Those of a certain vintage may be familiar with the classic, black and white movie scene of a diminutive French woman clad all in black and singing with the most distinctive and haunting of voices, " Non, Je ne regrette rien..." Not having regrets was the theme of one of the great Edith Piaf's songs and the inimitable way in which she invested her whole being into the offering made sure that the refrain stayed with us long after the final curtain was drawn. The emotion was always palpable and so it is fitting that the message is also explored as the best learning always takes place where the emotions are involved or at least close by.
Everyone experiences regret at some point in their lives and sometimes it can become a weighty burden to carry or an anchor to drag. Regret can eat away at you like the most corrosive of chemicals; it can dampen your enthusiasm for life, drown your hopes and flood your world with tears. Uncontrolled, it can diminish the present and cause the future to disappear. Sometimes, it combines with its old ally, anger, to destroy relationships and sour someone's whole view of the world. However, it need not be so. Very few experiences in life do not present some element of choice and so it is with the 'negative emotions' as I call them. Difficult though it may be, the fight against the negative emotions is a challenge worth taking, a struggle worth the striving and a necessary part of the human experience. The secret is first, awareness, and then determination. The efforts to repel the armies of the negative forces cannot be halfhearted. They must be consistent and constant, beginning with the absolute conviction that some positive can be found from a negative situation if we look hard enough. That approach is unashamedly laced with the, "that which does not kill us can make us stronger" philosophy! Young people will make poor decisions from time to time, just as we all do, but if they can see these situations as opportunities then they are much more likely to dwell in the fertile, appealing land of the positive. There they will grow. They will become leaders in their immediate lives and often beyond. They will fulfill their promise. They will reject failure and even more, the fear of it, seeing both as again merely another opportunity.
The 'Little Sparrow', as Edith Piaf was called, lived the life of which she sang so effectively, maybe absent of a little moderation, but the sentiment was remarkable, both in delivery and content. For our part, we lesser mortals can settle for a commitment to spend as little time in the land of regrets as possible. Maybe we can even borrow from another 'crooner' who sang about, "regrets, I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention" as he set about doing 'it' his way! More productively, we could be inspired by the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald who closed 'The Great Gatsby' with " And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past". That's a memorable reminder of the challenges we all face as we try to forge ahead, but forge ahead we must, without getting dragged back downstream or rendered immobile, stuck in the eddies off to the side.