Do you regret reading this post, 3.5 readers?
That’s OK. I already regret writing it.
And there’s the rub, for the great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard warns us that it is inevitable for us to regret literally everything we do:
“If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it; if you marry or do not marry, you will regret both; Laugh at the world’s follies, you will regret it, weep over them, you will also regret that; laugh at the world’s follies or weep over them, you will regret both; whether you laugh at the world’s follies or weep over them, you will regret both. Believe a woman, you will regret it, believe her not, you will also regret that; believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret both; whether you believe a woman or believe her not, you will regret both. Hang yourself, you will regret it; do not hang yourself, and you will also regret that; hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both; whether you hang yourself or do not hang yourself, you will regret both. This, gentlemen, is the sum and substance of all philosophy.”
I have come to find that Soren and I are a couple of morose mother-effers who act like someone just pooped in our cereal (classic Jay and Silent Bob reference.)
But it’s true, isn’t it? Middle-aged, people, you know what I’m talking about.
If you get married, you will regret not staying single a year or two or three more and maybe you could have found that sex crazed nympho that was willing to cater to all your whims.
If you don’t get married, you will regret being alone and come to realize that the nice, normal person who wasn’t a sex nympho and was not going to cater to all your whims would have been at least good company who would have given you some nookie once in awhile.
If you are mean you will feel bad about the people you could have helped but didn’t. If you are nice, you will regret letting people walk all over you.
Soren loses me on the suicide part of the quote. That’s too far for me. If anything, my big regret is not doing everything possible to ensure that I’ll live to be over 100. Frankly, my big regret is that I did not become a health crazed, kale chomping, 5K running strong man at an early age…so I do regret that my blood type is rocky road now. I don’t think I would have regretted getting healthy and staying that way from the beginning.
The Sore-meister famously dumped the love of his life out of fear that he’d regret marrying her only to regret doing so. I hate to admit that in my youth I chased after dum dums and pushed away smart smarts (is that the opposite of dum dums?). I guess you could call me a junior Soren in that regard.
Maybe I am Soren reincarnated.
Anyway, we only get one life and we must make choices. Unfortunately, many of those big choices are made when we are young and have heads full of mush. When we are older and get all the spoilers of how our choices worked out, I suppose it is only natural to regret mistakes made, now that we have more information.
Note though we can’t be sure that we made mistakes even if it feels like we did. We wish we had snagged that special someone but maybe that special someone would have turned out to be a jerkface. We wish we would have snagged that special job but maybe it would not have worked out. Maybe we would have made decisions that got us the perfect life only to be run over by a bus in a freak accident.
Let’s try to recognize that Soren is right in that regret is inevitable, but perhaps we do need to forgive ourselves lest we regret being consumed by our regrets.
Remember, Soren also said, “Don’t forget to love yourself” so he must have realized we need our own personal hugs in the midst of all this regret.
Soren actually invented the term “angst” and noted that “anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” In other words, we have so many choices in front of us that it is normal to feel sick over the possibility that we might eff those choices up.
Finally, the Sore-a-nator said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Soren didn’t know the term “spoiler alert” but he was right. You don’t figure out what you did wrong until the wrong is already done. As you get older, you can’t help but do an autopsy of your life and analyze what you should and should not have done.
It’s too bad we don’t get to live to 200 so we could screw up the first 100 years then really knock the ball out of the park in the second hundred.
Thanks for the thoughts, Kierkegaard and cheer up, wherever you are.