Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

I remember hearing this song for the first time in my high school French class and it’s a song that has stayed with me for probably a decade since.

As I write this, I wonder if I have any regrets. That may be an odd thing to say – presumably, you’d know if you had any major regrets or not – but my confusion comes from my hesitance to trust my first response. When I first encounter this idea, I immediately react in agreement with the song: “No, I don’t regret anything!” But when I pause for a moment, I’m forced to ask myself, “Am I just lying because I know I shouldn’t regret anything? Do I actually have regrets?”

It’s a weird question to ask myself, I know.

Here, though, I think my initial reaction is true. I don’t regret anything. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about things. In fact, it’s that thinking that initially makes me hesitate to answer the question. There are certainly things in my life worth regretting: relationships with men, my academic performance, how I’ve navigated friendships. Those are the things I think about when I wonder whether or not I do have regrets. But when I really think back on those topics, I realize that they weren’t all bad.

Now, I’m not making the argument that you shouldn’t have regrets because every experience is a learning experience. That may be true, but I don’t know how inclined I am to agree with that statement at this point in my life. Some things don’t have to be experientially learned. Sometimes you should just make good decisions. No, my argument is different. Because when I think about all of my failed encounters with men I remember that they failed because I was focused on other, at times more important, things. When I look back on my academic performance in college, I remember that I didn’t spend additional hours on papers because I wanted to spend additional hours with people. And when I think about some poor friendship decisions, I remember that, in the grand scheme of things, they weren’t always all that poor.

The final thing is what I want to talk more about.

I’d be a horribly ineffectual liar if I said I don’t think about the impact of ending a friendship that, at one point, was one of the most important relationships in my life. I’d be lying if I said I never wonder what would happen if I were to revisit it. But I’d also be dishonest if I didn’t admit that those moments usually come when I’m feeling lonely, sad, or selfish.

The other day, I was thinking about loving people badly. How I’ve spent so much of my time looking for someone to love me well, that I do them a huge disservice in the end. That, sometimes, the best way to show your love for someone doesn’t include your continued presence in their life. I’ve had to learn that a few times already this year (admittedly, I’m not a good learner. I’m learning all of this very slowly. Like, right now, I’m in the midst of very-slowly-learning this). It hasn’t been easy to learn. And maybe it’s something I won’t fully learn ever. Because sometimes I’m selfish. And sometimes I seek the most immediate medicine to deal with my human condition. Because it’s not fun to feel lonely, or invisible, or misunderstood. But it’s also not cool to enter and exit people’s lives, wreaking new havoc with every appearance, all in any attempt to heal thyself. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m the only 20-something in the world to ever make bad decisions, end friendships, and feel sad. In fact, I’ve been under the impression that this is everyone’s 20s (amirite? Please tell me I’m right. It would be so utterly devastating to realize I’m one of few people in the world who makes such consistently disturbingly bad decisions. Seriously. Comment if I’m wrong). Still, knowing that lots of people mess up like I do doesn’t make me feel so great about my mess-ups. It just makes me wonder why I can’t love people better.

Still, I think I love my best friend enough not to reintroduce her to the relational roller-coaster that can be my friendship.

There’s pain in saying that – a pain that will certainly dull as time passes – but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

No, I don’t regret anything.


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