Saying Farewell To Regrets And Great People

By Michael Yeatts

Being no stranger to foolishness, I have my share of regrets from Wheat Ridge High School.

I should have worked harder. I ought to have been a kinder person. My life would have been better if I had done X differently. Then again, I am not so deluded as to believe that I’m the only one leaving or attending the Farm with burdens of retrospective shame. Everyone has that bad year or that harsh comment or wrong decision that they wish they could change. I would go as far as to say regret is part of experiencing life in general, much rather high school. I also think that allowing regret to swallow one’s life and inhibit progress and personal growth is irrational.

I’d like to start by using Kant’s famous saying, “Ought implies can.” This means that if you should do something you also could do something. If I should have not failed that class, I could have done something to prevent my failing of the hypothetical class. This matters because to say that you made the wrong choice and that another choice was what you should have done also assumes that you could have done differently. First off, if there was blatantly no way that things could have gone any differently, why regret something you could have never changed? Also, one could make a determinist argument and claim that nothing else could have been done because we don’t have the freewill to do other than what was done. Maybe my brain hadn’t developed to a point where I was capable of understanding or interested in the course content of the flunked hypothetical class. Perhaps prior experiences in my life solidified my personality to respond the way I did to the supposed class. The stars might have been out of line, and the fates did not foresee a passing grade in my future. Who knows? At any rate I would have had no control over what I did in the past, so regretting my actions is just as good as in a situation where I blatantly couldn’t have done anything differently.

Assuming there is freewill, why dwell on something in the past that cannot be changed presently, and why allow it to stop us from doing what we can and want now? We live in the past all the time. Our understanding of what our life is comes from memories, and in memories resides regret. That said, all we have left to influence and experience is the future. Yes, mistakes in the past can be used to further success when confronted with future situations, but the regret that comes with them shouldn’t be a shackle as it oftentimes is. All that can be done is progressive thought and action.

One way to see it is that life’s a game. We follow rules, make gains and losses and do it all with the end goal of achieving victory. But that’s the thing; we don’t know what the rules are, what it is to gain or lose and we don’t know what it is to win the game that is life. It’s all vague and subjective and potentially-meaningless and really, really complicated. So we make up the rules and decide what we value as progress and create our own end goal—our own meaning. When we play a game and make a mistake we shouldn’t fixate on that slipup. What advantage is there to living in a prior move when it brings you no closer to winning the game? Life is no different. Whatever it is you are searching for, it’s definitely not going to be found if it beds in the past, so there is no reason to exist in hindsight. The future, though, is where triumph is, and that’s the only place you or anyone else is going to find their victory in life.

I want to leave whomever is reading my goodbye with this: your life hasn’t crossed the Rubicon yet. The happiness, esteem and self-actualization you seek has not passed you by, and it still is vital in your future. You simply need to let go of your regret to win the game. Goodbye, all, and stay interesting.