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Moving Forward: Turning Life’s Regrets into Stories in 5 Remarkable Topics

Turning Life’s Regrets into Stories

Turning Life’s Regrets into Stories

Nothing feels better than turning life’s regrets into stories. Regret is an emotion we all encounter at various points in our lives. It stems from missed opportunities, unfulfilled dreams, or decisions we wish we had made differently. However, these regrets can serve as powerful sources of inspiration for storytelling. By transforming our regrets into narratives, we not only find a creative outlet but also a means of understanding and processing our experiences. In this blog post, I’ll explore how life’s regrets can be turned into compelling stories, providing both personal growth and engaging content for readers.



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The Psychology Behind Regret and Storytelling

Counterfactual Thinking

Regret often involves counterfactual thinking, where we imagine different outcomes if we had made different choices. This can be a rich source of narrative tension and character development​ (Frontiers)​​ (The MIT Press Reader)​.

Growth from Regret

Reflecting on regret can lead to personal growth and better decision-making. Stories that feature characters overcoming their regrets can resonate deeply with readers, providing both catharsis and inspiration​ (Psychology Today)​​ (Greater Good)​.

The 5 Topics of Regret

1. Career Choices

Missed Opportunities: Reflect on career opportunities you didn’t pursue.

Career ChoicesThere were many opportunities that fell on my lap. Most of them had some relation to the building industry, such as real estate and property management. I grew up in a household of relatives involved in this industry. My father was a general contractor and my mother was still a real estate broker. However, I was offered a position as a leasing agent in Forest Hills, Queens for a considerable amount. I rejected the offer only because of distance. By train, it took me two hours to arrive and two hours back.

Had I realized this was a once in a blue opportunity, I would’ve taken it and saved money. I know how to keep myself busy on the train, by working on my writing. These days, phones are powerful and I would write. Or I would’ve brought a notepad and started writing. Then when I get home, I would type it out. It’s something I still kind of thought about since it’s an opportunity that would’ve unlocked other doors for me. I didn’t think long term.

Career Changes: Discuss any regrets related to changing or not changing your career path.

Working as a doorman kind of pushed my limits. I started working in the overnight shift before taking the front desk management position nine months later at another location. However, this was before I got my English degree and after getting my forensic psychology degree. I felt trapped working in this job because at the time it was all I know based on my experiences on my resume.

Leaving that job wouldn’t have benefited me at all. I needed to think further ahead about what benefits would occur if I find something else. I was getting very burned out because I had rambling tenants that decided to keep my company. Quitting was my only way out before driving insane.

Professional Growth: Share moments where you felt you didn’t push yourself enough.

When I was working in real estate as an agent, I was not as social as I am today. In fact, I suddenly became more extroverted than introverted. I can be both, but I enjoy the extrovert ways as I am not as shy as I used to be. Something happened to my brain that it decided not to be shy anymore and learn how to network.

Looking back in my early days in real estate, had I learned to become more social and likeable, I would’ve done very well in the business. But these types of opportunities are the reason why I write stories. If only I wasn’t so insecure in my twenties, I probably would’ve killed it in the real estate market.

Story Idea: A character who declined a life-changing job offer due to fear of the unknown, only to encounter similar opportunities later in life, learning to overcome their fears.

2. Education

Educational Opportunities: Talk about chances for further education you didn’t take.

EducationDuring high school, I was very indecisive about what I wanted to do with my life. I did manage to focus on video game design and development and had teachers and guidance counselors help me reach my goals. They recommended I apply for DeVry University in New Jersey, but that was the issue. Even though New Jersey isn’t so far off, I didn’t want to travel that far to college and would rather stay local. Also, growing up in a Middle Eastern household, anything that is not doctor, lawyer, or engineer was frowned upon.

Instead, I went for another passion of mine thanks to my English teacher who encouraged me. I applied to Brooklyn College to major in film studies with a concentration on screenwriting.

However, I was very stubborn and egotistical when I arrived at Brooklyn College. I thought I was better than everyone, knew more about film than your average person, and even on one occasion corrected one specific professor in many instances. It became chaotic that I became the most hated, which I did not expect. The typical egotistical person I was thinking everyone would like me. The head of the film department did not want to assist me any further.

I ruined my relationships there and never made one friend. Even some students tried to be friends with me and told me what I was doing was wrong and that I needed to be more humbled. I did not listen and pushed back anyone that tried to change me. It was so bad even thinking about it, I would cringe.

Instead of changing my major, I ended up leaving the college to get licensed in real estate and began working full time.

I had no one to blame but myself.

Course Choices: Reflect on subjects or courses you wish you had studied.

Before choosing my major in Brooklyn College and I was advised by a few strangers I met at a hookah lounge, I used to frequent at. They told me to NOT major in any of the arts but instead to major in something that is more focused on helping me make money in the future. Right after that, I didn’t want to listen because my decision to major in film was deadlocked. The last thing I wanted to hear was discouragement.

However, what I caught and remembered till this day was to major in business and go all the way to get my MBA. This would help me land jobs and make a good living to support my writing.

PSA: I am not trying to discourage anyone from majoring in whatever they want to major. This discussion is all about my regrets during certain circumstances I was facing.

My thoughts on majoring in film would help me land screenwriting jobs and became wealthy from there. This was information I was fed by fake Hollywood gurus who took money from me when I wanted to learn to better myself as a screenwriter. There are so many fakes out there ripping people off.

What I should’ve done was be more open-minded and considered the major change to business and work in that field while working on my writing.

Academic Performance: Share regrets about not putting in more effort academically.

During my time in Kingsborough Community College and Brooklyn College, I never took any electives seriously. In fact, any courses that weren’t film, I didn’t take seriously. I kept questioning and questioning why I needed to take math, health, music, etc. if my major is film. This was the curriculum and the rules of colleges. You must take prerequisites in order to get a degree. So whenever I took courses such as physics and chemistry, I never took them seriously.

I hated myself then. I should’ve taken general education more seriously as it would’ve helped me to be taken seriously as a student with possible opportunities.

Story Idea: A protagonist who returns to school later in life to fulfill a long-held dream, navigating the challenges and triumphs of balancing education with other responsibilities.

3. Personal Relationships

Friendships: Discuss friendships that were lost due to misunderstandings or lack of effort.

Personal RelationshipsIn high school, I had all sorts of different friendships. After school, friends would gather and come hang out on my stoop. These were the good ol’ simple days. Before the social media boom like MySpace, we were all outside, not looking at our phones, talking about whatever came to mind. Endless conversations. However, I was friends with one particular girl who would show up at my stoop every now and then and all we did was talk. We had no romantic interests between one another. Just two people with an interest in chatting.

One day, she stopped showing up and messaged me over AOL about how I apparently told people we slept with each other. Obviously, they were rumors spread by jealous people at her school. Instead of just accepting the fact and defending myself, I went cold and didn’t bother dealing with the type of negativity. I do look back and wish I could’ve done something about it and my choices in making friends, but never did.

Family: Reflect on times you wish you had spent more time with family.

I was around 18 or 19 years old when my grandparents came from Lebanon to visit. It was around December when we put up the Christmas tree. During that time, I was very introverted, didn’t like socializing and wanted to be left alone by both family and friends. My grandparents wanted to go to Times Square with the family and spend time they’re having fun.

But me, being the brat that I was, didn’t want to go as I took this as an opportunity to have the house to myself to do absolutely nothing. Either I was very lazy or very stubborn to be in the public eye.

(I was not important nor had any influence. I was a nobody, and I didn’t exist to anyone, so who was I kidding.)

I didn’t know this was going to be the last time that my grandparents were ever going to visit us again. Nobody really knew. Unfortunate circumstances caused it. I just remember my brothers trying to convince me to come with them and have a good time. I was even told, you never know when it’ll be the last time you’ll get a chance to spend time with them. I took my chances.

I was so stubborn.

There was no other time, but I at least got a chance to spend Christmas with them. It wasn’t the same and never saw them again except through video call and that was in my late twenties. I still beat myself over it till this day, especially after my grandfather passed in 2020.

Romantic Relationships: Share regrets about romantic relationships and what you learned from them.

After dropping out of college, I started working in real estate. During that time, I met someone at a good friend’s birthday at a club in Lower East Side. We got to know each other a bit and started dating. She was family oriented, very well-put together, highly educated. A beautiful woman all around. But, I couldn’t continue dating her because I was too immature with dating.

I was very selfish and wanted to date all around. She tried her best to convince me otherwise, but I didn’t budge. After a month of not seeing each other, I realized what I lost and attempted to rekindle our relationship. She wasn’t up for it at all, and rightfully so. You just never know.

Story Idea: A character who reconnects with an old friend after years apart, uncovering past misunderstandings and rebuilding their relationship.

4. Life Experiences

Travel: Discuss places you regret not visiting or travel opportunities you missed.

Life ExperiencesIn January 2023, I started to work full time as a resident manager for a condo in Chelsea. After nine months of working, I wanted to travel to Austin, Texas, to attend a film festival that took place in October. However, the job demanded my attention and I couldn’t take the week off and missed the festival. If I fought a little harder for my time off, I think I would’ve gotten my week.

That same month, September, my boss allowed me to have a four-day weekend off to spend time with my brothers. We went on a mini vacation with a group of friends in New Jersey at an Airbnb. During my time trying to enjoy the peace, the job kept demanding for my attention over the phone. As much as I want to ignore the calls, I would get relentless emails about why they needed my assistance. I could not enjoy my time off and spent three out of the four days on the phone and making emails.

Make sure you set your boundaries with your occupation, whatever it is, so your mental health is at ease.

Hobbies and Interests: Reflect on hobbies or interests you wish you had pursued.

One hobby I wish I stuck with was drawing. I love all kinds of art, but drawing with colored pencils was something I would’ve loved if I have the time. Now I stick with pixel art when I have the chance. I’ll do so in my free time after reading, writing, and the gym. I think it is important to have a hobby that is outside of your work to keep the mind occupied. Maybe in the near future, I’ll learn how to draw with colored pencils. I have a blank book with an unopened box of 64 colored pencils just collecting dust.

Life Decisions: Share any significant life decisions you regret and their impact on you.

Dropping out of college was probably the biggest life regret I have as it took me to a downward spiral of things. My life got way out of control and I couldn’t hold down a real job except for real estate, which also took a toll on my mental health. I pursued a hopeless dream to sell a screenplay and was losing writing competitions. Had I not been such a stubborn bastard, I would have had a Master’s degree in whatever, probably business, and get my life together.

Story Idea: A character who, after years of regret over missed travel opportunities, decides to embark on a solo journey to explore those dream destinations, leading to self-discovery and unexpected adventures.

5. Personal Development

Self-Improvement: Talk about opportunities for personal growth you didn’t take.

Personal DevelopmentWhat I should’ve done while I was in my twenties was read more and learn new skills. All I did was fantasize about getting certified in skills that I had never achieved, such as coding and computer science. I also wanted to learn UX/UI design and wanted to get certified in that to get jobs. But mainly, I wanted these computer science certifications because I wanted to improve my skills for game development, which is still a passion of mine.

There are so many courses online I could take but I didn’t. Thankfully, I have lately and developed the skills in game designing using the Unity engine and learned pixel art through Udemy.

There are many courses you can take on Udemy and Coursera and I believe they are worth it only if you’re looking to improve your skills and be consistent with it. From there, you can build a portfolio of things you made and present them in job applications. Who knows, maybe it can change your life. I just wish I was as consistent as I am today with writing and blogging.

Mental Health: Reflect on times you didn’t prioritize your mental health.

In my twenties, I rejected the idea of seeking therapy. I didn’t realize how badly I really needed. All I needed was talk therapy. That’s it. There was a big decline in my mental health as I was living in my twenties because of poor decision making and insecurity issues due to endless scrolling on social media. Keeping social media was probably the biggest regret as it burned so much valuable time on meaningless entertainment. It also presented a perfect picture of people that I never got in my twenties.

Or maybe I did and haven’t realized.

When I deleted social media, I realized I got so much more done and lived a happier life. Now I have it for business purposes, yet I still catch myself doomscrolling again. Might consider deleting it again and only leaving my business profile on.

Physical Health: Share regrets about not maintaining a healthier lifestyle.

Smoking hookah on a daily basis wasted not only time, but energy. I would wake up every morning coughing with chest pains and yet I would do it all over again. This would be every single night. I felt like a loser with no goals or a purpose. It wasn’t until I went to John Jay College and worked full time as a doorman when I actually quit. I realized how much my health significantly improved and then I got very addicted to the gym.

Story Idea: A protagonist who, after years of neglecting personal development, sets out to master a new skill or hobby. This journey not only improves their life but also helps them overcome self-doubt, build confidence, and a shot at a dream career.

Psychological Insights

Counterfactual Thinking: Explain how imagining different outcomes affects feelings of regret.

Anytime I think about “what would I have done instead” I am met with sadness. I try not to think about the what ifs. My life is not an alternate history genre where I can just relive a moment, but with different outcomes. Life is full of lessons and these regrets are nothing but lessons to improve my life. If it wasn’t for these regretful decision making, I most likely wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today. So as soon as I am thinking about wishing to change things, I turn the page. It is not worth it for me to dwell on something I cannot change.

Growth from Regret: Discuss how reflecting on regrets can lead to personal growth and better decision-making.

Reflecting on my regrets for sure has helped me improve my life as long as I am learning from these decisions. The only time growth doesn’t happen when the lesson hasn’t been learned. I don’t mind thinking about what I regret as long as I don’t wish I could change the fact. It’s too late. Instead, I become better and move forward to make better decisions. Nobody is perfect and nobody lives a life without regrets.

The word regret sounds very negative. Instead, we need to change it to a phrase, life experience, or life lesson due to certain decision making.

Practical Tips for Turning Life’s Regrets into Stories

Identify Key Regrets:

Reflect on your own regrets and pinpoint specific events or decisions that had a significant impact on your life.

Create a Character:

Develop a character who mirrors your experiences but also has unique traits and motivations.

Set the Scene:

Use the setting and context of your regret as the backdrop for your story. This adds authenticity and relatability.

Build Conflict:

Introduce conflicts that stem from the character’s regret, driving the plot forward and engaging readers.

Show Growth and Resolution:

Illustrate how the character learns from their regret, leading to growth and resolution. This provides a satisfying narrative arc.

Recommended Books on Regret

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware: Based on Ware’s experiences as a palliative care nurse, this book highlights the most common regrets people have at the end of their lives and offers insights into how to live a life free of these regrets.

The Power of Regret by Daniel H. Pink: Pink examines the science of regret and its role in shaping our lives, arguing that regret can be a valuable emotion that drives us to improve and make better decisions.

Final Thoughts

Turning life’s regrets into stories allows us to process our emotions and find meaning in our experiences. By sharing these stories, we not only engage our readers, but also offer them a sense of connection and understanding. Embrace your regrets, turn them into narratives, and discover the power of storytelling in personal growth.

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