They say there's no point in regretting anything, because every decision you make is based on who you are at the time – so if you went back, you'd just do the same things all over again.
All the same, I have a few regrets.
I regret not taking the opportunity to learn a foreign language to a fluent standard. At various times during my school years I learned French, German and Italian, but none of them well enough to be able to hold a conversation with a native speaker. And since I always feel awkward about going to a country where I can't make some effort to speak the language, vast swathes of the globe are off limits to me. I realise I could still learn now, but my life is full enough as it is. So I wish I'd made more of an effort when I had the chance.
On a similar note, I regret letting some of my hobbies slide. I used to be a reasonable pianist. I used to be quite a good archer. I even used to be an enthusiastic, if not brilliant, dancer. But over the years, I've chosen to focus more and more of my spare time on writing – and now if I went back to those interests, it would be like starting from scratch.
And if I look at my life more generally, there's more. I regret every time I had the chance to do something new and backed out of it, whether through fear or laziness. I regret all the moments I spent fretting about what people would think instead of following my heart. I regret the paths I left untravelled, the half-open doors I turned away from, the invitations I ignored.
Most of all – and this is hard for me to write – I regret not spending more time with my father before he died. We'd never been very close, but once I knew what was coming, I should have made the effort to remedy that situation. I should have crossed the gap between us. But I didn't. And that's the one that lingers like a thorn in my heart. Because the trouble with regret is, by definition, you only recognise it in retrospect. And as the cartoon up there suggests, it's always what you didn't do that hurts much more than what you did.