How do you deal with regret?
Not the pestering little kinds, hanging on like forlorn strings from forgotten corners of your life. Those you can just cut off with the flick of a memory knife. Those ghosts have been exorcised long ago.
I'm talking the ONE BIG REGRET OF MY LIFE kind of regret. Which fills out all the hollows of your body with its bitter bile and clouds all mention of anybody else's fulfilment with tear-laden envy. The kind which makes your lips turn down like pie gone sour, like a baby denied a lollipop. "Wahhhh," the baby cries. "I wanted that lollipop!" It never ends. That kind of regret.
For me it was an American graduation. (Due to a three-year Indian graduation, I'd have to do a year more and then two more of a Master's degree, to have an American graduation.) I was offered three years of a dreamed American college life on one hand, and a reluctant marriage on the other. I was 20. Blindfolded, I reached out to pick my fortune. And voila. I was 30 and separated with two kids. With American college life now only a possibility for the next generation. If their mother manages to save anything till then on her single income.
Then, after four years of growing up and growing out and growing in, I thought today: Why ever not? I will have that American graduation. Some day. Who knows, I may just join the kids when it's their turn. I'll save for three graduations, not just two (these girls will have to do without the big fat Indian wedding though; prospective sons-in-law, beware). We'll stay in an apartment together to save on dorm fees. I'll do psychology. Psychotherapy. Diplomacy and international relations. Sociology. Anthropology. I don't know... the Vedas.
And it will be just like in the brochures. Autumn leaves falling on a lush green lawn, an old wise building smiling benevolently behind me as I sit on wizened old steps reading big books full of big words and bigger sentences. The young students will mistakenly address me as professor. My daughters will roll their eyes and avoid me like they do already. I'll freelance to get us through the financials.
My memory won't be as sharp as it would have been at 20. But my experience, passion and dedication will cover up for it. I'll sail through my exams. The kids will be proud of me, though they'll still roll their eyes when I throw my hat into the air during my graduation ceremony.
And by then I'll be a famous editor and author, and media organisations will jump over themselves offering me positions. I'll never have to worry about money for the rest of my life. I'll have a beautiful home and I'll travel first class around the world. I'll still discourage the big fat Indian weddings though, out of principle, you know. It will be a fulfilled ending after all.
There you see. That's what you do with regret, THE ONE BIG REGRET OF MY LIFE kind. You turn it on its plump derriere into a desire, a dream, a goal. So that it starts reading THE ONE BIG LIFE OF MY REGRET and fills up all the hollows of your body with roaring, fiery blood, and clouds all visions with an adrenaline rush the size of a bungee jump. And you never want it to end. That kind of life.
Bring it on, I say.