People have regrets. We all do. Maybe they’re not big ones. Maybe they don’t affect our quality of life, or keep us up at night, but they’re there. Unless you have lived a flawless and perfect life, there are mistakes you have made along the way. And I suppose what makes a mistake into a regret, is the length of time you spend thinking about it. I have several “regrets” in my life, but I can very easily pinpoint the first one to ever keep me kicking myself about it years later.
I was in seventh grade. Lunch was ending and I was on my way to class. The bell rang, the halls flooded with kids almost immediately, and in the hustle and bustle of the crowd, I dropped my English book. I can still see it sitting there against the opposite wall while dozens of kids knocked into me and squeezed past on their way to class. The river of people was impenetrable, and I didn’t want to be late to my next class, which was all the way on the other side of the school. It was hard enough to make it to that class on time without any side quests, and making my way to the other side of the hallway seemed as easy as swimming the English channel. So I left it there.
I remember thinking to myself, I’ll come back and get it after class. I knew right where it was, and I was in a big hurry. But by the time I got out of class and made my way back toward the cafeteria, the book, of course, was gone. Being in seventh grade, and therefore having a brain that was temporarily closed for construction, I was completely shocked not to find my book there. Where did it go? Did someone take it? Why would anybody want my English book? This made no sense!
I never found the book, though I looked in lost and found, and asked at the office. I was too worried and embarrassed to ask my teacher about it, so for the rest of the year I looked on with friends, found the appropriate readings in the library, or just made my best guess when we had assignments that required the missing book. And then, as the final insult, during the last week of school we were asked to turn our books back in, or else we would be charged for them. And they were expensive.
Why?! I would scream to myself. Why didn’t I just pick up the book when I dropped it? What on Earth would possess me to just leave it in the middle of a hallway filled with rampaging teenagers? And I have to tell you, even to this day I can instantly transport myself back to that hallway, see the book sitting there on the floor amongst the rushing feet, and I wish I had just picked it up. I suffered through so much stress, worry, and angst over the next several months because of that one stupid decision. And so was born a regret.
Now, I have to tell you, losing that book was not the worst thing that I have ever done. It was not my stupidest decision by far, and the consequences were not as dire as other fates I have suffered at my own hands. But it was the first. When I was a kid, I didn’t worry so much about mistakes. I didn’t expect myself to be good at life, because I was a kid! Mistakes were part of learning. And they still are, but somehow, once puberty hit, I started worrying more about them. So I learned a lesson that day. And if I had a time machine and could go back and start fixing all of the dumb things I’ve done, that would be the first one. I would travel back to seventh grade and I would pick up that book.
Hey, wait… Maybe I did! Maybe, in the future, I somehow gain access to a time machine, go back, and get the book! That’s why it wasn’t in the hallway when I went back! That’s why no one could find it! Man. I need a better system of communication with my future selves. Where the heck did future me leave that thing…?