The word “regret” made a surprise appearance in one of my dreams from last night. I was with my family, one of my best friends, and oddly enough, Annie Leonhart from Attack on Titan at the edge of a quiet Autumn lake. In this dream, we’d been spending time together at a peaceful cabin, presumably just for a weekend.

When our group stood at the edge of the lake, we decided to play an interesting word game. After we each grabbed a stick from a nearby pile, we decided on an emotion we’re intimate with, and called out that emotion while tossing our stick out onto the lake. My best friend chose the Japanese word for sadness, “kanashisa”. Annie Leonhart, giving me a wry, sympathetically somber smirk, suggested to me the Japanese word for loneliness, “sabishisa”.

I instead chose “regret”, and when I threw my stick, it bounced several times on the surface of the lake before sinking, to everyone’s surprise. My stick went farther out than anybody’s, and I’m not sure what the symbolism behind that might be. I suppose I must’ve had a big moment of passion, and felt empowered by freely speaking the word.

In hindsight, I’m not really surprised at all that I chose regret over loneliness or sadness. While those two other emotions have definitely been things I’ve struggled with, in more recent times, regret has been a deeper issue for me. Regret is like a self-imposed prison that you refuse to leave, because you won’t allow yourself to forgive yourself for things you can’t let go of.

A big thing that I’ve regretted has always been my fear of speaking out against my ex-step dad while he was still living with us. I’m finally over that, because what could I have done? I was just a kid, a teenager trying to get through every awful, toxic day in his presence. I didn’t want to rock the boat and add more stress to my plate. There’s no point in me demonizing my younger self for that. I just wanted to survive, after all.

Beyond that, I’ve had a nasty, persistent habit of constantly criticizing myself for not doing better or knowing better in the past as a whole. There will always be moments in my life where I wish I could go back in time and handle things with more maturity and wisdom, with the experience that I have now. But that’s just not possible. We don’t have the ability to go back in time, and for good reason.

We deserve to let ourselves look forward to the good things coming our way, and stop ourselves from being stuck on the past. To that end, here’s a wonderfully relevant passage from Philippians I found to share with you all:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

Philippians 3:12-16