I used to go around saying that I have no regrets at all. I would look at my life and say if I could go back to any particular moment in my past, I would make the same choices and go about life in the same exact way. It felt great to say that. No one likes to live with regrets.
I was in a delusion.
Once I began the journey of being true to myself, there was no way I could make those statements ever again. Now I look at my past and wish in my soul that I could start some things over again. I have deep regrets. I’ve learned, it’s an inevitable part of life.
It’s not that life is over, but I don’t like this. I don’t like that I made choices that I regret; choices that I would not make if I was given those same chances again. I even wrote a song last year as I started to reflect on this, called “Starting Over“. Since I had been in denial about my regrets for a long time, I didn’t realize the kind of response I would get from playing this song out at all my shows. It’s a deeply personal song, so in the beginning I hesitated a bit before playing it, but it’s been a source of mutual understanding with a lot of people so I continue to play it whenever I can. And interestingly (and surprisingly), of all the songs that I’ve written, I consistently receive the strongest reaction from men with this particular song. They seem to really identify with the sentiment of the song. I’ve grown to have a greater sense of compassion for guys from their response to this song. I can relate. I guess most people can.
The video below is a live version that I recorded in my room soon after I wrote the song. The version on my album is actually even more special to me because my late friend, Dan Cho, played incredibly beautiful cello lines on it. It was his very last studio recording before he died. I’ve put up an unreleased mix of the song here so you can listen to it.
Recently, I came across a blog post written by Bronnie Ware, a nurse who cared for the dying for many years. She wrote about common regrets that came up over and over again with her patients – regrets that people had in their deathbed. Before reading the post, and having my own assumptions about life and what it “should” be about, I expected the list to include something spiritual. Maybe, something along the lines of, I wish I had believed in God earlier. Or, I wish I had served God more. Instead, the list was extremely introspective. Actually, I was absolutely struck by how much I identified with the list. Now I see how deeply spiritual each of these sentiments are and how each reflect a common thread among human beings.
Here are the 5 most common regrets of the dying as told by Bronnie Ware:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. (most common)
- I wish I didn’t work so hard. (a regret of every male patient she had)
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
A few of these jumped out at me, but #1 definitely struck the deepest cord in my heart. I wonder what you identify with the most.
I know that I have a choice to make about my regrets. I can sulk and live defeated. Or I can use those experiences to live the life that I was created to live.
Life is a gift. Every day that we wake up, every moment that we can breathe in and out is another chance to try again.