No Regrets by Carike Claassen

I am an old lady trapped in a young woman’s body, and because of this, I like old music. In particular, I like French chansons and I especially like Edith Piaf.

Correction, I adore Edith Piaf. I’ve been to visit her grave at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, and my standard answer to that staple question of entertainment reporters and awkward first dates everywhere (If you could have dinner with any celebrity, dead or alive, who would it be?), is Edith Piaf.

The most magnificent, heart-rending song she sang has got to be “Je ne Regrette Rien.” It’s a powerful, moving piece of music that you instinctively grasp, even if you don’t understand a word of French.
She did do an English version of the song though, and one stanza goes like this:
No, no regrets
No, I will have no regrets
All the things
That went wrong
For at last I have learned to be strong

A beautiful sentiment, no? Also one that we continually find in popular culture quotes and self-help books today: There are no mistakes, only lessons. No regrets.

It’s an attitude to life that I am still very much trying to cultivate. I do have regrets, of course. Would I like to be able to look back at mistakes I’ve made and go: “You know what, looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing because I learned so much from that experience.” Sure. But I’m far from it, and to be honest, there’s a part of me that wonders whether approaching mistakes and regrets in this way is really useful at all.

Regrets are horrible to live with, but the prospect of living a life filled with them can also be a powerful incentive to change. And the sad truth is that people do reach the end of their lives and have regrets. Last year, palliative nurse Bronnie Ware published a list of “Top 5 regrets of the dying”, compiled from interviews she had with patients. The most common regrets of people who had reached the end of their lives were: Not being true to themselves, working too hard, not expressing their feelings, not staying in touch with friends, and not giving themselves permission to be happy.

Reading through this list can feel pretty depressing. But what I noticed is how many of these regrets are actually relatively easy to avoid: Call up that friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Take a day off work and spend it with your family.

Being true to yourself is much harder to do. I think that many of us hide our true selves, and have been for a while (it’s called growing up, isn’t it?). And naturally that is something to regret. But I’m looking at it this way: I can’t go back and change the things I already regret. I do know, however, which five things I want to avoid regretting at the end of my life. And that’s something I still have control over.

So here’s to regrets: Making peace with the old ones, and avoiding any new ones. I hope for everyone that, at the end, when someone asks us if we have any regrets, we can truly say, “Je ne regrette rien. I have no regrets.”

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6 thoughts on “No Regrets by Carike Claassen

  1. Charles Trenet

    A good friend of mine always says: ‘Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did’

  2. minerva

    What a beautiful post!♥
    You’re absolutely right, I feel, for I find myself agreeing almost word for word with your thoughtful post on the genius of Edith Piaf’s wondrous “Je ne Regrette Rien.” 🙂
    The more I listen to this gorgeous song, the more I feel that it could only have been rendered with such beauty (of truth) by someone capable of great courage enough to overcome her trials in life with grace and strength of heart.

    I’ve grown to love Edith Piaf and her beautiful work evermore, especially since picking up this blessed language during my Masters a couple of years ago.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts so full of candour and warmth.
    Do take good care and stay awesome, too.

    1. Hi Minerva,

      Thanks for the great comments. Befitting that you are named for the goddess of wisdom, for whenever I read your comments I feel a great surge of inspirational energy. Thank you for being awesome.

      1. minerva

        Thank you for your wonderfully heartwarming words, my friend. 🙂
        Yes, the Roman goddess, Minerva, will always be my favourite fount of inspiration and courage – I can only borrow her name and all the beauty of fairness she stands for in my humble nom de plume.
        Do take good care and shine on, too♥

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