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Should Regret

Imported from an old blog.

When I was younger, my friends, lovers and associates would pride themselves with statements similar to "I have no regrets" or "If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change anything". I was suspicious of that feeling then and know it to be utter bullshit now. I have regrets. I have things I would change.

I'm in Bloomington for a couple of weeks and while enjoying a showing of films from the Banff Film Festival I reconnected with a regret, a thing I would change. Two of the films were about sled dogs.

Sometime in the mid-nineties I had the pleasure to take a trip to Alaska with my girlfriend at that time, and her family. We travelled around many places. Saw many wonderful things. The night before entering Denali National Park we stayed in a charming and remote bed and breakfast. The owners were also sled dog trainers: on one section of the property were between ten and twenty dogs of various breeds, destined for a sledding life, maybe someday the Iditarod.

In the evening I walked out amongst the dogs and enjoyed their presence and they seemed to enjoy mine. The owner noticed and invited me to be that year's intern. The intern winters in the bed breakfast, gets room and board, a minor stipend and is responsible for running the dogs. They warned me it was dark, lonely, cold but rewarding. I was intrigued, fascinated, excited but confused.

The value of the offer was immense. Alaska had been calling out to me for many years. When the plane landed in Anchorage I thought, "I made it, I can die now." Adding in the dogs gave some substance to an abstract yearning that had always been around.

I had come to Alaska with the woman I loved and though she said perhaps I should take the offer, in the end I chose to return with her to the life we were trying to make back in the real world.

That relationship eventually failed. I regret not staying with the dogs. It is not, though, a simple case of "shit, if I knew this was going to go south I could have hung with the dogs". I regret not hanging with the dogs because hanging with the dogs is what I wanted to do and hanging with my girlfriend was what I felt like I should do and needed to do.

I regret the existence of should.

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