January 13, 2013

My Regretful Past

If I were to be honest with myself, I'd say that my life of avoiding regret is relatively recent.

I've tried always to be deliberate, well-intentioned, and impassioned in my decision-making, with an equal share of emotion and analytic (bordering on scientific) thought. I've tried to overcome the difficult circumstances from which I was spawned, which ranged from verbal abuse to force-feeding to undeserved punishment and imprisonment.

But I, like many people, have plenty of regrets. I find nearly my entire youth regretful.

I regret obeying my parents in their folly.

I regret not asking for help.

I regret the bruises I hid, instead of broadcasting them to the world.

And, as something I've pinned my entire ethos on, I regret not attending my proms. I could've asked someone. I could've insisted my parents buy me a dress. I could've gone alone.

And so I live my life as I do now.

I did my best, but it wasn't enough.

I could say the same for my parents.

I regret the trust I had and the permissions I gave that ultimately led to my sexual assault in college. I regret being convinced that I was at fault, and that somehow being mistreated is just a fact of life that must be accepted, thereby perpetuating the behavior into my 14 years as a single girl in New York.

I regret relying on my sister when she could not help me.

I regret assumptions made, questions unanswered, confusions never clarified. There is much about my past I don't understand, because I wasn't privy to all of the details, because I was afraid to ask, or later, because I was impaired in some way, and just wanted to forget anyway. Was I really born a mistake? Was my mother really involved in a religious cult? Why did my father choose my mother over me, when he was the one to give me life, a life I never wanted?

I regret not knowing.

I regret not understanding.

I regret regretting.

But there is nothing about my past I can change. I can only move forward, and keep on moving. I can ask questions now. I can tell the truth, and demand answers. I can dismiss those who refuse to give them.

A reader once questioned the precise wording of my mantra, proposing "avoiding" could be swapped with something more positive and proactive.

The truth is...

I can only avoid regret. I can't get rid of it entirely. It's there. It lingers. And only by its prior existence can I be sure to never encounter it again.

And by that avoidance, I can pursue meaning, love, beauty, adventure - something to make life worth living.

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