The title is not really accurate, but more accurate would have been a paragraph, so, I am going with it.
When I decided to do the regrets posts, this is one of the first items I considered posting about. It has been the hardest one to get started on too. It is quite different than the others, but also more significant. For what it is worth, this will be best read completely, and dispassionately, I think.
I am glad it has taken me so long to get around to writing this post though, as recent pondering about it, and new information has helped shape and give names to some of my thoughts on this subject.
a decade ago, I was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. I managed it - or thought I did - for several years using cognitive behavioral therapy, but for one reason or another, the problem morphed from an emotional one (which I was reasonably managing) to a physical one (initially misdiagnosed as Crohn's disease. My but the human body is a fascinating machine...).
Retrospectively as I have considered this experience, I have come to realize this particular malady has been with me for much longer. Probably from my childhood.
In looking back now, I have come to realize that as I was going through life, I was plagued by an insatiable need to be.... not just accepted by everyone, but admired.. adored... by everyone.
I think Tyler Whitesides gets some credit for this realization on my part. His book series, Janitors - the First book - has a part where a Girl Named Daisy calls Spencer (The story's protagonist) a Chameleon. She explains it is because he changes his skin in order to be accepted by who he is with. It was not meant as a compliment. And when I read it, I inwardly to issue with it. I had always been proud of the fact that I was something of a Chameleon- that I could get along with almost any group.
That gnawed at me for a few years, and more recently, I began to connect the dots. Yes, I was able to get along with most any group, clique, gang, organization, etc... I was casual friends with most everyone.
But I was also, almost always... lonely.
After I returned from my mission, I desperately wanted to get married and do the fairy tale, happily ever after thing. But I couldn't. I would date every now and again, but somehow I would make a mess of it. If a girl expressed an interest in me, I withdrew. If they weren't interested, I would borderline obsess with trying to get them to like me. I did and said countless stupid things then, and therein lies the regret. Decades later, I still stew over those incidents - the hurtful things I said, and did (or didn't).
I regret the hurt I caused.
years later, looking back, and understanding my anxiety disorder, It begins to make sense now. You see, it is impossible to be universally adored. Sooner or later, you will make a mistake. Sooner or later you will wear the wrong skin in front of the wrong group. Sooner or later, no matter how hard you try, people will discover that you are imperfect. So, I subconsciously sabotaged any burgeoning relationship in order to protect my facade.
If I could go back in time....
If I could go back in time...
I wouldn't change it.
Yes, I feel regret. I feel gnawing regret for the hurt caused, or imagine I caused (reality is those people likely no longer remember who I am, much less what I did).
Yes, I wish there was a way to take that back, or at least properly apologize. But I still wouldn't change it. You see, those experiences, though they have caused me a great deal of pain... have helped to shape me. To mold my character. Those experiences have help me to be more empathetic, more compassionate, all that skin changing has allowed me to see through other's eyes, to see other perspectives. I have gleaned so much from those experiences.
And ultimately, those many years of shaping, molding experiences brought me to the point I am today, Happily married to an amazing woman, The father of four amazing children who I adore and who are absolutely delightful to see grow up. Those experiences, in spite of the regrets, are simply worth too much to change.
And that is why this particular regret is unique. Yes, there is very real regret, yes, there are some things I wish could have happened differently, but not at the expense of what was gained. Sometimes, you can have a regret that you wouldn't, shouldn't change.