Arthur Miller once wrote, “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”
But what are the right regrets? Are regrets a wasted energy, or a driving force towards new and better opportunities? Do you channel your regrets or wallow in self-doubt as a result of past errors? How have your regrets shaped you?
For various reasons, few I actually remember, I dropped out of school when I turned 17.
After dropping out, I went off to study hospitality and ventured into a haze of years that were indeed the best of times, the worst of times, and mostly drunken times.
During that era, I often swore I’d never drink again and would learn from my beer swilling, table dancing, karaoke-warbling mistakes.
After a few years of good laughs and ridiculous behaviour, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t at least try to better myself educationally.
At 23, I sat the STAT test and commenced a degree in Secondary Education as a ‘mature’ age student, although at the time I was not the least bit mature.
The degree was a struggle, mainly because I hadn’t attempted year 12. Essays, deadlines, referencing and research skills were foreign concepts to me.
But I persevered and completed my degree, earning a qualification in teaching and a career where I learned so much from my incredible students, ranging from elite private school kids to young offenders in the state’s juvenile centres.
I’ll let you in on a little secret though; as much as I loved teaching some of the loveliest, funniest, brightest, toughest and most entertaining teenagers in South Australia, I always wanted to be a journalist.
Last summer, I walked past a nursing home at Glenelg.
I mused about the residents, sitting in the sun, seeing out their last days. But then I wondered – what would I regret if it were me inside those walls, seeing out the rest of my life?
Would I be happy with how I’d lived my life and the choices I’d made?
So here I am, back at uni, studying a post graduate in journalism.
Starting again a decade later hasn’t been easy, but I’m studying with some of the loveliest, funniest, brightest, toughest and most entertaining adults at UniSA, and loving every moment of it.
I spoke with some UniSA students about regret.
Occupational therapy student Clare said, “My regrets are mostly things I’ve said or done which caused me to lose friendships and relationships. Sometimes, you don’t realise the effect words have until it’s too late.”
Alyssa, ironically studying a Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery, said she regrets pushing a kid off the playground when she was in kindy, but assured me she stopped listening to her evil conscience and now tries to be nice to everyone.
Fellow postgraduate journalism student Josh said, “Everyone makes mistakes, but I don’t believe in living a life of regret. People who dwell on things get miserable because they can’t move past something and it’s better to just get over it.”
But regret can have more serious consequences too, as Clare explained: “My biggest regret is wasting time holding grudges. My wakeup call was when I realised I had been missing out on seeing my little sister grow up (because of a grudge). But the best way for me to cope was to get everything out in the open and work through it.”
Regret can make you stronger, more self-aware or shape the way you are; it’s the desire to avoid regret that motivates me.
Cringe-worthy moments I might like to strike from the record, however, include spectacularly falling down the stairs at the launch party of a new club in Adelaide, being completely football illiterate and asking Gavin Wanganeen oval-side if he knew much about the game (in my defence I was merely trying to flirt, I had no idea who he was), and rolling a golf buggy at a posh Queensland driving range.
I’m not sure if these are the regrets Arthur Miller spoke of, but if I can look back and laugh at silly things I’ve done, then when I get to that nursing home in Glenelg I’ll at least have plenty to entertain my fellow geriatrics with.