Today’s lesson: nobody cares about your regrets.
Maybe you feel you’ve wasted too much time in your life. Not lived up to your potential. Squandered your potential talents. Frittered away your opportunities to leave your mark on the world.
One of my favorite characters in one of my favorite movies is often quoted as saying, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars…but we won’t.”
Maybe you feel Tyler Durden is talking about you right there.
Do you have regrets? Thoughts that keep you up at night, to the tune of, “I could’ve been…”, “I could’ve done…”, “If only I’d…”? Fantasies of a different life, the life that might have happened had you just, you know, gotten your shit together, gotten off your ass, stayed the course, buckled down, found your focus? Do you have your late-night list of “By now, I could be/do/have (fill in the blank)”s?
Guess what? No one cares.
Except you, I mean. Of course you care.
No? You’re going to argue with me on this one?
You’re going to say that you’re beyond all that, that even if you have those thoughts in the middle of the night, you’re a grown up, you’ve moved past it, life is what it is, you’re not haunted by all those minutes having tick, tick, ticked by, all those opportunities that’ve slipped through your fingers? That somewhere, in the back of your mind, you’re not haunted by those third grade fantasies of being an astronaut, a world champion, president of the United States, king of the world?
Well, maybe you’ve moved past those third grade fantasies, I’ll give you that. But you’re haunted, all right. Almost no one, myself included, is immune to the kinds of thoughts I’m talking about here.
“I’ve wasted so much time, it’d look pathetic if I started now.”
“I could’ve done that when I was younger, but now I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
“You can’t date at my age, it’s either happened for you by now or it hasn’t.”
Go ahead. Deny it in the front of your brain, if you must. But you know somewhere right now your stomach is tightening into just a little bit of a knot. You know that somewhere you can start to feel just that little twitch, right at the corner of your eye, that is the first indication that a tear might be trying to form.
Let me tell you something– again– about those regrets: no one cares.
To quote one of my favorite television characters, “The universe is indifferent.”
(I assure you, Don Draper was absolutely talking about you when he said that.)
There is no one, at least no one who matters, patrolling your current-day behavior to make sure you’re not “pathetic.” There is no one who matters tsk-tsking you for trying to do something that might usually be attempted by someone younger than you.
Oh, sure, there might be people out there judging you. But they’re not judging you because they care. They’re judging you because that’s what a certain type of person does. Believe me when I say that their activity of judging you is but a drop in a huge, heavy bucket of judgment they lug around with them all day long. They may judge you, but they don’t devote any more thought to you than a traffic camera does to the dozens and dozens and dozens of cars that zoom by it every day. They don’t give a shit.
More to the point, they don’t have to live with the ongoing consequences of your refusal to act. They don’t have to stay up at night as you think those thoughts. They’re not stakeholders in your life and happiness.
That’s all on you.
Your regrets simply don’t matter. If we had a time machine, they might. But, barring Doc Brown appearing in a DeLorean (and if he does so appear, I preemptively offer my sincerest apologies), they simply don’t matter.
All they can do is keep you from doing something potentially good now. Here, in this moment. You know, this moment? The only moment in which you have any kind of ability to affect anything?
The past doesn’t give a shit. Time doesn’t give a shit. The universe doesn’t give a shit. Your abusers don’t give a shit. Your exes don’t give a shit.
You henceforth have my permission to stop pretending that they do.
C’mon. Take a deep breath. You remember how.
Now. Let’s go start the rest of your life. Right. Fucking. Now.
That’s it for today, kids. See you on Tuesday.
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