I Asked My Friends Their Regrets – Here Is What I Learned

Featured Image: Ryan Jacobson

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We all take quarantine a little bit differently. Some work out with Chloe Ting, others cook extravagant meals like Ramsey, but most binge Netflix shows to their heart’s content. Me, you see, I’m a little bit different. I’m not into the whole exercise, cooking, and sitcom regime. Watching daily vlogs, Q&A sessions, and proposal compilations on YouTube are more my forte, so naturally, I decided to take my own spin on things. Three weeks into quarantine, I created an additional Instagram page dedicated to posting IGTV videos for the entertainment of my closest friends.

Initially, I documented my day doing school work, skin-care, and chores while eliciting self-deprecating jokes along the way. I would then proceed to use my advanced editing skills to stitch the shaky clips together with suitable captions, images, and voice recordings. I later realized this new platform I developed had the potential to do more than evoke laughter. It was an opening to understand unique perspectives and better appreciate my friends; as the pandemic continued to stretch, I greatly sought an opportunity to connect.

Thus, I began to do daily Q&A stories inquiring about aspirations, career goals, favourite memories, and wishes in a post-COVID world. Normally, my curious questions would receive an average response — 25% would reply with witty comments, 50% would genuinely answer the prompt, and the remainder would skip right over. However, one late night, when asking “What is your biggest regret”, I received an overwhelming number of responses.

So here are the jumbled lessons I learned at 2 AM that night.

Fight or Flight

“Avoiding my grandpa when he was sick because I couldn’t handle seeing him” – K

“Ignoring my dad’s calls when he’s out there suffering on the street” -R

“Bottling up all my emotions until I reach a breaking point then just do it all over again” – A

“Not saying anything that day” – A

“Not telling the teacher that day, not stopping them” – R

Is it easier to remain oblivious and hurt later or face our monsters head-on? Avoidance coping allows us to ignore the troubles that must make us sad, afraid, or worried. It may require too much strength to face these monsters or we simply fear the aftermath of action so instead, we remain ignorant.

Amongst the current global situations of death, disease, and conflict, I confess to this very struggle myself. As the virus rages on, taking the lives of fathers, nurses, and loved individuals, I halted from reading their stories, hearing their testimonies, and following the numbers. It’s simply too difficult to accept.

Maybe it is my privilege that allows me to remain absentminded. I can ignore COVID-19 living in a safe suburban community, no compulsion to work amidst a health crisis, access to food and water, with an extended school vacation.

The same can be said for the above regrets. Is it easier to ignore it, but now have to live with the guilt of inaction?

Family: A Support or a Struggle?

“Not having a proper relationship with my mom… if I just listened I wouldn’t be a disappointment” – S

“Feeling awkward around everyone in my family and not knowing how to comfort them” – R

“Constantly having to lie to my family, they have no idea who I am” – S

“Blaming my dad for never being there” – S

When my parents immigrated to Canada in the ’90s, they carried hopes and expectations. Expectations for how their future children would behave, what they would study, and who they would be — this is a truth amongst most immigrant families, and is no less present in the lives of those I know.

Some don’t have a designated career plan, some may not have the best grades, or their dreams simply don’t align with their parents’ desires.

So we live double lives; putting on a front in front of our parents, especially pertaining to our personalities, aspirations, and grades.

Now, when we are at home with these very families, a new opportunity arises — to either open up or remain shut up.

We hide a lot under the surface.

“Not learning to love myself when I was younger because now I can’t at all” – R

“Changing my personality to fit in, now I don’t know who I really am” – S

“Letting my anger get the best of me and hurting others” – A

My greatest lesson from this experience was understanding how much I don’t know — how much I don’t know about my friends’ struggles, experiences of abuse, and mental health issues. How much I don’t know about that childhood friend and how much I don’t know about that friend I met this year.

In my own world, I often forget others exist and are not merely players in the game of my life. Only until now, as we spent time apart, did my friends feel able to open up about their struggles, regrets, and feelings because there is less judgment online. Fewer consequences for speaking out.

So, what?

Coming out of COVID-19, I want to connect with my friends more, on a deeper, spiritual, and emotional level. I no longer want to be a passive part of their lives, present for just birthday parties and study sessions. Learning their regrets has allowed me to come to terms with my own — not being there earlier.

I urge you to reach out to those you love. You would be surprised as to how much you don’t know about them.