The Regret of Responsible Choices


Regret is a funny concept. There’s short-term regret, which is just an after-feeling of changing your mind too late with no long-term consequences. There is long-term regret, which may haunt your life or at least highlight a memory that holds weight as a time when an alternate universe spun off with a different outcome that may have fundamentally changed things.

I try to regret as little as possible, part of my general habit of reasoning things through with my liberal sense of moral relativism. Reason, though, developed through rational thought processes, doesn’t always coincide with the socially constructed “responsible” choice. “Responsible” is what you’re expected to do, to take initiative in personal growth in line with social mores. But I’m getting a bit too deeply into deconstructing mode here. Let me fall back to earth here.

My only haunting long-term regret in life is dressing up in a costume for Halloween of 1994, when I could’ve just gone with the staples holding together a recent incision exposed. It was a very unique opportunity, a fortunate set of circumstances that could lead to a great story and pride. I was far too young to be expected to make a “responsible” choice, and perhaps I gave in too quickly to my parents trying to be “responsible” in preventing regret of going overboard on gore in the age range most sensitive to the development of self-esteem. There’s no benefit to dwell on missed opportunities, since I’m not absolutely miserable in desolate conditions. I’ll accept consequences and make the rational choice to stand by any other decisions that may or may not have been “responsible” over my lifetime.

But short-term regret abounds. Usually for me this is regretting what were “responsible” actions or decisions. Applying good judgment often passes off the opportunity for fun, and in other cases taking “responsibility” leads to duties that are carried out visible to other people. My loud mouth and hyperactive thought process puts me in tricky situations of leadership that requires “responsible” behaviour – seriousness that deep down I can’t take seriously.

Such a short-term regret came last night. I had an interview with a reporter for a university student newspaper, shared with someone who is also prone to leadership roles (but who actually enjoys responsibility). My tendency to have ideas and speak of those ideas means I will be quoted in a publication read by probably hundreds of people – and my photo was taken as well. Crap. I joked about intending to burn all paper copies of the issue in which this is published, but since it’s also put online I swore to burn down the entire internet. I will live through this period of micro-regret and recover within days of the story being published. The ongoing tendency to get myself trapped in leadership roles may result in a long-term regret. But at least it can never reach the magnitude of not going door-to-door with staples in my head.


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