For the years of my early twenties, I dated this guy with shaggy hair and beard scruff. He was always smiling and in tie dye. He introduced me to old blues music. We used to busy ourselves outside for hours at a time, whether it was walking up mountains or paddling to some obscure campsite. We were the kind of couple that anyone outside of the relationship would think were happy. We wanted entirely different things from life and, because of that, we edited ourselves into something that the other could love. And we loved. The question is: is it better to love someone that doesn’t really exist or to love no one at all including yourself? I don’t regret those walks or all the time spent out of doors, but I can’t help but regret all the days we didn’t use sunscreen or drinking cider for breakfast because that’s what you do on the river. I regret getting into his car so many nights knowing that he had had too much to drink.
There was a girl I used to know, had known for years actually, who smelled like no one else I’ve ever met. We worked together when I was 16 and continued working near each other whenever she wasn’t living out of state. We got to know each other over well timed cigarette breaks and morning coffee. We shared stories of cranky customers and bizarre weeknight activities. She had, probably still has, a warm and wonderful smile, the kind of smile you can’t fake because it comes from every cell in the body. We were different in the same ways. I would call to tell her some crazy thing or another and with almost no explanation, she would understand completely. She once told me that I had an all access pass to her brain and I took that privilege for granted. I assumed it would always be that way, that it didn’t have an expiration date so long as we continued to be entirely honest with each other and I was wrong. I don’t regret late night phone calls with her or holding her hand in the dark. I don’t regret being as vulnerable as I was with her or as honest. I regret all of the cigarettes we smoked together and so many other things that it’s difficult to list. I regret sloppy drunk kisses and letting her leave my porch without another cup of coffee.
And then there’s Chris… We laughed a lot. We were pretentious about music and books. We held strong opinions about things that didn’t matter and would happily debate those opinions to the point of absurdity. He spoke fast and was always doing something with his hands or shifting from foot to foot. He could not keep his weight up, even when he was healthy, because he burned calories almost as fast as he could take them in. He had kind eyes and liked to let people break his heart, which they did repeatedly and often. When he found out he was sick, I was preparing to leave the state, but we would check in with each other through texts from time to time. I never looked up the name of his disease and he didn’t tell me how bad it really was. I found his obituary a month after he died. I regret not getting to say good bye. I regret that so many people left him to die alone, myself included in a way. I do not and will not regret staying up too late in bars talking about which Nirvana album was their best or which vegetarian meat substitutes were palatable. But still, I cannot shake the feeling that I really fucked this one up.
I regret not being honest enough or being too honest depending on the situation.
I regret taking the scenic route to problem solving and not asking for help.
I regret that I let other people define my sense of self for so long.
I regret taking some risks while not taking others.
For short changing myself and others.
For not having enough courage.
For having too much confidence.
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