Essays

Regretful Malaise

I hugged my old friend and walked out of her apartment with no hesitation. After a moment, I was filled with this feeling that I can only call regretful malaise. I wasn’t sad, because she hadn’t died. I wasn’t truly regretful, because I enjoyed our time together. I don’t really get what it is, but I get it every time a good friend moves away, an old friend visits and then leaves, or every time I go back to my home town. I never get it at the Shell station around the corner from my apartment, though. Must be a regret-free zone or something.

As I was pondering this feeling, I came to the conclusion that regret is one of the key feelings that make us human. I cannot see inside their minds, but it seems that animals do not share this emotion with humans. A herd of deer may be attacked by another animal (whatever it is that attacks deer obviously, other than us) and lose a couple kids, but you don’t seem to notice a regret of the ones lost, but rather a choice to save the others and move on. My cats react to my raised voice when they get up on the counter, but I don’t see them beating themselves up later about their poor decision.

The feeling itself for me tends to spring from strong memory connection. When I go back to my home town, I get the regretful malaise because I have such an intense amount of memories stemming anywhere from my old room, to the store downtown that ended up changing to six different restaurants before I even left. I’m always curious to go see what it is now. It used to be something when I was there, now it no longer is. There’s a house around the corner from my parents’ house (which I used to refer to as “my house”) that is sitting in what used to be woods, and directly on top of where I built a fort once, with four friends who I have not talked to in years, and have no place in my life anymore. Something that once was is no longer. Thus stems the regretful malaise. Not regret, nor sadness, but a general malaise.

Now I’ve heard the phrase “Live life with no regret” or someone saying “I have no regrets.” It seems like a lot of people don’t want to have any regret, but it occured to me that life without regret means you either didn’t take enough chances, or nothing meant anything to you. If I look back at my life and I feel no regret for decisions I never made, that means I didn’t take enough chances. However, if I look back and have no regret for some of the decisions that I made, that means the things I had to let go to follow those decisions meant nothing to me. So instead of living a life with no regret, I would rather look back on a life full of regret. After all, it is one of the feelings that makes me a human being.

So instead of feeling sorry for myself when I have these feelings, I try to remember that there’s something deeper to all of this, and obviously there is meaning to my life, or I would have no regret. The hardest thing about love is knowing that one day you will have to let it go. If I never feel regret, then I will never know what it means to have something significant to me or what it means to let it go. I guess it’s the age old question: Is it better to have loved and lost then never to have loved? You can probably figure out my answer.

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