Regret: Dr. Jerome Eckstein
I went to college in 1995, and I quickly developed a wonderful relationship with one of my professors, Dr. Jerome Eckstein. We came from completely different worlds and had completely different life paths, but there was such an overwhelming mutual respect, so much so that I eventually became his Teacher’s Assistant and later organized and spoke at his retirement dinner.
But life moves forward, and I later moved to Israel. Dr. Eckstein and I maintained a connection very briefly. It was 1997 and even though email did exist, my professor was a bit on the old school side. So, our only form of communication was good ole handwritten letters. They went on for a little while.
And then they stopped.
13 Years Later…
About 13 years later I found myself itching to regain a connection. I searched around the internet looking for some way of contacting my wonderful professor, and after I finally made some progress, I was devastated to not only find out he had passed away, but it was wasn’t much before I had tried to get in touch with him.
I was filled with all sorts of uncomfortable emotions. A deep sadness. Regret. Guilt.
Feelings like this have come and gone my entire life. When my grandmother left this world, I felt a tremendous pain because I didn’t spend nearly enough time with this remarkable woman. Honestly, it still stings. The pain is real, and even though it’s been over a decade, I’ve had a lot of trouble forgiving myself.
And the pain hasn’t fully faded.
Regret is a Useless Emotion
I’ve often said regret is a useless emotion. We all feel it, but what does it accomplish? Even anger, one of my least favorite and one of the most confusing emotions to me, seems to have its place more than regret. Regret to me seems like the ultimate “crying over spilled milk”. Why dwell on the past when the present is so in our faces and the future is right there waiting to pounce upon us?
We only get a few short years in this beautiful world. Why waste our days away with what could have been?
But perhaps regret has its place in this world. Maybe regret is a trigger.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop believing that regret in and of itself is not worth it, since an emotion that just results in sitting around upset about something you cannot change certainly has no place in my life. But what about the future? What if regret can be refocused and changed into the catalyst for personal change that will impact and influence a bigger and brighter future?
Regret as a Trigger
I picture a moment of sadness. A fleeting little incident of feeling bad about a lack in your life. Something you said or did. Something that didn’t quite happen the way you wanted it to. A moment that you should have jumped upon but for whatever reason you stalled and missed an opportunity. We all have times where we could have done something better, said something more sympathetic or intelligent, stalled trying to catch the bus only to see it zooming on by.
And we’re sad, angry, frustrated. Nothing we can do.
At least at the moment.
But then what? Do we choose to dwell? Do we have trouble sleeping that night stressing over what could have been?
Only a Moment of Regret
I say cry for a moment, ever so briefly. Then cast any and all regret to the floor. Stand up. Brush the dust off your shoulders. Reevaluate. Take any pain you may have been feeling, and turn it into energy to fuel the desire to do things better the next time around.
Regret is in fact only a useless emotion in that most of the world uses it to slow down progress rather than to improve themselves. Regret serves as a way to find more excuses to be sad, rather than a useful tool to propel each of us to ensure a brighter and happier future.
My past has held me back long enough. Sure, I’ve made mistakes. And I will continue to do so. I will err until the day I die. But I am done watching as past mistakes hold me back and weigh me down.
I am deeply saddened about those who I didn’t spend enough time with while I had the chance. But I’m so glad it has given me the perspective to look at the wonderful and amazing people currently in my life and to try and appreciate them that much more. I am ecstatic that maybe my moments of regret will push me toward a life where there will be fewer and fewer things I would even consider regretting.
I am deeply saddened by those moments throughout the years where there were opportunities passed up and lost forever. However, I am overjoyed at the opportunity to learn from my mistakes. I am so happy that with each moment of looking back with even the slightest biting feeling of regret that I can now choose to make better, more well-informed decisions.
We should all be blessed so that our every negative can be turned around, so that our decisions can be intelligent and thorough, and we don’t need to be concerned that our past will interfere with our future. Rather, our past will help ensure a better future for us all.