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The Things We Wish We Hadn’t Done in 2017

Our year of regret

Regrets? We’ve had a few. Certainly, more than enough to mention. So as the year turns — and it’s impossible not to take stock of what you should have (or shouldn’t have) done over the last 365 days — we asked the MEL staff to come clean with theirs.

John McDermott, staff writer: All those late-night Uber Eats/Grubhub/Postmates orders. Dozens upon dozens of dozens of needless, expensive, late-night meals. It was, admittedly, delicious. I can’t wait to relive this cycle of shame in 2018.

Ian Lecklitner, assistant editor: It’s not about what you wish you hadn’t done, it’s about what you wish you had done. I personally wish I’d traveled more.

Andrew Fiouzi, assistant editor: I wish I hadn’t parked my car on the street-cleaning side of the street four different times, two of which were on the same street. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but when it’s late at night and the only thing separating you from a warm bed and some zzz’s is finding a parking spot, you forget that there are consequences in this world. Thus, you park where you see fit.

Nick Leftley, senior editor: I wish I hadn’t read the news as much as I did. It took me a few months to figure out that it was just the exact same thing every single day: “Trump says/does something awful/stupid, faces no consequences.” Eventually I realized that it was more than enough to get a round up of that week’s stupid/awful by checking in at the weekends, and know that the big stuff — North Korea; health care; tax reform; climate agreements; etc., etc., etc., on into terrifying infinity — would filter through to me regardless. So yeah, I wish I hadn’t experienced outrage as my first emotion every morning for the first two-thirds of the year.

Tierney Finster, contributing writer: I wish I hadn’t signed up for MoviePass. I’ve spent like $40 on it so far without using it to see one movie. Shameful. I also wish I hadn’t invested so much of my time into maintaining a romantic relationship. Codependency breeds resentment, which is boring.

Miles Klee, contributing writer: I wish I hadn’t waited so long to upgrade from a dinky portable record player to a real stereo — all those months of would-be vinyl snobbery, lost! I wish I hadn’t broken my streak of not vomiting from drinking, twice, just because I was at a party where they had a big thing of Costco vodka. (I don’t know which liquor to blame for the second puking incident, but I’ll go out out on a limb and guess it was more cheap vodka.) I wish I hadn’t done a Sublime song at karaoke. I wish I hadn’t downloaded Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm mobile game. And I wish I hadn’t backed my car directly into the side of my house, knocking off a hose spigot that then sprayed water continuously till my landlord found the time to fix it later that afternoon.

Tracy Moore, staff writer: I regret not riding my bike more. I also should’ve just sold my car when it was at the highest asking price. I should’ve visited the South more before my mother died, and I should’ve texted back “Happy Thanksgiving” to her. I should’ve just gone to Charleston to see my friend with the brain tumor before she passed. I didn’t email my old editor back to say thanks for the compliment on a story he’d read before he died last year as well.

Regret is typically pointless — usually you realize why your mistakes were crucial to your own learning process, and that, embarrassing as it may be, you couldn’t have done it any other way. But some fuckups are just lazy. I’m continually shocked at the number of people around my age who’ve died or are dying, when I thought that was an old person’s problem. Still, this one has an easy fix: Talk to people you like even a little before it’s too late, and try to naturally close up every interaction so that you leave it, if nothing else, on a nice, honorable note you can live with.

C. Brian Smith, staff writer: There was no reason for me to play fantasy football again this year. I mercifully retired from fantasy baseball in March — after eight consecutive losing seasons — and figured I’d re-up on my fictitious gridiron squad in the name of staying connected to friends from high school. My team, The Looseends, won their opening game and then proceeded to lose every game that followed for a dead-fucking-last 1–12 record, marking my official retirement from all fantasy sports .

Tim Grierson, contributing editor: I wish I hadn’t let things on social media make me so mad. It’s a process I’m learning to get better at. When I see things online that drive me crazy — like idiotic comments or more bad Trump news — I’m trying to get better about going offline and taking a walk or doing something else that’s productive. I’m realizing that engaging with nonsense doesn’t do me any good.

Josh Schollmeyer, editor in chief: As part of the Chicago folk wisdom that was bred into me, my dad always used to offer this maxim whenever I expressed lament of any kind: “Regrets are for chumps.” As a younger man, I thought it was ham-fisted and uncaring, a not-so-clever variation on “Suck it up, son,” which I always found to be even more ham-fisted and uncaring. But that’s also back when I used to regret a lot more. Now, as an older man (or oldish man), I tend to agree — regrets are for chumps. Fuck-ups are things to be learned from, not obsess over. Same for the things that don’t go your way.

Not to put too much of a zen spin on the folk wisdom coursing through my veins, but what’s gonna happen is gonna happen. All you can do is be prepared and visualize the best possible outcome (that’s the last of the zen, I promise). If that’s not what happens, it’s on the universe (okay, seriously — that’s the last of it). So you should only regret something when you haven’t done everything in your power to affect the course of action. And I can honestly say that ever since I figured that out, big new regrets are basically nonexistent. Or better put, all of my regrets these days are old ones that haunt me because there was a lot I could have done to have changed how things turned out.