Saturday, January 14, 2023

Regret (A Very Short Story by ChatGPT with Commentary After)

The sun was setting over the small town of Millfield, casting a warm glow over the streets and houses. As Mary sat on her porch, staring out at the scene before her, she couldn't help but feel a sense of regret wash over her.

She had lived in Millfield her entire life, never venturing more than a few miles from her childhood home. She'd always dreamed of seeing the world, of experiencing new cultures and making a name for herself. But as the years passed, she found herself too scared to take the plunge, too comfortable in the familiar surroundings of her small town.

Now, as she approached her 50th birthday, Mary realized that it was too late for her to chase her dreams. She had missed her chance at adventure, at living a life that was truly her own.

Tears welled up in Mary's eyes as she thought about all the opportunities she had let slip through her fingers. She had always played it safe, following the expectations of others instead of following her own heart.

But as the sun set on another day, Mary made a decision. She wasn't going to let her regrets consume her. She was going to start living for herself, even if it meant leaving the safety and comfort of her small town behind.

And so, the next day, Mary packed her bags and set off on a journey of self-discovery. She traveled to far-off lands, experiencing new cultures and making a life for herself that was full of purpose and meaning.

Years passed, and Mary never looked back. She had finally found the courage to chase her dreams, and she had no regrets about the life she had built for herself. She knew that it was never too late to start living for yourself, and she was grateful for the second chance she had been given.

* * * * 

OK, so I asked ChatGPT, the AI writing program that has gone over-the-top viral, to write a 300-word story about Regret. The preceding story is the product of our gifted thinking machine, unedited. 

As I read it, I had a problem when Mary made a decision to "set off on a journey of self-discovery" and was heading off the next day in pursuit of her dreams. 

Why was this a problem? Well, there are too many unanswered questions. First, how many people do you know who can pack their bags and leave overnight? It just didn't seem plausible. If she owns the house, who will sell it for her? If she's just renting, who will empty the place and put her things in storage? 

Was she a widow? Divorced? I'd like to know more, but then again... I asked for a 300 word story, not a novel.

Does she live alone? One would assume that is the case, but the story doesn't really say this. If she's able to leave the next day, perhaps her parents are still alive and living there. On the hand, it's possible her father died a few years earlier and Mary was taking care of her mother until she died two weeks ago, thereby freeing her of the responsibility she felt was her to bear. With the funeral now behind she stares at a whole new future landscape for her life.

Actually, I've seen this small town phenomenon. People can feel safe in the small towns they grew up in. A number of years ago I met a woman who grew up in a small Wisconsin town. When she went off to college in Madison she was intimidated by the scale of the school and dropped out to return home. I'm curious if she had any regrets like Mary. 

I also remember a young woman who gave me a haircut here in Duluth and said she had never been out of the state. "Not even Wisconsin? It's five minutes away?" (You can actually see Superior from half the houses on Duluth's 30 mile hillside.)

"Not even Wisconsin," she said.

With regards to Mary, I was curious where her fears came from that kept her in Millfield. What do you think she found when she set off to find herself?

Illustration created by DreamAI

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