I am who I am today because of the all the choices I have made, all the actions I have taken, all the feelings I have had. Every moment, good and bad, wise and foolish, caring and uncaring, silly and serious, creates the unique pattern of my life. To regret even one action, to wish to undo even one choice is tantamount to saying I do not wish to be me, as I am today.
Two things I've seen recently center around this theme of the inseparable threads of a person's life: the movie "Wild" which we saw in the theater yesterday and one of my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes (Season 6, episode 15 "Tapestry") viewed again just a few weeks ago. Both carry this same message, that we are all a sum of every event, every second of our lives, and even the tiniest change would make us someone quite different.
Some years ago I chanced to re-read a journal from my junior year in college and was disturbed by words I read. [I have learned from such re-readings that I was exceptionally accurate in chronicling events - like the sociologist/ethnologist I later became, I captured verbatim conversations, and the details of action and gesture of others within hours of their occurrence - even when I was unable to fully understand their meaning at that time.]
It was painfully clear from the journal account that my younger self was blithely unaware that these actions caused pain and sadness to someone else. A budding relationship was ruptured and faltered because I unwittingly betrayed a trust I did not know I had.
For some years I have obsessed over the hurt I had unknowingly caused. Until one day not long ago I finally asked myself the right question: If I could go back and change the past, would I do so? And the answer is no. I regret the hurt I caused, I feel bad about causing pain, and I know that I cut short a very promising potential relationship. However, my actions brought me some of the sweetest, most joy-filled memories I have from my college years of singing in the snow, laughter and tender kisses, and launched a different life-long friendship that brought many other good memories over the years. Moreover, had the relationship I short-circuited happened, my life almost certainly would have taken a very different path and I would be a very different person.