Regrets, regrettably, are a part of life. If you don’t have regrets, you’re likely not paying close enough attention. That said, at the very least, regrets are learning opportunities. They are a chance to recognize a past wrong and make it right.
For eight years, I existed in Washington, DC. I say “existed” because what I was doing was assuredly not living. I had few friends or connections. I buried myself in work and a half-hearted attempt at a marriage.
Each day was the same churn of long commute, long work day and too little sleep. The whole thing was mind numbing … which is precisely what I wanted. I was hiding.
I realized there was something different about me from the time I was 18. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why boys didn’t interest me the way they did my other female friends. I chose to believe I was this way merely because I was too focused on school and rowing.
Even then, I was turning a blind eye to reality. It would be 14 long years before I could admit to myself I was gay. It would be another three before I could admit it to my then husband and family.
I regret being so naive as to dismiss what was so plainly before me. I regret denying who I was because I was afraid of what others would think. I regret choosing to be miserable for so long.
Mostly, I regret the pain I caused my ex-husband and his daughter.
When I moved back to Missouri in 2006, things snapped into place in my brain. I realized I had to do the right thing and start being who I was rather than who the world expected me to be. It was painful and hard, like most life lessons.
I finally told myself, my husband and family the truth. While it was terrifying, it was also freeing. For the first time in my adult life I felt unburdened. I started sleeping full nights for the first time in three years.
As I made peace with myself, I also made peace with my ex-husband. After our divorce, he gave me a bracelet for Christmas that reads, “To thine own self be true.” I cried when I found it on the nightstand. I was relieved and grateful he realized my struggle.
I regret not getting to know who I really was until I was 35 years old. However, I decidedly don’t regret finally taking the step in that direction. The person beneath that numbing professional drive and extreme capacity for self-denial is far more interesting, compassionate and fun. She has friends and is connected to her community.
Most importantly, she’s learned from her regrets and beginning to learn to avoid most of them in the first place.