Do you ever get a strange feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think back on something you’ve done that was particularly embarrassing, stupid, disappointing, shameful, or otherwise unpleasant? Usually, this feeling tends to subside with time, and after a while, you remember neither the feeling, nor the event that caused it.
Though it’s only been three months since I was in Egypt, the feeling I get when I think about when I was there, or see pictures posted by my friends, is still just as strong. Oddly enough, I don’t get this feeling when I’m watching the news about Egypt. It’s purely when I’m exposed to something more personal and more connected.
I don’t mind telling people about when I was there. The conversation doesn’t usually linger on the subject too long, and normally we move on to something else before the feeling hits. But sometimes that sinking knot is there when Egypt is brought up, and sometimes it isn’t, and I can’t quite figure out why. What is it about these conversations I have that causes, or doesn’t cause, this feeling? Even now, as I’m writing about it, I can feel it creeping up, but it’s not quite present yet. What is it that I do, or say, or see, or think, that causes this reaction?
I’ve noticed that the feeling is strongest when looking at other people’s pictures from Cairo and Egypt. Based on that alone, perhaps what I’m feeling is jealousy. Maybe I’m jealous that other people got to see things, like the pyramids, that I was forced to miss out on. But that doesn’t quite work out, mainly because I have so many friends now who have traveled the world, and seen far more than I have, and the feeling doesn’t apply there. Case in point – my friend James. He has just completed a year-long round-the-world trip. He included south-east Asia, Oceania, South America, and Mexico on his itinerary, and he’s been to places I’ve never even heard of before. Of course I’m jealous of him. But not in a bad way, not even remotely. Every time I hear about another crazy adventure he’s had, it just makes me happy that he’s experiencing all these awesome things that would make anyone covetous, and that stomach knot is nowhere around. So, ixnay jealousy.
How about regret? Hmm. Do I regret going to Egypt? Not in my normal definition of the word, no. I would define regret as wishing that you hadn’t done something. And I certainly don’t wish that I hadn’t gone. I’m actually glad I went, as it’s certainly going to be one of the more memorable events of the past year, if not the past decade. Websters lists another definition for regret as “a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction, etc.”. Well, when you define it in that sense, maybe I do harbor some regret. I certainly feel disappointed about my time there, for multiple reasons. I was there. I was in Africa. In Egypt. In Cairo. And I saw hardly anything. I spent my nights at the airport, and my days in a cab. I could just make out the pyramids in the distance through the dirt of the passenger window and the dust outside. Everything was closed, so I couldn’t buy the Christmas presents for my family that I’d been planing, and I couldn’t find my friend, whom I’d been wanting to see. I couldn’t even get out of the city because all public transport was shut down. I knew my trip wasn’t going to be like what I’d originally planned, but I thought there might be one or two things I could do while I was there and still avoid the protests. But the protests consumed everything, from water to food to flights, and there was no getting around it.
And maybe that’s the worst part of my regret. Maybe, if I’d been in a hostel overlooking Tahrir Square, able to actually see what all the newscasters were in the midst of, it might be different. But then again, when I hear stories like that of Lara Logan, an experienced war correspondent who had an entourage to protect her and was still assaulted, I know that being in the midst of it on my own probably wouldn’t have been such a good idea. So yeah, I was there, but I wasn’t really there. I saw the peripheral effects of a massive political shift in a mid-eastern country, but I didn’t really experience anything, except inconvenience. Maybe that’s what I regret, is that my experience was completely mediocre, when it could have been amazing in so many different ways.
Or maybe I’m just pouting because I didn’t get to see the pyramids.