Non, je ne regrette rien. Well, maybe a little…

The exciting news I can finally announce here is that I’m off soon on a three-month sabbatical from work!

Why? Well, it’s a great chance for me to take some time off and do a few things I might not otherwise get round to doing. My last post was a hint at this, and now things are shaping up it’s looking to be quite exciting.

It was one of those things that I never even considered doing, until I saw the word “sabbatical” written up in big letters on a PowerPoint presentation late one afternoon in a meeting. “Hey – what about if I…” I thought, and the fledgling idea began to grow. Before I knew it, I realised that actually there were no solid reasons I could think of for not doing it. A chat with a couple of people confirmed the “Why the hell not?” attitude forming and two days later – BAM! I’d signed on the dotted line and was committed. Scared? Excited? Nervous? Yep – all three, but with the knowledge I’d made the right decision.

I’m not usually one for jumping in and doing something radical, but I’ve realised recently that sometimes you have to take opportunities when they arrive. Not every opportunity is around forever – I actually had to decide in two days on this one – so to stop and think is sometimes to watch it drift away. The last snap decision I made was to do the New York marathon, and look how glad I am that I did that. I haven’t snapped up many opportunities like this in my life I suppose, so the one thing I didn’t want to do is later kick myself for not having the balls to go for it and forever think what I might have done.

Which brings me nicely to regrets, the main subject of this post. Some people say you shouldn’t have any regrets. I searched for some quotes on this, and found this one from Rita Mero:

I have no regrets in my life. I think that everything happens to you for a reason. The hard times that you go through build character, making you a much stronger person.

Ok, so the things you did or didn’t do have made you the person you are, but in my opinion it doesn’t make looking back on the things you missed out on or shouldn’t have done any better.

I prefer this one from Sydney Smith:

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

Now this I agree with. You can make mistakes when you’re younger, and in time they can fade away. But regretting something you didn’t do can live with you forever.

Maybe I don’t have any huge regrets, but I’ll never know what might have happened had I done the odd thing differently. I also look back on my childhood days and wonder what other memories I would have had, had I just been a little different.

I was always the perfectly-behaved schoolkid. I had my fun and enjoyed it totally, but I always towed the line and never got into trouble. I never skived off, never did anything nasty to a teacher, never had a personal detention. Surely this is right and I should never promote anything otherwise? Well, yes…and yet maybe no. Would it have really – in the grand scheme of things – hurt me if I did just one thing wrong? Got into trouble for something minor but fun/rebellious? Ask my dad about his school years and a cheeky look appears on his face as he remembers one or two antics that he probably shouldn’t have done but brought nothing but amusing memories. Don’t misunderstand me – do the wrong thing at the wrong time or to the wrong person and you might make a mistake you’ll pay for the rest of your life, so I can’t advocate causing trouble as you well may well indeed truly regret it. It’s just when you’re young and do something perfectly harmless and silly it might not be a bad thing. (Just don’t blame me if it all goes wrong!)

One of the funniest school memories I have as a kid that I still smile when I look back on, was in an art class, sometime when I must have been about 13. It’s such a tiny example of bad-but-good that I thought illustrates my point on the smallest scale…

 

We were all in trouble. Class detention was beckoning, one of us had done something bad but no-one would grass on the culprit. Someone had defaced a drawing done by an obviously-talented first year, the work put up proudly on display on our walls. It was art. It was good, if a little precocious. It had been ruined. The teacher was raging at this total, disrespectful display of vandalism, eyes bulging out of his head.

“Who did this?!!”

We said nothing. You could cut the atmosphere with a spoon.

“How dare you destroy this piece of artwork!”

We felt guilty, but it was only a first year, after all. And it was just a little bit funny.

“Look at it! It’s..it’s pathetic!”

Chris Smeeton – a bit of a joker – started to giggle.

“YOU! DO YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY!”

“No sir.” Chris continued to smirk.

“THEN WHY ARE YOU LAUGHING?”

I’ll always remember his reply:

Because I’m a naturally happy person!

I don’t think in all my life I’ve ever fought so hard to stifle a laugh. I almost imploded.

I don’t remember if he did it or what detention he got for that classic line, but boy, was that worth it. Should he have laughed and said that? No, of course not. But it didn’t harm anyone and was classic rebellion against authority. I bet he never regretted that moment of badness. But young goody-two-shoes Males would never have said anything like that, oh no.

 

So I’m taking this sabbatical opportunity and gonna give it my best shot. Maybe I will end up regretting it if I get savaged by huskies, bitten by posionous spiders or a bit squashed after a skydive (and I know the odd person who may laugh if I did!) but if you always look at the potential disasters you’ll never do anything, will you?

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