A couple of days ago I went to brunch for my birthday with a dear friend that I have known since college. As we were walking back to her house, she says, “If I could go back in time and give myself advice, I know exactly when I’d go.” This is probably something that we have all thought about. I know exactly what time I would go back to, and I know exactly what I’d tell myself. For many years, I had only one time. I made a huge mistake in 2001 that jeopardized my relationship with my friends and family and ruptured my faith in myself. If I could go back and correct it, I would jump at the opportunity.
Since 2001, my list of regrettable events has slowly grown. I haven’t made the same mistake, nor any quite as severe, but gradually, the blunders have stacked up. They have become blemishes on my life that I sincerely wished to erase.
Later that evening, as I was driving from Los Angeles back to San Diego, I listened to a TED Radio Hour podcast. Low and behold, it was about regret: what is regret; why we regret; the effect of regret on the psyche, etc. So much of the talk was about learning from our past and forgiving ourselves for our mistakes. It rang with the hope that one day the pangs of guilt and the aches of sadness will subside.
One thing I hadn’t really considered, though, was using my own regretful situations as inspiration for my writing. Sure, we all make mistakes and we mostly write from our own experiences. But what about writing about the doozies. The huge mistakes. The life-changing, fear-inspiring, heart-aching foul ups? What about telling stories about the things that we really never want to think about, let alone speak about? Could I potentially immortalize an event that has taken years of therapy to process?
It seems a daunting task, and if I’m honest, I’m not sure that I will. However, writing about it, even fictionally, may be rewarding in some way. This thing that took over my life for a while could actually serve some positive, productive purpose. It may bring usefulness and meaning to a time that feels hollow. It could erase, or at the very least, ease my regret. Somehow facing my gloomy past could turn me into a better writer – a courageous storyteller.
Now that is something to consider.