A man crouching down low in the forrest with a camera.

I Regret Not Doing Things When I Still Could

Let’s turn the clock back a bit, shall we? I’m in middle school, and it’s my least favorite period of the day: physical education (PE). It’s the end of the week, so we get dressed for class, do our stretches on the blacktop, and then form a crowd in the field. Today, we are running the mile, which consists of two laps around the baseball field and the running track for a total distance of (you guessed it) one mile. Everyone hated running the mile, and some of us (keyword 'us') did everything we could to avoid running it, like hiding behind the storage containers at the halfway point and then jumping back into the race when everyone was coming back around to finish their second lap, making it look like we had been running the whole time.

I could have run the mile, but I didn't

The thing is, I didn’t do this because “I sucked at running;” in fact, I was pretty good at it. On days that I was feeling especially competitive, I could finish the mile in about 6 minutes! At one point, they even wanted me to join track, but to be frank? I only avoided running the mile and joining track because… well… I just didn’t want to. I was lazy. I could have, but I didn’t.

I miss having the option to decide

Fast-forward back to the present, and I am now living life with multiple sclerosis (MS). Between my poor balance and the spasticity in my legs, I could not run if my life depended on it. Sometimes, I can barely even walk with the grace of a drunkard without using a cane! So now, when I think back on how I could have done something (like run) but for whatever reason, I instead chose to avoid doing it? It drives me mad! If I woke up tomorrow and could magically run again, I would get up and, for no particular reason, just run. I miss having that option. There are so many things that I used to be able to do, things that I hated having to do, but now wish I still could. But today, I am not talking about how I took my ability to do certain things for granted.

Regretting past choices

“You don’t know what you got 'til you lose it.” I have talked about that simple idea before and so have many others with MS because it’s so very true, especially when living with a chronic illness. But what I want to highlight today is the feeling of regret I now have over choosing NOT to do something when I was fully capable of doing it at the time. Maybe I just didn’t want to do it? Maybe I told myself that I was just too tired? Or maybe I just figured, “I could do it next time”?

I can't go back and change my actions

But whatever my excuse was, now that I can’t do it? Now that there is no “next time"? Well, now I really wish I had when I could. I wish I had simply because I could have and now I can’t. If, when I was faced with doing something that, for one reason or another, I didn’t want to do, I somehow knew that it would be my last chance ever to do it? That would have been way more than enough to overcome any of my many excuses! Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right? There were so many things that I could have done but didn’t because “I just wasn’t feeling up to it,” and now those decisions fill me with regret because what’s done is done. I can’t go back. Some opportunities are lost forever.

The times I chose not to "go the extra mile"

For example, I can remember so many times when I was first getting into photography where I was hiking with friends and stopped to take a picture. I usually tried to climb up to a relatively tricky spot to get to so that I could take a picture of something from somewhere most people couldn’t get to, giving my shot a unique perspective. I would climb up and realize that just a little further was an even better spot, but I often didn’t want to go the “extra mile,” so I settled for less. Now that I can’t even entertain the idea of getting to spots like that, all I can think of is all the times I could have gone just a little further but chose not to. I had the option, but I threw it away.

Learning from my mistakes

So, all I can do now is attempt to learn from these regrets and try to avoid making more like them in the future. I now always find myself wondering about what I am able to do now that I might not be able to do later. What I’ll later look back on and think, “Man, I know I hated doing that, but now that I can’t, I wish I could,” or “Man, I know I felt like I couldn’t do it at the time, but I totally could have, but now it’s not even an option anymore.” Now, I don’t want you to think, “Oh, poor Matt,”, because I am not looking for pity. I really only want for you to learn from my mistakes and think twice before choosing whether or not to do something. Think about how one day, when you may no longer be able to do whatever it is, you may feel when looking back to when you could have but didn’t. Will you look back and think your reasoning was justified or will you look back and feel regret?

Do you have regrets over things you didn’t do even though you could have but now can’t do at all? Share below!

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