?


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