I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
When I read how people claim to have no regrets, I always sigh and shake my head a bit. Sure, it sounds like a romantic notion, and yeah, I get it – we want to believe that all of our actions had a purpose and lead us to where we are today. That who we are right now is a collection of our actions and reactions to what life has set in front of us. But that couldn’t be more naive and short-sighted.
I would like to think I’m a pretty decent person. I treat people well. I say please and thank you and excuse me and I am not unjustifiably cruel to servers or homeless people. I tell my mother I love her and when I raise my voice at my cats I immediately apologize afterward. And if I was to take a step back and give my character a good once over, I’m pretty sure I might be relatively okay with what I see. But I could be better. I could have treated people differently. I could have given more respect to the time and love and care people have invested. Basically, I could have been a better person. I am fully aware of my potential and my ability for compassion and understanding and I could have loved harder and let people go when it was time. Instead, I over-stayed relationships, I cheated on women, and I went years without telling my mother I loved her. And yes, I still carry that planet of regret around with me. But I am doing my best to make up for my faults and indiscretions by apologizing and moving forward and away from selfish behaviors. I just wish I could have done that sooner. Because while I was taking my sweet time, I damaged countless wonderful humans along the way.
I guess that is one of the negative side-effects of growing up, you know? Being able to see your selfish and youthful indiscretions with that uncomfortable clarity. And I still spend the occasional night lying in bed thinking of sending out emails apologizing to the people I have hurt. But the truth is, I can’t fix what I have broken. All I can do is move forward and do my best to remember the lesson.
We all evolve at different rates. Unfortunately, most people will never get to the point we know they can. We fall in love with wonderful people who can become great and amazing human beings but so many people fall short of our expectations – because we fell in love with their potential. And we can’t help it. We can’t help but fall in love with the light inside of a damaged person and we want to be the person to help them see it. I have spent years doing whatever I can to help someone I loved see the truly marvelous woman I knew they were. But what my idealism prevented me from seeing is how strong abuse, anxiety, and terrible parenting are when looking into a mirror. All I ever wanted was to be their coach. Never their savior. I wanted them to wake up one morning and say, “I can do whatever I want and I have goals and while life might serve me some shit sandwiches, I’m going to eat them and smile because I am stronger and smarter than any of your realize.” Because nothing makes us happier than seeing the person we love discover their strength, talents and value.
And sometimes it takes years to realize that we were the ones being coached all along. That there was an admirable person in our past who did their best to help us see what they saw. And they listened to our stories, and they gave us subtle insight, and opinions, and guidance, and they tried loving away our pain. There was a person out there that saw our light and believed in it more than we were capable of understanding. And sometimes we took advantage of that person. We took their mere presence for granted. We grew familiar with their words and their affection and their support and we didn’t treat it with the recognition it deserved. I was careless with the faith and time and investment of their love. So yes, I regret plenty.
Sure, I have learned plenty of hard lessons from my thoughtless behavior. I just wish I would have made them years ago. I can’t even imagine how many relationships I could have saved or women I could have made happy had I learned from the first mistake. Take advantage of someone once, learn the lesson. Doing it twice only shows how intentionally selfish you are. And I did my share of damage. I ruined the trust, confidence, and faith of so many good women. And they didn’t deserve that because I should have learned those lessons years ago. I should have known what my actions would do to them. Truth is, I did know. I knew all along that my shitty behavior was shitty but I continued to be selfish, greedy, and cruel.
Look, it doesn’t take a genius to be respectful. While we are all clumsy in our own right, we all know the difference between right and wrong. The only thing that sets us apart is our decision to be shitty or suppress our shitty behavior. And some of us learn the lesson early on. Some of us learn the lesson early on and continue because we are selfish, egotistical, or spiteful. And some of us simply never learn because we are too narcissistic to know any better.
But regardless of where we learn the lesson, the one thing that separates us from them is how we move forward. Because it’s not about what you’ve done, it’s about what you’re doing. And we need to ask ourselves if we need the coach or we can be the coach. Because what makes up our character is how we handle the faith, trust, and love of the people who believe in our light.
And that is how we begin to erase the regrets of our past.