Notes on regret

One of the big life changes I’ve been working with in 2017 is the pursuit of my creative aspirations. I have always been a person who leans more towards a life of making things. When I work my way backwards through memories there is never a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’ve also, in turns, sewn, made cakes, done photography, made jewelry, and other things. I’m an artist. I’m a creator. I’m not quite clear on how I got away from that path, but I suspect it had something to do with the idea of making a steady and reliable income. Now that I’m a mom, however, I find myself looking for ways to be more honest with myself about who I am and for ways to spend more time with my son, less working for other people. To that end I’ve been branching out. I’m freelancing with makeup artistry again. I’m sewing and upcycling. I’m creating. I’m doing.

Saturday evening I had the chance to do makeup for two boudoir sessions that my friend (and photographer) Becky was doing. Becky has this beautiful studio in a live/work loft in the River Market neighborhood of the city. Historic building, massive windows, beautiful, unfinished vibe. Getting there requires me to drive from my bland little suburb through the city and into downtown, seeing all the gritty, beautiful pockets inbetween. I arrived at the studio too late to park my car and walk to my favorite coffee shop just up the block so I went straight in, set up, and did my thing. Doing the actual makeup, especially on the first session, was absolutely amazing. It reminded me of why I do makeup. But after, walking out into the night’s chill and loading up my minivan to head back to my little beige suburb, I felt this overwhelming sense of sorrow. By the time I left the city that sorrow had deepened into the sharp bludgeoning of regret.

Regret is generally regarded as a negative emotion. I’ve seen it defined as a verb meaning to feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity). Wikipedia directly defines it as being a negative conscious and emotional reaction to personal past acts and behaviors. But is regret always a bad thing? Is that lost and drowning feeling always a negative thing? True, when I finally got home and unloaded my car I felt completely wiped out. I was exhausted beyond what I am normally and I felt pretty down on myself. But even as I lay curled up on my couch I also felt that regret shaping my next moves. Yes, I am unhappy that I packed my camera away when I moved to Kansas City and that I didn’t look more carefully when I found a place to live. Fresh from college me would have done so well living in the River Market and exploring my camera in the new environment. I would be in a far different place right now, but would that place have my sweet baby boy in it? Would I have honed my skill in which I look at a person and can correctly guess their foundation color? And even beyond the question of what would I have lost, I don’t know that the way I saw the world then was the right place to be. Now when I sit in the light of Becky’s studio I can see the possibility, not just the plan.

For me, that pain of regret isn’t one of loss. It’s one of opening up. That regret is making me want even more to reach my goals. To dig in deep. To create. To be. My regret is making me better at who I want to become. It’s not, finally, about what could have been. It’s about what is meant to be. I don’t want to avoid regret. I want to live fully and solidly with mine and let it set me on fire.

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