Arthur Miller, American playwright, essayist, and prominent figure in twentieth-century American theatre, was once quoted saying:
“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”
Now when I first came across the quote, I really didn’t get it. The “right regrets”? It seemed Miller was trying to put a positive spin on the whole concept of regret, but how could you? How could there be anything good about regret? When has anyone looked back on their life when in their later years, realized all the things they missed out on and the regrets they have because of them, and was overjoyed?
It was a bit of a premature verdict on my part though, so I sat down and gave it some thought. I knew that no matter what we do in life, we’re all to deal with at least a regret in our lives; it’s that “death and taxes” kind of inescapable reality (unless you plan on living off the grid in a log cabin in the middle of Siberia and encapsulating yourself in a giant block of ice for hundreds of years).
But it’s just that, isn’t it? The fact that regret is in fact a natural part of life. We all make mistakes, some a lot bigger and more life-altering than others. You’ll be disappointed in yourself and maybe sink into the quicksand that is self-pity. No one perfectly calculates every risk they take, no one flies through life without a single error or hesitation. We falter, we fail, yet life goes on.
So I think what Miller’s saying here is that we should aim to leave this planet with the regrets we can accept. And I think the regrets that are easiest to swallow are the ones in which we learn something from. We hesitate and an opportunity blows past us, or we take a risk and it blows up in our face, but instead of letting it haunt us, we chalk it up as a learning experience and move on. In a way he’s saying that no matter what we decide to do, no matter how much we plan, there’ll always be some unpleasant moments that we’d rather forget about. So instead of worrying about them, laugh them off and choose to learn something from them instead.
That’s just my opinion though. As with my first post where I discussed a quote from Victor Hugo and his thoughts on adversity and prosperity, I’d love to hear your guys’ take on Miller’s quote.
What do you think? Is there such a thing as the “right regrets” in life?