It’s a weird world. Here’s a cliche: “You don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things you don’t.” There are variations which make a little more sense, but let’s stick with that and examine it for a paragraph or three.
Of course, the cliche is just an attempt to motivate you to do the things you really want to do, or, in the opinion of the speaker, should do. But when you think about it, it’s impossible to be not doing anything, because not doing something is doing something. Consider this: killing yourself while skydiving is the easiest thing in the world– just don’t pull the ripcord.
Rush addressed the issue in one of their few actually catchy songs “Free Will“:
“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.“
Of course, Mr. Peart (the drummer/lyricist for the band) was talking about how he would rather believe there is no God than the one he hears everybody talking about. In that respect, he may have something in common with Iris Dement:
“Everybody is wonderin’ what and where they all came from.
Everybody is worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go when the whole thing’s done.
But no one knows for certain and so it’s all the same to me.
I think I’ll just let the mystery be.”
One of my favorite songs ever, btw. But I’m getting off track.
I already regret both things I have done and opportunities long since flown. And then there’s stuff I might not regret but I won’t know until I’m closer to dead. For example, I doubt that on my deathbed I’ll be lamenting the fact that I didn’t punch my 8th grade English teacher in her stupid face, but maybe I will– she treated poor little insecure, misunderstood, 20-years-ago JB so poorly that today’s JB is still really pissed at her. Those early hurts just don’t seem to go away. When I’m on my deathbed, will these be my last words?
Here lies JB
“Mrs. D, you bitch, burn in hell.”
That’s all on me, though. One of those regrets that relates basically only to myself. Mrs. D doesn’t remember me, I’m sure, ’cause I was one out of hundreds that she ridiculed and debased 42 minutes five days a week for 9 months in 1986. Not to mention the thousands over her career. Plus she’s probably getting up there in years and will soon be dead, so she has other things to worry about than my emotional baggage.
But yeah man, although nobody does a number on your psyche better than your own little self, other people will fuck your head up but good. It’s easy for them! They basically just have to stand there and let time pass and the dids and didn’t dids will pile up. Nondids? Undids? BRAINS.
You’ll also regret the things you do that hurt other people in your life, even if it’s just drenching that poor schmo with fetid muddy water as you drove by on your way to the chiropractor or something, yelling along to that fantastic new Audioslave song and paying no attention to whether it just rained and if there’s a puddle at the side of the road where said schmo slouched against a bus stop sign.
And you’ll regret the things the people you love were disappointed in you for not doing. No matter how hard you try, you’re always going to be not-doing something they really wish you would. And you’ll be regretting not-doing or saying things they didn’t even know you were thinking about doing or saying. I have that one. Why am I so tight with That Word? The penguin isn’t afraid to say it, why am I?
But with regard to disappointing others (and regretting it) I guess their level of interest depends on how much a person has at stake. Your parents have a lot at stake, it’s undeniable, whether they admit it or not. A person is inevitably judged by how they treated their children, how successful their children were, no matter how miserable a failure they may have been in other areas of life.
Your significant other has a little bit less at stake, but nevertheless a good amount. They’re going to accept that there are some things about you that you’re going to struggle to work on, or they’re going to keep making you regret the way you are, or they’re going to disappear from your life. If they don’t give a crap, your s/o is just an o. No?
Society at large is probably not going to know you from Adam. But with society it seems like you get to make a choice. It’s a lot easier to get them to hate you than it is to love you. But depending on your goals, perhaps that’s not a cause for regret. Unless the reason they hate you is an accident of some kind. Then you’ll have cause for regret. But can you regret the things you didn’t do where society is concerned? What difference does it make?
Yeah, I guess this post doesn’t make a lot of sense. Sorry. There’s a lot going on inside. It’s not apparent from without I bet; I do realize that I’m good at seeming to be unaffected. But you should know that today I’m a seething mass of angst and despair. I’m rambling. I’m hurt. My house is messy, and it’s all my fault. I’m either going to clean it today or burn it down.
Here’s the song I wrote on Friday instead of going to this party at this bar I’ve never been to thrown by this girl I only know because she thought my Elvis cart was funny: