Regret seems to come with age maybe because, as writer David Sedaris wrote, “when you’re young, it’s easy to believe that such an opportunity will come again, maybe even a better one.”
At the age of twenty, I firmly believed in a “no regrets” policy because it was hard to think mistakes couldn’t be set right somehow. With the distance of time, my perspective has become a bit more informed.
The attitude behind my policy at twenty was arrogant; especially since it masked my timidity to really live up to it.
In Voltaire’s Candide the eponymous hero can be crudely separated into two categories: the young optimist and the provincial minded youth.
His breakneck brand of innocence serves him well throughout his globetrotting adventures where he doggedly pursues every opportunity.
But by the end he has shed the proverbial rose-colored glasses viewing the heart of his past self with weariness and insists that “all that is very well […] but let us cultivate our garden.”
The Cost Of Living
Many face this dilemma at one point or another – where reconciliation must be made between the cost of living and all it entails and fulfilling “the dream.”
For roamers it is an itch that festers until suddenly you’re on a bumpy bus ride far away from a zombie existence and filled with an overwhelming sense of freedom and affinity for the moment. Some of us never turn back and continue trekking; feeding that ever increasing gorge whose only demand is that you keep on going.
But what if you lose the ability to stop and recognize the moment for its potential?
Although my time spent in Italy was happy and full, I look back at my twenty year old self and recognize two moments with an apologetic heart for my youthful rashness.
One lazy afternoon in Florence, my roommate and I were at the train station purchasing tickets to Paris. We split off to browse the nearby newsstands.
A backpacker asked what map I was looking for. I told him Paris. He had just come from there! He needed a map of Lucca. I had just been there!
Earnest and sincere he drew me in. Talking to him was easy. When discussing his favorite Parisian museum his face became adorably animated. But, I was shy and incredibly pre-occupied.
Abruptly my roommate and I left to continue our errands. He looked a bit bewildered when we turned the corner out of the station. The encounter had been all too brief and yet indelible.
Did I leave like that purposely? No, I just didn’t know any better; I couldn’t hold onto the tease of something more sparked by that instant connection. After a few moments of gasps and curses, I shrugged him off, thinking that providence would give me a chance to correct my blunder.
A delusion only the very naïve and young could enjoy.
The other offense was that I didn’t loiter around in Rome.
I barely noticed the Forum due to the crowds, sacrificed a detour to a personal favorite Bellini statue, didn’t even venture inside the Coliseum and skipped an evening out in Rome all because annoyingly, I was too cheap to catch a later train back to Florence.
During the sprint across the city like a mad woman to catch my bus I gave up on forming a swath of Roman memories.
Are these two incidents regrets? I’m hesitant to categorize them as such; instead I’d rather think of them as important lessons.
Obliviousness happens. The “no regrets” thing isn’t a rule. It’s a warning to remember that missed chances occur, and the only safeguard is to be mindful of that knowledge.
Frank Sinatra, one of the masters of living, summed it up perfectly in his finely aged voice, “Regrets, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention.”
About the Author
Grace Kim is currently living out the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s song “That’s Life” and hoping to turn things around by July.