As a 17-year-old, I sometimes wonder whether I have lived long enough to harbor real regrets.
Let’s put aside everything for a moment. Let’s put it all away and just look at ourselves. Can you remember what you were like as a kid? Maybe what you were like when you were 17, my age! Were you happy? Stressed? Well, it’s all in the past now, it doesn’t matter as much… or so we think.
Recently, one of my friends passed away; I wasn’t sure if I should talk about this because it still feels a bit odd to admit, but here I am. Looking back at all the time I spent with him feels surreal now, knowing that if I go back to school, I will never walk into a classroom and see him again. Or in the hallways where we, along with other friends, used to sprint to our next class, racing the bell. I think back to all the times in class where he would be the only person brave enough to answer difficult questions, draw hilarious cartoons on the whiteboard that made all of our friends laugh so much that we forgot how to breathe, and encourage me to speak up in class because he had more faith in my answers than I did. I also remember all the times where I would sulk and not talk to him and found it annoying when he would complain. Maybe it’s because his death was so sudden that I find myself wishing I had been a better friend. The longer I think about it, the more I regret it, and the more I regret it, the worse I feel.
I look around myself, at my parents, my classmates, my best friends, my family, and realize just how much I have taken for granted — how much better of a daughter, granddaughter, niece, or friend I could be. So no matter how regretful or sad I feel about losing my friend, to honor his memory, I can treat others around me better, knowing that every day with them is precious.
I genuinely believe that the reason we feel regret is because we don’t realize how quickly we change. Take a small plant for example. If you watch it every day for a week, you won’t realize how much it has grown, but if you look at it only once a week, the change becomes much more noticeable. We’re stuck with ourselves, so we don’t realize how much we change as people until we start to reflect on the past and harbor regrets. So I hope that people won’t look at regret as something to be avoided, but instead, as a symbol that they have grown.
But here’s my question. Why, as humans, do we need to go through trials of devastation or dissatisfaction to realize a mistake? Why did it take the death of my friend for me and my classmates to realize we all could have been better to each other? We constantly apologize to one-and-other and to ourselves, but we never truly fix our behavior until it’s too late for us to make amends. I realize that one of the solutions to this issue is to be grateful for what we have and be patient with ourselves while we go through trials in life in an attempt to learn from our mistakes. I wish that as a society, we would look back at history and learn from the mistakes that past humans made and make a united effort to prevent those same mistakes and consequences from repeating.
Regret isn’t something to shy away from; I believe that regret should be embraced because it makes us stronger and reminds us that we have improved as people. It is one of the most powerful intangible forces that a human can feel because it allows us to alter the way we think and behave. So I hope that your regrets don’t weigh you down, and instead, you realize how far you have come and how much more there is for you to learn and become.