Regrets? Surely you have a few
Some people ask me while I’m signing autographs or they’re basking in the fresh-baked-bread warmth of my celebrity, “Jonathan, have you ever written something you wish you could take back?”
I always tell them “yes”, even though it’s patently untrue and every one of my pieces of work to date has, on any objective scale, been between an 8.5 and a 13 out of 10.
Why? Because you should never trust a person who doesn’t have any regrets.
I’m all for a bit of haught. I named my blog after it. I start most of my articles and many of my emails with it. I think a sprinkle of superciliousness is good for the soul. (It’s like nutmeg in that way.) But the philosophy of regretlessness is arrogance taken to a preposterous level, a level that not even I, with my weather balloon head and galactic ego, can empathise with.
Regretless people often advance the idea that, if given the chance to live their lives again, they would do everything the same.
This is essentially a magical power to go back and change any moment in their past – any unintended slight, any bad-in-hindsight decision, any misstep, miss-kick or miscellaneous mistake – and they are waiving their right to use it.
“Scram, Genie,” they’re saying, “You’re cramping my style!” And that’s madness of the rarest variety.
No person who thinks like this – not your sibling, your parent, your better half, yourself – can be trusted.
My advice is if you know someone who professes to have absolutely no regrets is this: make them regret they ever told you. Slam an uneaten ice-cream in their face or playfully ruffle their hair for so long that it begins to melt or hit them on the bare buttocks with a Portuguese Man Of War (the poisonous jellyfish-like thing, not the British Royal Navy frigate).
Unless, of course, it’s Edith Piaf. Because (a) she’s dead and you’d be slamming an ice-cream into an exhumed skeleton and (b) as with most things, if you say them in French – “Je ne regrette rien” – they’re completely fine.
An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.
You can read the column – Benign to Five – in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the Workplace section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)