One of the things we could do very well without is regrets.
Sometimes I find people agonising over choices they’ve made. What if I’d done something differently? Would I have gotten that job, or publication, or car, or love? They can get really upset about things they can’t change anymore anyway.
I find these kind of thoughts destructive. What I believe, is that at the time you made that decision, you made it with the knowledge available to you at that moment. And you genuinely believed it was the best option you had. In hindsight, you may think you should’ve made a different choice, but by doing so you are forgetting the limitedness of the knowledge you had back then.
I went to play paintball this Sunday. Was a lot of fun really. But at some point, I thought I could be a hero and conquer a hut on my own. As far as I could tell, there was only one person defending it who had not seen me and had his back to me. This was my moment to try for eternal glory! I scrambled from behind my cover, made a mad run towards the hut and was already starting to celebrate reaching the hut unharmed. To be mercilessly thwarted by a puddle of mud. My ankle twisted away beneath me and as a result I hit the doorway with my shin. But I still thought I made it and didn’t even feel my ankle. To be shot in the leg by a person hiding behind the hut and having to admit defeat before limping off. Defeated.
Now I feel stupid because I am going on holidays this Thursday. With an ankle twice its normal size and bruises all over. But would it really make me feel any better, to go calling myself names and regretting what I’ve done? Or is it also OK to say okay, I’ll have to live with the consequences now, which is going sight-seeing on holidays at only half-pace and scrambling over rocks on all fours? And still relish the moment where I thought I was going to be a hero? That blissful moment of ignorance, not seeing the danger in a puddle of mud and a hidden person behind a hut, that moment of thinking I can do it.
Of course, this was only a game and holidays is hardly a matter of life and death either, but I think it holds true for most decisions you make in life. Looking back at the year and a half in Oxford, I’m pretty sure I’d make a different choice if I could make it again. I would not join this lab. But that choice is past now so it doesn’t do to dwell on what if’s and regrets. Instead, I’d rather remember the elated feeling of knowing I’m coming to Oxford and try to be better informed before making future choices. Try to see that puddle of mud and hiding person before jumping in…