What I Have Done, and What I Have Failed to Do
"Regret sucks." Many have said it, and many believe it. More importantly, most of us can not seem to get rid of it.
I live with regret each day. Regret about what I have done. Regret about what I have failed to do. But you know the kind of regret that is most painful? The regret that comes from not even trying.
You can't fail unless you've tried to do something, and even if you find no ounce of success, that is not the worst thing to happen to you. With failure comes knowledge and experience. The worst feeling is to look back and realize that you put zero effort into something you wanted, but were too scared or self-conscious to go for it. It's like buying a writing notebook and never opening to the first page to put ink on the paper (which I have been guilty of). And there they sit: that blank notebook, and your story to tell. The divide between the two grows wider, bleaker, with each day that passes. Whatever your metaphor for regret is, you know too well that ache in your gut when you wonder "what could have been."
When I was 24, I completed my first book of poetry. I had just finished my Masters in Fine Arts degree from American University in Washington, D.C. I was all hopped up on pride and the glee that you get when you've completed a two-year mission to accomplish a goal. The ink was dry on the pages of that book, and I was ready to set out and change the world with my poetic verse. I was going to stay in D.C, teach creative writing, and spend my life writing the great American poems.
Yet, something was holding me back. Fear.
The Jason Martin of 17 years ago had no money (sinking all his pennies into school, and living in such an expensive city). But in reality, I could have survived. I simply let that be my excuse to go find a "real job" back home with my family in my hometown of Cincinnati, OH. That's what I did. I forfeited a path of uncertainty and doubt for a path that seemed more safe and familiar.
I do not regret where I am in my life today. Don't get me wrong.
But I do regret not even trying to forge a new path for myself. I wish I had embraced the mystery of it all, and overcome the idea of living on breadcrumbs. Instead, I'll never know what could have been.
My point here is to urge everyone to avoid as much regret as possible in your life. Seize the moments. Don't ignore the challenges that come with whatever new or different thing it is you are facing. Embrace those challenges as obstacles to overcome, not as boogeymen who are out to scare you.
Take a look at this video to learn what others have regretted in their lives. These are all things that hold us back from living our lives more fully.