Is It Possible to Live Without Regrets?



As I creep into midlife, I’ve pondered the word regret. We hear it all of the time throughout our life, “If you don’t move forward with this plan, you might regret it,” or “Don’t do something you may regret,” or even a simple “No regrets.” But what does the word regret mean in the context of your life? Sinking into this word is more complicated as the days turn into months and you sink into your late thirties and forties. Is it possible to live without regrets and seize every moment of our days?

My first meeting with “Carpe Diem” was when I was a sophomore in English class. It was a novel phrase when I was introduced to it, almost twenty years ago, the idea that we should all live our life by “seizing the day.” The popular aphorism, at least for me, gained momentum when I watched Robert William’s character in Dead Poet’s Society and remember the speech where he says “Carpe Diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

What does seizing the day exactly mean? And how do you build the everyday into a lifetime of having no regrets? Is it even possible to live a life without no regrets? I am not really certain I have an exact answer to this question. In writing this post, I decided to list out my regrets. Although the list wasn’t acres long, it wasn’t short either. The regrets moved from the general to the specific to the microscopic. But they were there, staring, making eyes at me.

I think we’ve all had moments of words we want to take back or pathways we wished we had taken or not taken or advocated for different actions in our personal or professional relationships. These “regrets” are what shape us and in a larger sense and are a part of how we progress as individuals. Implicit in having no regrets is the idea that every word, every action, every step you took was perfect. And I think that is an idealistic and unrealistic viewpoint.

I’ve been struggling with this notion that the present is where existence lives, chanting to myself, now, not the past, but now. Part of me is mad at myself for not really adopting this philosophy to the fullest, because it is the one that would allow me to at least have a shot at living a life without no regrets. But I’ve realized, by looking at my list, that I’ve come to terms with some of those regrets. I’m not someone who can casually utter the phrase, “No regrets.” To be frank, I’m not quite sure what people mean when they say it. I’ve concluded their definition of regrets and mine might differ.

The regrets I can live with. You know why? For me, it means examining my life, my choices, and my relationships. It’s more important to me to have examined life, than the life without no regrets.

What do you think of the phrase “No regrets”? Do you think it is possible to live a regret free life? Do you seize the day? What does that mean to you?

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Rudri Patel
Rudri Bhatt Patel is a former attorney turned freelancer writer. Prior to attending law school, she graduated with an M.A. in English with an emphasis in creative writing. She is the managing editor for The First Day and her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, The Review, Review Role, Reboot, The Mid and elsewhere. She writes her personal musings on her blog, Being Rudri, and is currently working on a memoir that explores Hindu culture, grief and appreciating life’s ordinary graces. She enjoys reading, writing and running. Rudri has lived in the Valley since 2009 with her husband and daughter (9). You can find Rudri on Twitter, Facebook and Being Rudri.