Regrets & Happy Endings

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I came home the other day to see an old wooden chair with a lyre carved into its back frame. I stopped and stared with my heart latched into my throat. The chair was an exact match to the old chairs we had at my sorority. My roommate had brought one back to our apartment from her thrifting adventures. I’m willing to bet it ended up at that thrift shop from the Madison chapter of AXO. She had no clue what it was. But I stood there with emotions brimming over at a stupid old chair.

If you were to ask me my biggest regret my answer would be instinctive, but I’d hold it back nonetheless.

My biggest regret is transferring colleges mid freshman year of college. Actually, it’s not the transferring, but the people I lost. It always comes down to people doesn’t it?  I remember sitting on the cold marble stairs of my dorm on the phone with my best friend debating if I was going to do it. I loved the women who made up my home, which was AXO. There are a select few who my heart aches a little at the thought of their faces even now. And I’ll never know how those strong women would have continued to be a part of my life and shape me over the following years. I regret it because I went to a different university that I now cringe at the thought of. To be honest it’s more than a cringe. I don’t really have any kind words for that experience other than I’m grateful for a few friends I found along the way. But then I hold those words back under my tongue because I wonder if I would have gotten to where I am any other way.

If I had never experienced anxiety and depression would I be able to emphasize and understand mental health in the same way I do now? I’ve read the textbooks and psychology journals, and I’m sorry, but they don’t do it justice. They just don’t. I wonder if I would have found a better path than the unhealthy downward spiral of the religious space I came from without seeing it from the bottom. If I ever would have started writing if I hadn’t had my heart broken. If I ever would have been brave enough to not be like everyone else of where I’m from. I wonder if I ever would have met my fiancé.

My biggest regret is the starting point to the most painful experiences I’ve had in my short years. My biggest regret is also the starting point of me beginning the transformation into the person I want to become. Sometimes I think of it as the best worst thing to ever happen.

I can’t say I would ever want to relive those few years, but I also wouldn’t trade my right now either. And how could I? So I’ve got some regrets and a few bruises here and there. You’ll know if you press on them because my face is an open book.

I’ve noticed people have a tendency to avoid stating their regrets. They frame their *nonexistent regrets* around the idea of “I have no regrets because my choices made me who I am today.” Blah blah blah. A really nice platitude that gets you out of actually having to ponder, when you’ve made a bad decision or two. Convenient and all that.

I’m not so sure there’s an ultimatum between no regrets and being happy with where you’ve ended up. That’s actually kind of silly.

And maybe this post seems a bit morbid, but really it’s not. I’ve sketched out the lines between pain and growth like a thousand people before me. Lines that most of us wish to pretend don’t exist. It’s not that we can’t find growth in goodness and breezier days – I really think we can grow during any season. Buuuuut… we tend to dance around any kind of self work unless a good solid reason has run us over a few times for good measure. I mean there is always something you can find to work on instead of yourself. Maybe that’s just me.

Obviously, I am not going to end this super cheesily by saying that my regrets really aren’t regrets after all. No, that would give you license to throw something like a baseball at my face. I will say that when we actually allow ourselves to consider what our regrets are and what paths led away from them then we can start to reframe how we think about our regrets. Are they still regrets? Yes. Did they possibly take you on a path that ended up somewhere you’re quite happy with? Yep, sure did.

Caitlynhummel.com

In Which We Are the Exception

I look around at my close circle. The intimate few. And I think about their love stories. Not one is typical. Reminds me of one of my favorite movies, he’s just not that into you. “You are not the exception,” is the lesson of this film. And frankly, I always wanted to get on my feet and applaud every damn time Justin Long exasperatedly tells this to Ginnifer Goodwin. (total girl crush by the way) I’ve felt this way as I watched friends get crushed and hang onto people for far too long because letting go of even an awful relationship is terrifying. Because heaven forbid we have to spend a little time with just ourselves.

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The message in my head plays along, People will not change in the way you want them to. You are not the exception sweetheart. Even typing these words I’m like yes, yes, yes. I should make a banner. Not very catchy though.

Then I look at that circle again. The faces looking onto their loves softly. More than one of them has an atypical story. Stories that if you read only the beginning of you would not think ended in love or anything of the sort. Stories where I stood by quietly wondering where they would go. More than once closing my lips to the skeptical thoughts struggling to burst out. Does that make them the exception? Am I surrounded by exceptions?

I’m realizing there are few stories of love – friendship included, which follow any kind of plot curve. Humans are pressed together with a thousand layers, and we only see the top one with our cursory glances. The filmstrip the rest of the world sees isn’t always the same story we ourselves know to be true. The behind the scenes reel tends to only make appearances for a special few.

Maybe every love story is an exception. It’s a choice to put someone else in front of ourselves, and damn if that isn’t an exception to just about everything flying past our eyes. A choice to wrap your arms around someone after they were just the world’s most royal asshat of the day. A choice to look past someone hurting you to understand why they are acting this way. A choice for them to hold your face after you let sharp words ink their heart.

Instead of pining for someone to make us their exception I want to learn to start being an exception. Pleasantly surprising someone with compassion, when honestly, other words might be more deserving. Dropping a sweet note on a friend’s desk or into the mail for the one who’s scraping by. Then again we all know how the movie ends…

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I might have swooned with the rest of ya, but I still don’t believe in being the exception. I do believe in becoming one.