Non-Choice And The Snowball Effect Of Regret


I wake up. I miss my dog, who pass away six months ago. It’s cloudy outside, warm, but yucky. Saturday morning storms always get me down.

I think about how I've done my life wrong. My comfortable, luxury apartment living, good paying job, consumption, product chasing lifestyle feels empty to me. Am I the only one? Can’t be. Everyone waking up today must also feel this.

I scratch my balls. They don’t really itch, I just like scratching them. It’s soothing, like a massage, but less relaxing.

I’m almost 50. Fucking. Fif. Tee. I try to think about the thing that might be missing. Something I need to do? Something I need to say, create, experience, what?

Then I recognize this void as regret. Big, fat fucking regret trying to dig its way through my colon and eat all my insides. This is a slight relief, because it’s familiar. 

It’s actually almost always there, since my 20s when I tried to push it down with alcohol and constantly doing stupid things, like being an asshole. Since I quit drinking about 6 years ago, the feeling is more prominent, but I accept it.

“What do I regret?” Well, let’s go down this path again. I watched a short documentary where Dave Grohl was telling the story of how he ended up in Seattle playing for Nirvana. The details don’t matter, because who fucking cares. It was a trigger that jarred loose a regret that’s been following me around pretty much forever.

Then I watched a Guns N Roses video, my favorite song ever, “It’s So Easy.” And every time I see that video, I think, “that should’ve been me.” Not, “I should’ve been Axl Rose, what a phony he is,” although the jealousy is prominent, but that lifestyle, that choice of careers, the fearless decision to just not give a fuck and go for it, whatever IT is.

I always wanted to be a musician/rock star/whatever you wanna call it today. My parents bought me a guitar when I was about 11 or 12. I took a handful of lessons from an Eddie Van Halen wanna be. And by handful I mean 2. Then I quit, because it was probably too hard and I wasn’t equipped with the thing that makes a person toil to overcome giant roadblocks.

That’s probably the choice I regret, giving up so easy. It’s really who I’ve become. And I’m not sure why I shrink in the face of challenge. Maybe my dad screamed at me something like, “you’re just gonna quit,” because I’m almost certain he complained about getting me a guitar. But his parents were the two biggest assholes on the planet, so no shock their kids turned out similar.

Sometimes I get stuck thinking about how different my life would be now had I not given up. At the very least I’d be a competent guitar player and musician. At the most I would’ve made a decent career out of playing and making music.

The problem I face now is thinking I have to somehow make up for all that lost time. Because it wasn’t just that choice. I kept choosing to be average every step of the way. And instead of picking up the guitar or another instrument again, I chose to ignore it. When opportunity would present itself, I always chose the safest, most comfortable route. And I continue to do so.

This is what regret is in practice. It’s the snowballing of non-choices that eventually consumes you too. Trying and failing is one thing. Not trying and not failing is the tick that sucks the blood out of my penis vein.

This is the insidious part of regret no one talks about. A single choice isn’t as damaging as continually making the same bad non-choice. Choosing a career in music and/or art is extremely risky, from a monetary perspective. While choosing a career in engineering is extremely safe. Being a mouth breathing slug of a consumer destroying the planet is easy.  While choosing not to be that is very hard.

I wish money wasn’t a thing we had to spend a significant part of our lives acquiring, but it is. And choosing a stable income over an uncertain one is typically the best choice. There’s only so many “rock star” jobs available and there’s a fuck ton of competition. Chances are, even I had practiced my ass off for years and years and become the greatest guitar player since Jimmy Hendrix, I’d still be broke and unknown.

Now, every time I hear some dipshit say, “you can be anything you set your mind to,” I say, “no you can’t, don’t even try, you’re fucked.” And now as I type that I realize that must’ve been my dad’s attitude when I was a kid.

So the regret is not going away. Ever. Along with the nagging feeling I need to do something about it. Might as well get used to. And try not to be such a goddamn asshole.