I used to live my life in a whirlwind of regret.
Everything from eating something I deemed “unhealthy” to not going out with a friend could catapult me into the downward spiral of self-berating anger. As anger was only allowed when it was inwardly directed, the resulting anger that stemmed from my regret was strong, my inner critic harsh. I lived my life in pursuit of the perfect decisions, and regretted any decision that didn’t match up with my ideals.
I could not imagine what life would be like if I just went with what felt right in the moment and never looked back- I couldn’t fathom a life that was not rife with regret. A life without regret seemed like a distant mirage invented by someone who clearly hadn’t ever made such monumental decisions as what to eat for breakfast.
On a recent trip to NYC, I began to imagine. I began to see what life could look like when I lived in the moment instead of five steps ahead or ten steps back.
I embraced the out of the ordinary situations I found myself in, and let down my guard just a little bit. Releasing the regret and guilt that often embraces me like an old friend, I tried to make decisions based not on what feelings would stem from my actions later, but on what I knew was right for me in the moment.
My trip was a mosaic of decisions ranging from where to eat to what to do, from what to wear to what to say. And you know what? None of these decisions affected the course of my life in a drastic way. In fact, in my attempts to live without regret I realized that at the moment, whatever decision I make stands alone. Though the decisions all eventually come together in a dizzying array of choices, one “wrong” decision does not make a mess of a masterpiece.
The point I’m trying to make is not that regret doesn’t have its place in my world, but that it should not control my world. Regret will no longer be the mind-police of my daydreams, but a funny little after thought. I obviously can’t throw all caution over the Brookly Bridge, but I can do my very best to make my choices based on what makes me happy instead of what feels most safe. And if it turns out that I should have chosen a different restaurant or a different sight to see, there is always next time. Regret likes to make me believe that every decision is the be-all and end-all, but I know now that regret likes to lie. Because the sun’ll come up tomorrow- and you can bet your bottom dollar you’ll be making plenty of similar decisions.