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Thursday, March 13, 2014

On Regret ...

by Kevin Shafer:

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours getting a personalized Spanish lesson in preparation for work in South America. I took eight years of Spanish from 8th grade through college and can’t speak a lick of it. I never took the classes seriously, thinking, “I will never use this again in my life.” Flash forward 15 years to BYU where I have become increasingly interested in studying men, depression, and families in South America. Of course, my “I don’t care” philosophy in high school and college has now come back to proverbially bite me back.

This is a small example, obviously, but one that I think illustrates the fact that we all live with various regrets in our lives. How many of us look back on our lives and dwell on the things we’ve done, left undone, said, or thought? How many of us look back and wish that things would have been slightly different? Our attitude influences so much of this. I’m convinced that if I had really put maximum effort into learning Spanish and came away knowing as little as I know now, I think I would be okay with having to relearn (or, more accurately, actually learn for the first time) the Spanish language. But, what hurts is my casual, callus attitude at the time.

I’ve seen this as a college professor. Many students have said something to the effect of, “Why should I care about this?” Well, here is a perfect example. As a good friend of mine explained it, “I didn’t think I would ever use statistics again when I took it in 2006, and then I realized it was the currency for all of academia.” He didn’t know eight years ago that he would be on his way to becoming a college professor, but he is on that road now. Even those things that aren’t our life’s direction are important. I saw Neil DeGrasse Tyson on the Colbert Report last night. It’s exciting to see his enthusiasm for astrophysics—almost infectious. But, as he spoke I thought, I’d know so much more about that which he is speaking of if I had actually paid attention in my astronomy class.

We never know who we will become in the future. Perhaps we have a view of who we are now—but that is one that is often clouded by various influences. But, it’s hard to know what 5, 10, or 20 years in the future holds. Certainly we can have faith that what the Lord has in store for us is something that is part of his personal plan for us—but we don’t know what opportunities, interests, or life events lie ahead. This isn’t just a good lesson for us as we prepare for our future-selves coming down the road, but as we speak to our children, family, and friends about the regrets we have in our lives and share what we learned from them.

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Kevin Shafer, or the guest child formerly known as Cougar Buckeye, is currently a resident of Springville, Utah after growing up in Columbus, Ohio. He is a convert to the Church, having joined in his PhD program at Ohio State. Today, he is a professor of social work at BYU where his convert status and lack of degrees from said institution adds just a hint of diversity. In contrast to his own family history, he thinks that his wife’s ancestors may have missed the April 6, 1830 church meeting, but were definitely there on the 13th. He and his wife and three beautiful, rambunctious, and zesty children. He thinks the best part of MMM is the relatively easy peer review process, which stands in contrast to his professional life. Twitter: @ShaferSW.
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gif Image credit: eflon (used with permission).

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