Dec. 17, 2012
Minimalist Monday: No Regrets
What could be more minimalist than having no regrets and no emotional baggage? (It may not be physical, but less is more there too!)
A few months ago, someone noted all the (self-inflicted) moves I had in the last 10 years or so: Charleston, Boston, Manhattan, Los Angeles, Colorado, Abroad — just to name a few, and asked if I'd ever regretted any of those moves. [Editorial note: I moved to Tahoe, below, 2 days ago.]
My response was simple: I don't live my life in a way that allows for regrets.
I stumbled on this concept in high school, when someone asked me if I regretted a choice I had made, given how things had turned out, and my response was "I made the best choice I could at the time with the information I had. It's unfair to go back with new information and judge myself."
Little did I know that this would become the core of my belief system for navigating through life and making decisions.
I'm not saying that every decision I have made has been a great one. I'm not saying that things have always worked out the way I wanted them to, but I haven't regretted any decision, even when things end up a little sour, or at least, not the way I had wanted or hoped, because I know that I made the best decision I could have, given the limits and knowledge I had at that moment the decision was made. (Wow, that was a long sentence!)
Point is, I don't look back at something and think "I could have done that differently" or wish I didn't do something because the truth is, I probably couldn't have done it differently — if I could have, I probably would have.
Here's a great example:
Do I regret going to law school?
I don't want to ruin too much of the story in Happy Herbivore Abroad, but the short of it is I went to law school and hated it. I finished, became a lawyer, too, but hated that as well. So after 6 years of misery and $150,000 in educational debt, I changed careers.
I find a lot of people assume I regret my decision to go to law school — all that hard work, misery, and debt for nothing — but when I was 22, I didn't know that I wouldn't like law school. Or being a lawyer. I wasn't even plant-based yet. I didn't know how to cook — or that I would love cooking, or that one day, I would write cookbooks. I didn't know that I would start a blog when I was 26 that would become a company. And so on.
It's not fair to use all this new info at 31 against my 22-year-old self. When I was 22, going to law school was a good choice based on the information I had at the time. I had just graduated college. I didn't know what I wanted to do, but had enjoyed being on student government and the debate team, so law school sounded like a good fit. Many of my teachers had told me I would make a great lawyer and I had liked all of my "law" classes in college. I had even enjoyed mock trials in high school. There were lawyers in my family — it just made so much sense.
So I don't regret my decision. I'm not sure I could have even made a different choice back then anyway. I mean yes, technically it's possible — but when I consider the real circumstances — the thoughts, the emotions, I don't think so. I'm still me in that equation. I'm still limited to what I knew and felt then. If I could have truly made another decision, I would have.
If you grapple with and accept this idea, but still feel you made a mistake, then acknowledge it. Make amends if you can and recognize it as an opportunity for growth.
Sometimes I feel like we live in a society where mistakes and failures are unacceptable — as though they should be swept under the rug and forgotten. I don't know why failure is so embarrassing. Failures and mistakes are often what make us who we are.
I'm not perfect. I still fear failure and even get embarrassed by it sometimes, but when I take away the stigmas and pride, I realize, instances in my life that could labeled as "mistakes" or "failures" — those were the experiences that led me to the most success. Perhaps in a very roundabout fashion, but I couldn't have gotten to Point C without going from A to B first.
Perhaps not the best example, but I was in an awful relationship in college. (I've blogged about it before, "One Piece of Advice We All Need"). I was miserable. All we did was fight, break up, get back together, "start over," and so on.
Once I was finally out of the relationship, it would have been so easy to think, "what a mistake that was!" Or what a giant waste of my time and emotion it was. It was tempting, but I let myself off the hook. I must've thought it was the right decision at the time I was making it. The reality is, I'm not sure if I hadn't been through that, that I'd have really, truly appreciated the relationship I had with my next boyfriend, and now husband.
I can remember saying to one of my friends "I'm really glad all that happened with Jacob* because it's allowing me to appreciate all these little things Scott does — things that would have been lost if I hadn't been with Jacob first."
No regrets. I mean it. Just life experiences. Dump the baggage — be more minimalist!
Recently, a good friend of mine from high school moved from Australia to
Canada. She posted this quote on Facebook, which I just loved:
"Stop thinking about what you're leaving behind, think about what you'll find next."
I'll close with a saying I like:
“The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.” ~ Unknown