What is your biggest regret? That might not be a question we like to ask ourselves, but everyone tends to have an answer no matter how long they've lived. Our regrets can be small, like wishing you'd ordered mashed potatoes instead of green beans at a restaurant, or huge, like never going on that dream vacation you always promised yourself you would take.
Regret can be tricky, though, since our choices in life aren't always as clear as we'd like them to be. We're often faced with decisions between two or more things that sound great. It seems like no matter what we choose, we'll always regret not choosing the other paths. Or, we won't make a decision at all and end up regretting our inaction just the same. Sylvia Plath beautifully illustrates this struggle in her famous fig tree metaphor from "The Bell Jar." It goes as follows:
"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked."
Her metaphor extends beyond those two sentences, going on to describe how her life could become anything she wanted, from a mother to a brilliant professor. Eventually, she ends up picking nothing and watches the figs, or choices, wither before her eyes. Plath's message points to the one thing that most people's regrets have in common. This video points to that same truth as well. When people were asked to write their biggest regrets on a chalkboard in NYC, those conducting the experiment found that every response featured the same heartbreaking word. Even though we can't change our past and the regret that comes with it, we can still change our future and build a life with no regrets.