Few things scared me as a kid. I never believed in the boogeyman growing up. Now, as an adult, one of my biggest fears haunts me.
I compulsively worry over the choices I made. Why did I take the CSET and decide not to teach high school English? Why did I quit running after I gave birth to my first child? It’s hard to stop obsessing about the past.
I can’t help but long for the roads not taken.
I felt this more profoundly with the deaths of a dear aunt and uncle. Two people who knew how to really live. They had three kids, an impacted social calendar, and love, so much love. When my uncle died of prostate cancer, my aunt died shortly thereafter from a broken heart.
They lived without regret. I aim to do the same.
Whenever I examine my own life, which is often, my thoughts turn towards the lost virtue of happiness. The biggest challenge is trying to stay content no matter what the circumstance. I want to embrace the paradox of happiness, but it’s not easy. In pursuit of living regret free, I’m trying to recover pieces of me. Parts that have been sucked out by technological gadgetry and too many designer lattes.
A life without regret doesn’t come naturally. Then, it’s with good reason that we take an internal inventory and ask ourselves questions like–Does regret get in the way of happiness? How do you define true happiness? I won’t get into the classical meaning of happiness laid out by Plato or Aristotle, but here are a few questions to consider:
- What’s something you know about happiness that you didn’t know when you were a teenager?
- Is there a hobby that makes you particularly happy?
- Have you been surprised by something you didn’t initially expect?
For me, the answer to question #1 is love. The power of unconditional love is life changing. At eighteen, I was certain happiness meant an advanced degree, six-figure salary, and a beautiful home. I’ve since learned that a life full of material abundance can be empty. Even lonely.
The answer to question #2 is writing. Putting pen to paper satisfies the deepest parts of my heart. Writing is my refuge. I won’t list all the reasons for turning to this outlet, just know it’s saved me from lots of grief.
As for question #3, can I give you a rain check? I can’t narrow it down to one thing. Meanwhile I’m going to work on getting the regret monster out of my head.
Do you struggle with the Shoulda Monster?