Minor regrets

Question: If you could go back in time and change something from your past — but NOT anything major, something relatively minor — what would it be?

Go table
I was having a memory the other day that prompted this question. When I was in college, I started learning to play Go. I enjoyed it, but only played for a few months and didn’t stick with it. I knew I was playing on a totally rank amateur level: Go is a game you have to play for years to even get barely competent at, and years more to become even reasonably skilled, and I didn’t have the patience. But I look back now and think, “If I’d stuck with it, I now would have been playing for 30 years.” It’d kind of cool to have been playing Go for 30 years. Even if I never pursued it on a serious competition level… it’d still be kind of cool.

So yeah, If I could go back and change something fairly minor, I think it’d be that.

(I might also stick with practicing calligraphy. I was actually pretty good at it for a student, and I’m kind of sorry I let it slide.)

Not sure why I think this is an interesting question. But looking at past regrets is, for me anyway, not a bad guidepost for avoiding future regrets. If regrets from my past tend to follow a pattern, that clues me in that there might be things I should be doing differently.

So what would it be for you?

Minor regrets

24 thoughts on “Minor regrets

  1. 1

    The regrets I feel most strongly are things I said or did in my youth which I later realised were thoughtless or unconsciously hurtful. I regret hurting those people but I suppose in a way I don’t regret saying them. It was all part of learning not to be that person. The now me feels that regret very strongly, even though the others involved probably haven’t given it a thought in years.

  2. 2


    My first reaction is that that sounds like something I would only want to do for something major.

    My second reaction is that of the kind of minor regret you describe, there’s a large number (which I usually don’t dwell on), but nothing sticks out specifically. Everything that sticks out would count as “major”. (Though really, most of the “major”s are things I could do little or nothing about by myself.)

  3. 4

    Back in university we had a project to program a game of Go. It’s very hard to make a competent computer Go opponent because of the highly exponential number of moves there can be with each new turn. It breaks traditional game playing algorithms because it’s too computationally expensive to consider all the moves.

    I’m such a nerd.

    My own regret is not having used the time “pre-kid” to travel more by myself.

  4. 5

    I wish I had learned to play a musical instrument. I was the youngest of three daughters, and by the time they got to me, my parents were tired of fighting about practicing and going to classes, so they let me be. I wish I had learned either piano or flute. Yeah, I know: never too late to learn. But now, I don’t have the patience or stick-to-it-iveness to do so. Perhaps a few years of piano lessons might have given me that, too. So this might be a major regret masquerading as a minor one.

    For really minor ones, there are a couple of instances of awkward moments that I wish I had reacted differently in: one with an acquaintance, and one with a complete stranger. The acquaintanceship broke apart shortly after; it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the reason.

    And to the tall trans woman in the restaurant in Seattle: you are beautiful, and classy. I’m sorry I craned my neck the way I did. I was only verifying that you were the same one I’d seen the day before, so I could tell my jerk of a husband so, and I acted like a jerk myself instead.

  5. 7

    *** I didn’t finish either story.

    It’s not so much that I wish I hadn’t done/said what I did (although that would have been nice, too) that I really regret. What I really wish is that I had had the grace and verbosity to actually apologize and explain, rather than retreat into mumbling, incoherent confusion. That’s what really cost me my dignity and the relationship, both times.

    We all have awkward moments. It’s what we do in the middle of them that shows our true colors. Mine weren’t pretty, and I regret that so much.

  6. 10

    Wow, will I ever have to truncate this list. There’s lots of actual, important stuff, like treating my first serious girlfriend pretty shitty, failing to be respectful when asking questions of a trans friend of mine, picking up smoking when I first turned eighteen, etc. But the random less-important issues that come to mind …

    In my younger teenage years, I studied Muai Thai kickboxing for a couple years. I wish now that I had stuck with it; I’m thirty now, and I’d be in seriously great shape.

    My tiny rural high school only had Spanish, French, and German, and it was completely accepted that if you took French you were a pansy, if you took German you were a Nazi, and you couldn’t really pay attention in Spanish, either. I wish now that I had given them all the finger and taken French.

    At one point, I had aspirations to be a writer. Kinda wish I had stuck with that, too.

  7. 11

    Too much of a slippery slope for me. I had a pretty miserable life for the first 20 or so years. Even the little things I think about changing in the hypothetical could have altered my acquisition of all the good things I have now. Maybe those little changes would have lead to different good things, but I love my life so much now I can’t bear to wish away any part of the journey that brought me to this point.

  8. 13

    I, like Barefoot Bree, wish that I had learned piano from an earlier age. My parents could never have afforded to pay for piano lessons for me, but there were family members that could play keyboard instruments. I could have pestered them to teach me. As it turned out, I caught the bug in my late thirties, bought a piano, and started taking lessons. I kept it up for about ten years and became reasonably competent, but gave up when practicing became a real chore. Recently I have taken to practicing again after having visited several old houses that are preserved by the UK National Trust. Many of these old posh houses contain very fine keyboard instruments and visitors are encouraged to play them. I could only remember one simple tune that I preceded to play on a pipe organ, a Steinway grand and a Bechstein grand. I am now practicing diligently so that the next time that I visit a National trust house I will have prepared an improved repertoir.

    I would also say to BB, do it, there is nothing stopping you.

  9. 14

    I just want to add that I dreamed of being able to play the Emperor Concerto, Beethoven’s piano concerto No. 5. I realise now that this is the same as the ordinary boy who dreams of being a premiership footballer. Maybe if I had started young I might have made it. Or maybe not. We shouldn’t dwell too much on this stuff, you can’t change the past, and, up to now I’ve had a pretty good life.

    As for the Emperor Concerto, this guy does a pretty good job.

  10. 15

    I’m going to have to agree with regretting not taking the opportunity to learn to play the piano when i was young. I’ve always been around one, and my mother used to teach, but I just never did learn. :/

    The KGS go server has a small LGBT+ group called Rainbow Friends that you’d be more than welcome in, if you ever wish to play. 🙂

  11. 16

    Selling my backup hard drive before a cross-country move in 2003. The resulting computer crash wiped out nearly 8 months of e-mail contacts, and art to which I no longer owned an original. There is a very sharp and unwanted break in my life at that point that has caused a lot of stress.

    Alternately, I can think of a half-dozen little interactions as a child which were wrong and caused others shame or grief, and still haunt me with guilt on occasion.

  12. 17



    Its amazing how someone can make even something like go seem “exciting” in an anime. lol Seriously though, it did make me spend some time looking to see if there was anything out there to learn to play it. Answer: Nope – the assumption seems to be that its more complex than chess, so not as easy to program a computer for, therefor, they just don’t bother making games from it, which you can play against a computer, which is the *only* way I am likely to get to play it (I presume there is some sort of online go thing, like in the anime, but.. its not obvious how the hell you find it. :p ).

  13. 18

    For awhile there I was doing some consistent self-study in Japanese and French. I even started learning the Kanji and got to the level where I could write about 25 kanji from memory. I regret letting that slide. I’ve forgotten most of what I’ve learned.

  14. 19

    I’m not sure how minor this is, but despite being sensible about it for most of my youth, in high school I gave in and wrote a short story for an English class which posited the Big Lie that “if you ignore bullies, they’ll leave you alone, eventually.” I wish I’d never done that.

    I also wish, around 11, I’d been conscientious and astute enough to explain “a bird poop landed like 2 inches from me” instead of dumbly replying “NOTHING” when a person asked “w-what?” when I gave a disgusted look in what happened to also be his (VERY) general direction.

    I wish I’d had a chance to read over the Wikipedia article on Histrionic Personality Disorder BEFORE a certain then-friend concluded our screwed-up friendship by announcing, among other things, that I was basically responsible for my then-wife’s alcoholism. I also wish I’d simply declined her re-add request to Yahoo Messenger a couple years later rather than accepting to see if she had to say anything for herself, without reciprocating the add request, because she never did.

  15. Myk

    There is really only one choice I can pick out that I would like to have made differently that I don’t think would seriously affect who I am, but I think would enable me to enjoy life a little more today. I wish I had chosen to study art in high school instead of technical drawing.

  16. 21

    After learning the rules of Go over thirty years ago and playing about twenty times I was both captivated and repelled – it could take a lifetime to master. It was too overwhelming a prospect for me – you could spend your life doing nothing else.

    As for regrets, my mum was a brilliant piano teacher when I was a kid and I stubbornly refused to learn to play. She died last year aged 84, I will now never play the piano.

  17. 22

    Oddly enough, one of my minor regrets is the same as Greta’s. It sounds like I played for longer – for a few years I always had at least one person to play with – but when this streak of luck ran out I let it slide.

  18. 23

    Interesting that not having learned the piano is such a popular regret.

    Greta, I apologise for the link that embedded itself automatically, please delete it if it is a problem. The damn thing doesn’t even work.

  19. 24

    Greta, have you read Yasunari Kawabata’s The Master of Go? If not, give it a try: Kawabata was a terrific writer, and if he could make the subject interesting to a non-player like me, I suspect you’d enjoy it.

    Minor regrets: as a teenager, I began learning Russian in evening class, but dropped out before I’d got very far. If I’d stuck at it – continued learning a language, any language, outside dull and compulsory school lessons – I think I’d have got the language bug, while I was still young enough for it to make a big difference. By now, I might have been multiply fluent, and who knows where that might have taken me?

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