As much as we'd all love to identify with the saying "live with no regrets," the truth is most of us can better relate to Frank Sinatra's lyric, "Regrets, I've had a few."
Regrets are a natural part of the human, everyday life, experience. Sometimes we regret small things, like choosing the wrong route to work. Other times they're heavier, like not visiting a parent before he or she passed away. For photography student Brianne Larissa Charon, her biggest regret of all concerns an inaction during the death of her father.
In an effort to help her deal with her feelings of regret, she started a photography project titled The Regrets of Twentysomethings. In it, she takes black-and-white portraits of people holding a symbol of their regret and asks them to share their story. She even participated in the photo series herself.
"The loss of my father has been the biggest regret of my life. Prior to doing this project, I had been in a constant state of regret bottling most of these feelings up, which can be a very toxic thing to do," Charon told A Plus. "I wanted to share my story with others, hoping that I could change the way society values their time. It has been eight years and I had not spoke about that day to anyone, not even my mother."
"I started this project in hopes to help others come to terms with their regrets and to put unspoken thoughts out in the open so that others may live a fuller, more enlightened life by viewing my work."
To find participants for her project, Charon posted an open call on social media, asking for people in their 20s to come to a shoot. She told them they needed a story of regret and to bring an object they associate with that story.
"I told them to tell me their story with as much detail as possible that they remembered. They also were told to talk as long as they like, I set no time limit. The last set of instructions were to look straight into the camera while telling me the story," she said. "Some people talked for hours, others for 30 minutes or less."
All of the participants were complete strangers to Charon, but they all managed to open up to her about some pretty dark experiences in their lives. After the shoot was over, she reached out to each of her subjects and asked them about their experience participating in the project.
"Some of my subjects revealed that they are still ashamed by the thing they regret," Charon said. "Some revealed that they have come to terms with their regret after speaking with me and, in some cases, the meaning of the object they had brought with them had changed for them after this experiment."
Charon's project reminds us of the importance of recognizing our regrets. Instead of pretending like we live without them, we should acknowledge them. That way, we can find acceptance, learn from our mistakes, and lead better lifestyles.
You can see Charon's photos and read participants' stories below:
"I feel guilty because maybe if I had followed my feeling, then maybe he would still be alive. The only thing he left behind was toast."
"At the age of sixteen, I didn't even know what a eulogy was. I was oblivious to the fact that people that you see everyday could disappear. I was always closer to my father so it's hard for me to grasp the concept of him being gone, even now. The night it happened he was in the family room watching the movie Shooter. I'm the one who told him it was good and I thought he would like it. I was in a room not far from where he was playing video games. It was weird because I ended up getting this really distinct gut feeling that I should go in the other room with him, but I didn't. I feel guilty because maybe if I had followed my feeling, then maybe he would still be alive. The only thing he left behind was toast. Every time someone burns toast it makes me think of the simple things we take for granted." —Brianne
"My depression was brought to my parents attention but they deny that I have it."
"When I was sixteen I tried doing many things at once to ensure myself of a better future. Things began to become out of control during the school year. My AP biology class was the hardest class I had. My teacher started making sexual advances towards me. I thought I was just imagining it because of the amount of sleep I was getting. I began testing it, and I noticed it was not my imagination. My grades began getting benefits from going along with it, so I did. I was pulling all nighters once a week or more. No one knew how much sleep I was actually getting, but my mother had bought me Excedrin to help me with studying. An over the counter drug. I began to feel better and get more sleep. I stopped taking it in the summer and started to get sick. I had realized I was addicted to it, and began to go into withdraw. Thus far, I have attempted suicide three times. The third time was different. March 6th, 2011 I attempted my third suicide and my younger sister found me in the kitchen with a knife. My depression was brought to my parents attention but they deny that I have it. I've been in therapy since then but my parents recently had bought me this bottle of Excedrin. I keep it to remind me how being powerless feels, and how I have overcome this. To remind me that a reputation isn't worth losing yourself over." —Laura
"Whenever I get overwhelmed with anything she appears in my dreams."
"It's been five years since she died. My parents weren't always around because they were busy, so my grandmother took care of me most of the time. She would ask me to do very simple things, and I would fight her every step. It's funny because whenever I got in serious trouble I got my full name shouted out "Phan Dand thien Ha, come here!" I think that's what I miss most. That, and her cooking. Whenever I get overwhelmed with anything she appears in my dreams. I know dreamcatchers are supposed to keep the bad dreams out, but I kind of wish they could catch people and memories too." —Ha Phan
"In my marriage there's a constant struggle where you must recognize another person's needs and desires before your own."
"So many times I have chosen the easy path. I have been selfish and greedy and have only thought about my own wants and needs, hurting people the in the process. In my marriage there's a constant struggle where you must recognize another person's needs and desires before your own. I feel as thought I am still something very unfinished and still being worked into something better." —Josh
"He had overdosed on morphine, in our house while we were there."
"My father's name was Jason. He was a extremely caring and protective. When I was very young he saved a couple of women from a man with a gun. The man shot him in the back and as a result my father would have to take Vicodin and morphine for the pain. We had a fight one night In January 2009 and I had said things that were extremely hurtful. I told him I had wished he was dead. A few days later, I was in the shower when my sister came to tell me he was dead. He had overdosed on morphine, in our house while we were there. I couldn't help but ask myself why? Theres always a subconscious thought in the back of my mind that the fight could've set him off. My object is this necklace. It contains his ashes, to help remind me to always be cautious of what I say and who I say it to." —Kara
"I work as a factory worker, and I love my job but I am in a constant mindset of 'what if.'"
"I'm twenty seven years old and I feel like I've done nothing with my life. I was in college and after a semester, I dropped out. I gave up the life I was creating for myself. I work as a factory worker, and I love my job but I am in a constant mindset of 'what if.' I feel like I just gave up a huge part of my life. I keep my ID to help remind myself not to give up on things." —Pete
"I always went behind her back and tried talking to other girls."
"I did a lot of stupid things when we first started dating that she didn't deserve. I always went behind her back and tried talking to other girls. It wasn't fair to her. Technology has a way of making things convenient, it was easy flirting with other girls. It obviously put a huge strain on our relationship, but I wish I hadn't have done it. I can't give back that time to her." —Tim
"I just wanted him to be glad that I had finally identified the problem, and am taking steps to overcome it."
"As an engineering student, there is tremendous pressure to excel within your courses. For years, I had been failing about a quarter of the courses I took. I hadn't realized there was anything especially wrong with me. I thought that I simply needed to adjust to being a college student. The last thing I had expected was to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, in November 2014. Most people lack the understanding of this condition, or fail to see it as anything besides being stressed out. It's excruciating. After I was diagnosed, people started treating me differently. I was always close to my father, given my mother's struggles with alcoholism. My father had told me to tell him when I found out what was going on with me, regarding my grades. Since the day I told him, he has never looked at me the same. I just wanted him to be glad that I had finally identified the problem, and am taking steps to overcome it. Instead, he believes I am making up a condition, and denies it exists. A person in my life that I had always looked up to, is ashamed of having son with a disorder. In some ways, I regret telling my father. It would've been much easier if he never knew at all, instead of not accepting me for who I am. It's hard to stay in the present, when your mind is always in the past and future." —Vince
"I was selfish in a way that I thought my life was more important than taking a few minutes to call back."
"I received a call from my grandma about six years ago and I was too busy that day to call back. I was so wrapped up in my life. I was selfish in a way that I thought my life was more important than taking a few minutes to call back. My brother and I received the call the next morning that she had died in her sleep. A call that I should have made, that could've taken a few minutes but I didn't. I think about that day very often." —Paris
"I was never really as close to mum as I would have liked to be."
"She was the mom of the theater kids. She always told us 'Never grow up, ever ever.' I was never really as close to mum as I would have liked to be. I felt jealous of my roommate for being a lot closer to my mum than I was. I regret not taking the initiative to spend more time with her. She had died in September of 2014 from a rare form of uterine cancer. I was working at Mackinac and I never left to come home, I believed she was going to beat it but she didn't. She was my biggest influence in my life and is the reason I fell in love with theater performance. My roommate was with me on Mackinac and she left earlier than expected and I wish I could have seen her before her death too. I never got to tell her how much she really meant to me, and how much of her life influenced the direction of my life." —Jasmine
"I tried killing myself on three different occasions throughout the year."
"The girl I loved for five years left me without a reason. It in some ways made me go a little crazy, and I easily became this lost person. I tried everything to forget about her, but how do I forget someone who was such a huge part of my life. It was something I couldn't fix, she was gone and that was it I haven't talked to her since. I became erratic and destructive in my life in every possible way. I tried killing myself on three different occasions throughout the year. I just couldn't live with my thoughts, I couldn't be here. I ended up getting really sick, but I am not a victim. I deserved everything I got, it was self inflicted. I don't regret what happened because it made me who I am today, but I feel embarrassed that I hurt so many people by doing so. I carry this object around with me everywhere I go to remind me of where I've been. It represents a crossroads with my life." —Ricky