(NOTE: I consider myself a good writer, but good only gets better by practice. So I’ve signed up for the WordPress Everyday Inspiration schedule to prompt me to write something different every day. This is the result of today’s nudge.)

Regret is a word I avoided for a good long while. I convinced myself for years that I had no regrets, that if my choices had lead me to this moment than so be it, I wasn’t going to waste time and energy looking back at potential regrets.

But I was lying to myself and to others. Of course I had – and have – regrets. You live long enough and it’s inevitable. To try and convince anyone otherwise is to come off as self-centered at best and sociopathic at worst.

Regret, I realized, is part of the learning process. If you don’t feel regret, you won’t know to make different decisions at critical moments in the future. Not to say I’m the best at this, but it’s at least something I strive toward.

For too long I equated regret with shame. There were moments I’d look back on and say I felt regretful but what I was really feeling was shame or embarrassment. That’s not the same. Regret, to my understanding, is a missed chance. It’s a shot that wasn’t taken. It’s something that wasn’t said. Or it’s something that was said that didn’t need to be said. It’s not the moments that make still, decades later, make me feel flush and cause a twinge of emotional pain. It’s the ones that make me want to stomp my feet over just making a bad call.

“I regret…” was the hardest sentence I ever learned to say, because it caused me to isolate emotions I’ve never quite been in tune with. That’s hard. But it’s something I’ve come to embrace, however imperfectly, after a long journey working to avoid it.