“Non, je ne regrette rien…”
Despite being a song dedicated to French Foreign Legion and an inspirational piece during France’s war with Algeria, Edith Piaf’s famous song, “Non, je ne regrette rien,” continues to be on the lips of those of us who want to live life with no regrets.
No one lives a life truly without regret. Regretting that we made that unkind remark or regretting our choice in which college we attended. Regret is a useful emotion that asks us to reflect upon the choices we’ve made, check them with our values or the outcome of said choices, and it allows us to sit with the discomfort of our choices. This feeling, for me, is more of a guidepost than a punishment. It teaches us to perhaps hold our tongues and check in with our values and community when we are faced with difficult choices in the future.
Sometimes regret helps us imagine a future where we get to live into our desires, whether it is our vocation, career, location, or even clothing choices!
One of My Big Regrets
While I have plenty of small regrets such as staying silent in the face of injustice, or saying too much that was unhelpful, one of my big regrets is not having studied abroad as a student. Granted, there were extenuating circumstances at the time. I was struggling with Chronic Epstien-Barr as a young woman, but in the 1990s the doctors could not figure out what was causing my strange symptoms. I was nervous to travel, not knowing if I would be well or not. Besides, I was on academic and art scholarships at college and the funds did not transfer to foreign institutions like they do now. I simply did not have the health or wealth to travel for an extended period of time.
I’m not dead yet
In Monty Python’s “Quest for the Holy Grail,” a cart travels through a plague-stricken town as a man cries out, “Bring out yer dead!” Another man offers up an elderly relative, who is clearly alive and shouts, “I’m not dead yet!” It’s a moment of humor about a dark time that we quote a lot in my house.
When I have expressed regret about not having studied abroad as a student, my movie-quoting husband says, “You’re not dead yet!” So, I decided to several artists residencies. To my surprise, was accepted to stay a month at Château d’Orquevaux, where I will stay for a month to focus completely on art.
Je vais en France!
In only two-and-a-half weeks, I will be on an airplane to Paris, where I will be in the City of Light with my best friend of over 25 years for a whole week. (She did not study abroad either.) We are older, wiser, and have a bit more income than when we were struggling students. We may not have endless energy, but we have a greater appreciation for art and culture. After filling the inner well with great art, I will be off to the countryside for contemplation and art-making.
Turn Your Regrets into Action
What do you always wish you could have done? Is it possible to do now that you are older? Perhaps you cannot leave your family for a month to study abroad, but maybe you can squirrel away money to do so in the future. (I waited until my child was much older and saved money for three years.) Can you sign up for a French class? Or get a free account with DuoLingo?
Have you always wished for a different career? Do you wish you finished college? What regrets are holding you back? How can you take a small step in that direction?
I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment about your regrets or send me an email to Sarah@HempelStudios.com.
Wow Sarah, I am so happy for you. This residency will be life changing I am sure. As far as regrets, I do have some that I won’t go into detail here but it is very hard to overcome. I am trying to move forward though. As you know I will be going to a residency in Italy in May. We are both very lucky women to have our beautiful families , supportive husband and with a little luck on our side come back with wonderful work or at least a wonderful experience. All the best to you, safe journeys.
Yes, certainly some regrets are hard to come back from. I’m sending love to you. I love that you are going to paint in Italy. I’m sure that will be so healing in a way that art and Italy are.