martha brook blog post why regret is a good thing by mikki brammer the collected regrets by mikki brammer
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Why regret is a good thing by Mikki Brammer

Published 11 months ago. Estimated reading time: 7 minutes.

Jul 11

You’ll know by now that we’re big book lovers here at Martha Brook, and love getting our hands on the next big read. A couple of months ago, we were lucky enough to be sent a couple of advanced copies of Mikki Brammer’s debut novel, The Collected Regrets of Clover, a life-affirming book to inspire you to live your life freely. An Australian writer based in New York City, Mikki’s novel is nothing short of brilliant and we adored this fantastic book so much, naturally we wanted to shout about this from the rooftops! We teamed up with Penguin and Mikki to celebrate the publication of The Collected Regrets of Clover so we asked Mikki to write a guest piece for us on why regret is a good thing. Take it away, Mikki!

Why regret is a good thing (if we treat it the right way)

My Great Aunt Clover was known in our family for her much-repeated piece of advice: It’s not the things you do in life that you regret, it’s the things you don’t do. Granted, I’m pretty sure she heard the idea from Mark Twain, who is known for a version of that quote, but to everyone in our family, it was classic Clover wisdom, and something I’ve always lived by.  But now that I’m an adult, I’ve learned to interpret my great aunt’s wisdom a little differently. It wasn’t that she was telling us how to avoid regret, but how to live a life that makes them worth having.

From “no regrets” tattoos to our collective obsession with FOMO, society teaches us that we should do everything we can to avoid regret. The thing is, a life without regrets would be incredibly boring because, without it, we’d never learn or grow. The trick is how we interact with them.

martha brook blog post why regret is a good thing by mikki brammer the collected regrets by mikki brammer

If we see them as a way to constantly dwell on what might have been, telling ourselves “if only I’d done that,” then regrets will mostly always feel like a burden. But if we see them as a chance to improve and make small changes to our lives, they can be an exceptionally positive thing.

When I was in my early twenties, I spent a year living in Barcelona (I’m Australian). Anyone who has spent time in Spain probably knows how much dancing is an inherent part of  the country’s culture. In Barcelona, in particular, dance is especially important—every Sunday outside the city’s cathedral, groups of locals from all ages gather in circles to dance the Sardana, which is symbolic of their pride, identity and unity (and why Franco banned it during his dictatorship). But there were also many times during that year when I’d just be walking through the city and hear music and laughter, then turn the corner to find an impromptu gathering of locals happily dancing—salsa, merengue, bachata—and laughing together. And even when I’d go out with friends, the night would usually end with us all dancing. I was fine with the night-club type of dancing, which mostly involved dancing next to people rather than with them. But as someone who was quite shy—and had no experience dancing with a partner—I always said no when someone asked me to dance with them. Instead, I stood awkwardly on the side, watching everyone else enjoy themselves. When I arrived home in Australia after a year in Spain, I realised that I had missed out on an important part of Spanish culture by not dancing. And I regretted it.

But instead of carrying that regret with me for the rest of my life,  I enrolled in dance lessons so I could at least learn the basics. Then I made myself a promise: from that day forward, I wouldn’t say no whenever someone asked me to dance. As a result, I’ve had a many fun experiences while traveling—swing dancing in Paris, dancing the two-step in Texas, and, yes, salsa in Barcelona. And none of those experiences would have ever happened without feeling that initial sense of regret.

martha brook blog post why regret is a good thing by mikki brammer the collected regrets by mikki brammer

While writing my debut novel The Collected Regrets of Clover (the heroine of which is named after my fabulous great aunt), I did a lot of research into the most common regrets that people had when they were dying. What surprised me most was that their regrets usually weren’t big lofty dreams like becoming a rockstar; it was very simple things like not learning how to play an instrument or splurging on the fancy laundry detergent. Or even things like “I wish I hadn’t worked as hard” or “I wish I’d told more people how much I loved them”. The saddest part was that, in most cases, they were things that could have easily been resolved if those people had taken time to consider their regrets sooner.

Of course there are things we’ll always regret—things that we said in the heat of the moment that deeply hurt someone we loved, or careless actions that might have led to harm of others. But even in those cases, we have the chance to grow because we (hopefully) take more care with our words and actions in future. The key is whether we choose to look at our lives and consider what our potential regrets might be at the end of them. And then take that knowledge to make the small changes that might shift us onto a different course.

In retrospect, I now see that Great Aunt Clover was encouraging us to take a leap of faith and choose adventure—even if it meant making mistakes and getting our hearts broken. Those things, as hard as they might be, mean we are truly living. And the secret to having a beautiful death, when the time comes, is knowing that we’ve lived a beautiful life.

The Collected Regrets of Clover by Mikki Brammer is now available in hardback and e-book. If you haven’t read this yet, you must!

P.S. Want to win a signed hardback copy of The Collected Regrets of Clover PLUS a Personalised Book Journal? For 3 winners only, you can enter here to be in the chance of winning!

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Kate Frances
9 months ago

This book is going immediately onto my must read book list!!

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