Living with No Regrets (is bullshit)

This is going to shake some people up. I think it will, anyways, based on the number of people who claim “NO REGRETS!” as their mantra (hashtag YOLO?).

I’ll disclaimer this by saying that I’m not picking on the sentiment behind the “no regrets” claim. I just feel the need to tear the literal concept apart. “No regrets! ” sounds increasingly like a thin veil of optimism, rather than a genuine way to live. Because, honestly, can you really be an emotionally healthy human being without a little bit of this?

Regret
Basically, regret is what happens when empathy meets taking responsibility. “I feel bad that you’re feeling bad. I feel worse because I played a role in the situation. I’m going to apologize and move forward with my life now, but I will remember this so I don’t repeat it in the future because that’s what a genuine apology looks like, guys.”

Every time you apologize sincerely, you express regret. Every time you feel a little guilty, the lessons from that (constructively) become a part of who you are. Even if you have to cancel on a friend, the regret that it was necessary (again, empathy meets responsibility) is probably a genuine sentiment.

So where does this concept of living with “no regrets” stem from? I think it boils down to two basic principals:

  1. You should move forward with your life, instead of dwelling on the past.
  2. Everything you have been through got you where you are today, so…God bless the broken road, amiright?

These both sound great in theory, but I don’t think you have to completely abandon healthy regret to value these imperfect ideas.

You should move forward with your life, instead of dwelling on the past: Okay, yes. Dwelling is not a good scene in any case–dwelling on future worries, on past loss, on that zit you can’t get rid of. I think aiming for “no dwelling” is a good call. But regret doesn’t have to be debilitating. It doesn’t have to be obsessive. It just has to be genuine and, hopefully, constructive. Maybe this is my history major talking, but completely tossing out the past seems like a dangerous game to me. Healthy regret doesn’t mean wishing moments or people back from the dead. But it does mean conducting a fair autopsy.

Everything you have been through got you where you are today: “But but, crazy blogger lady, ‘no regrets’ just means we value those mistakes instead of feeling bad about them!” I hear you. I get it. Especially on the “moving forward” front, this is a decent attitude. But I truly believe that when you have done something bad, “feeling bad” about it is healthy. It shouldn’t be a guilt that consumes your future, but it should affect you somewhat. It should make you take pause.

Sometimes we make bad decisions. You can marvel at the way “everything worked out in the end,” or see the silver lining, but you are still allowed to feel negatively about certain consequences and take responsibility for your role. You’re allowed to regret making a mess. You’re also allowed to feel proud when you clean it up, or build something new. It’s all part of the same game. Healthy regret helps you learn from your past, and to see those lessons fabricate.

Yes, I think there is such a thing as healthy regret. And while “NO REGRETS!!!” is a pretty ridiculous idea, it’s fair to say that there’s an ugly side of the sentiment that should be actively avoided.

Healthy regret should:

  • Be forgiving and constructive
  • Motivate you to apologize sincerely
  • Allow you to recognize when you are inconveniencing another person
  • Allow you to recognize when you have made bad decisions
  • Help you make better decisions
  • Force you to challenge yourself and find solutions in the future
  • Make you more forgiving of other peoples’ mistakes
  • Make you more grateful for the positive things in your life, as they stand in contrast to those regrets

Healthy regret should NOT:

  • Force you to live in the past
  • Fuel victim mentality
  • Be applied to something that happened to you, which you never had control over
  • Assign blame outside of loving self-reflection
  • Work against forgiveness
  • Create debilitating guilt or fear
  • Lower your self-worth
  • Make you less grateful for your life because of past pain and mistakes

This is totally achievable. It has to be. Regrets are natural, and it’s hard to control when they come up. Instead of denying them, we should learn to process our regrets in a constructive way. And if we don’t…

Our apologies are going to really suck.

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Dear America: Sorry about that first impression. You’re actually kinda cute.

My first day in a new place is always ridiculously stereotypical.  We’re talking caricature-worthy.  Maybe this is normal, you know, some twisted form of beginners luck.  Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a curse I’ve been given…by a God whose sense of humour is borderline racist, apparently.

It never fails.  My first day in France was so full of cheese and snobbery and nudity, I almost fondue’d myself (for lack of a better term).  After only a few hours in Cuba, all I could think was “Well, you guys seem awfully desperate for tips and full of cigars…”.  And during my first day living in Ottawa, EVERYONE seemed to be talking politics–I even overheard the penniless men outside of the homeless shelter discussing the Harper agenda.

It’s not that these stereotypes aren’t real.  They definitely exist outside of day 1. France has cheese. Cuba has cigars. Ottawa has politics. Never, though, is anything actually at the level it seems on the first day.  Upon arrival anywhere, I am immediately thrust into what feels like a South Park episode.  I go on to realize my first day was just a bad “So a guy walks into a bar…” joke.

Naturally, this can give me a nasty case of “get me out of here!”.  After that cursed first day, I can’t help but think ‘Canadian stereotypes? I can handle those.  Let’s do that instead.’   I can rock a poutine coma, an over-apologetic neighbor, or a morning spent shoveling the driveway (eh?).  Let’s face it, Canadians: our stereotypes are pretty much adorable.

Canada
Apparently, this is my definition of “adorable.” Hmm. May need to give that one a little more thought…

This brings me to my current situation: ‘Merica.

American stereotypes are not quite so playful. There are some pretty scary -isms lying around: American exceptionalism, racism, and lets-all-get-guns-ism to name a few.  I’m not trying to attack the United States, which has been so very welcoming to me so far.  I’m not trying to oversimplify or judge, either. But whenever I get talked at by Glen Beck, or I read an American history book which refuses to admit to losing any war ever, I pack away a few pre-concieved notions. And, yes, I have read my share of scary articles on health care, teen pregnancy, religion, literacy, obesity, bad nose jobs, and worse attitudes.

To be clear, when I crossed the border and moved to the US capital, I didn’t expect to come face-to-face with all the scary -isms. I didn’t desire or even consider that Fox News incarnate might be everywhere, least of all in Democratic DC. I assumed it was going to be like Canada, just a bit warmer and with more sugary cereal options.  And it is, or so I have come to realize after a few days. But after my first day? Hah.

Hah. Hah. Hah.

Let’s review how my first 24 hours in the States went, shall we?

First, I went outside for a walk and was given reason to post THIS within the first five minutes:

Atheism

Later that day, I saw a well-dressed white woman bully a black server at McDonalds, then inform her supervisor of the altercation in an attempt to get said server fired. Yeah, McDonalds–the only place I could find to eat when I got lost (well, that and a half-dozen Starbucks, I suppose).

I discussed Obama, gay marriage, and women’s rights with a young Baptist woman from Mississippi. She is definitely one of the loveliest people I have met so far (we ate dinner together today, actually).  Southern hospitality is the real deal–she makes a mean cheese/bacon dip, and I have huge respect for her love of College Football and Jesus.  But when I asked “Are all the stereotypes about [insert -ism here] true?” she responded with a resounding YES.  Her personal views, no surprise, often flew in the face of things my little Canadian self took for granted.  There was a pretty clear distaste for the words “Liberal” and “Socialist.”  My American stereotypes lived on.

On day one, there was no eye contact. No opening doors. Stars and stripes EVERYWHERE.  The people in suits were all White, while the people working minimum wage gigs were almost exclusively Black & Hispanic. The cheese on my burger tasted even LESS like cheese than Kraft Singles do (yes, it’s possible) and the Mountain Dew can was way too big.

Around 10 pm on the evening of day one (Sunday), I went down to the dining hall for a tea.  By that point, I was positive that all of my American-ism stereotypes were true.  I struck up a conversation with another girl in the kitchen (“Really, you got lost today too? Where?  Oh, I’m so glad it’s not just me!”).  I learned that she was an American Studies major from Philadelphia, and was immediately intrigued.  She had a lot to share.

I had a lot to ask.

We talked about education. About national identity, racism, systems, state power, patriotism, language, religion…everything.  One hour, two cups of tea and a number of revelations later, she turned the conversation to me: “So, do you think you could ever live here yourself?”

At that moment, after that day, I really did not know.  “I don’t think so,” I responded, “Unless I had a serious job opportunity.”

I understand how silly it was to declare this on day one.  Every….single….time I visit a new country, I learn and re-learn just how misleading first impressions can be (especially with the first day curse).  America has proved no different.

Let’s look at today.  Today, I received more random “Hello!” greetings, eye contact, unnecessary apologies, and good-natured jokes than would in the average Ottawa week (sorry, O-town.  You know I’m still your biggest fan.).  Today, I saw people of every kind of race working every kind of job (yes, it was still disproportionate, but I could swear it was a full divide on Sunday).  And while steering clear of fast food, I remembered the infamous Rideau Street McDonalds in Ottawa (see also: full-out brawl when a customer called a server the N-word).  I really don’t have the right to call out any MickeyDs conflict after that.

Tonight, I think I could live here (this is obviously a good thing, seeing as I currently do live here). I’m not saying that I would absolutely want to live here permanently. I like my poutine comas.  But the thought itself is not so terrifying, really–not with DC, at least.

And so, I officially declare that my first day full of -isms was invalid: at least in this part of the country, at least for now.  I can handle you, DC.  Sorry about that first impression. You’re actually kinda cute.

A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood

I originally wrote this list in July.  The idea was simple: I was really happy.  I could kinda-sorta-maybe identify why I was happy.  I decided to list 100 things that I was doing in life that kept me smiling.  No, I’m not really into empty self-improvement rhetoric, but I do like it when lifestyle trial and error works out…and I really like it when I can sum that up in a list.  1, 2, 3. ‘Sup, early 20s?

My Semi-Informed Guide:

1) Drink chocolate milk.

2) Google useless things.

3) Grow plants.

4) Make sure your main pair of shoes is comfortable.

5) Happily respond to all correspondence (letters, texts, emails, calls).

6) Don’t expect others to always respond to you.

7) Say thank you – and mean it.

8) Use lots of pillows.

9) Play new songs on repeat until you’re sick of them.

10) Do things that scare you (BOO!).

11) If you need to cry, CRY.

12) Play air guitar.

13) Go to church.

14) Spend time with children.

15) Cheer loudly.

16) Do the dishes right away.

17) Share meals.

18) Always have an extra beer in the fridge.

19) Let hugs last at LEAST 3 seconds.

20) Write songs.

21) Appreciate travel time (ie. car/train/plane rides).

22) Watch things that make you laugh.

23) Call home.

24) Send Christmas cards.

25) Celebrate people.

26) Don’t fear messes.

27) Find doctors who listen to you, and listen to them.

28) Tell the truth.

29) If someone asks you to grab a drink, say yes.

30) Keep your legs smooth.

31) Talk to God often, and candidly.

32) Find people you can be inappropriate  with.

33) Do things by candlelight.

34) Be shameless about puns.

35) Buy/eat local and seasonal.

36) Watch the game.

37) Dress for the weather.

38) Ask people how they’re doing – and care about the answer.

39) Take long walks.

40) Use fresh herbs.

41) Make a playlist of happy songs.

42) Laugh at yourself.

43) Keep a calendar, and keep it flexible.

44) Donate blood.

45) Don’t cut good conversations short.

46) Pay attention to the lyrics.

47) Answer the phone.

48) Know which old letters to keep, and which ones to throw away–be able to remember, and be able to let go.

49) Play games.

50) Use hand sanitizer.

51) Appreciate your parents.

52) Avoid making concrete decisions about the future – you have to consult your future partner/job/self/life first.

53) Watch the montages before Sunday Football.

54) Watch blooper reels.

55) Find a way to record memories.

56) Stand for the national anthem.

57) Sing every day.

58) Take that extra shift.

59) Talk to elderly people. Laugh with them. Listen to them.

60) Welcome questions, curiosities, and contradicting ideas.

61) Don’t underestimate “shallow” conversations.

62) ALWAYS offer to help someone move or renovate.

63) Embrace technology.

64) Compliment often and publicly, criticize constructively and privately.

65) Be receptive.

66) Play catch.

67) Find reasons to bite your bottom lip.

68) Listen to the radio.

69) Ask taxi drivers about their stories.

70) Care about your job.

71) Exfoliate.

72) Find a pen you really like and use it.

73) Make corrections in pencil. You could be wrong, too.

74) Trust your gut.

75) Know how to hold your liquor.

76) If a friend is experiencing a loss, be there. (Don’t try to fix them. Don’t be a hero, Just be there.)

77) Be a role model.

78) Take cold showers.

79) Watch TED talks.

80) Give lots of high fives.

81) Smile at people on the street.

82) Make eye contact.

83) Maintain a good gender ratio in social situations.

84) Give your seat to elderly, disabled, or pregnant people.

85) Have ambition.

86) Own a tool kit.

87) Dance at your desk.

88) Make secret wishes at 11:11.

89) Hold hands.

90) Hang out in the rain.

91) Give credit where credit is due.

92) Learn names.

93) Use seatbelts and a helmets.

94) Be compassionate.

95) Keep the energy in your home positive.

96) Decorate for holidays.

97) Go out and support artist friends.

98) Don’t let birthdays and Valentine’s day matter too much – just appreciate each other daily.

99) Be nice to service people.

100) Assume everyone has good intentions.

For all those who wonder where I get it, this is my family’s contribution to the list…
101) Bond with your famjam by recreating Epic Meal Time.

Why did I decide to revisit this list now?

First of all, because I’m craving chocolate milk.

Second of all, because I’ve been thinking a lot about what “growing up” means. My latest definition of “growing up” has been the process of realizing 1) how very alone and 2) how very not alone we are. Growing up means always playing with loneliness and interconnectedness, because life is a whole lotta both of them.

So, I decided to revisit this list.  Because, while blindly navigating that alone/not alone process, you sometimes pick up survival skills. 

These are mine.

Survival skills. At a haunted, jail specifically.  Go hard or go home? (see #10.)

I’m not perfect at seeing them through (see also: number 16), but I have noticed that when I do see them through, things feel better.  Essentially, these 100 points can be summed up in three rules:  Have fun. Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.  My version of that means a healthy dose of pillows and hugs and values and pub nights and prayers. Your version could mean pretty much anything, I suppose, as long as you can be happy while following the 11th commandment: don’t be an asshole.

Also, my roommate complained to me that this list is too fem-centric, so I invite you to contribute some “bro”-centric points to even the score. Or just some you-centric points. This is just how I choose to roll, but I would love to hear how other people keep the positive energy high.

P.S. I am so serious about the blooper reels.

Chalking It Up, Part 1: The Blackboard Wall

I want my home to be fun.

What a crowd-pleaser statement, I know. Of course I want my home to be fun. Of course you want your home to be fun. I also want my home to be cosy  and open and bright and quirky and welcoming and [insert unarguable “home” attribute here], but that’s besides the point.

“Fun” was front and centre in my mind when I reorganized the apartment this summer.  I was set on having a specified area in the open concept living space that was fun–specifically, fun in a music-y way.  Music has always been important to me, and I knew my roommate-to-be was no different, so the apartment had to encourage tunes.  I wanted the keyboard to get played. I wanted our CD collections to get played. Basically, I wanted a space where we could “play,” period.  That space, naturally, needed to be as open to creativity as possible.

The blackboard wall was inspired by a suggestion from good ol’ Josh, and solidified thanks to some fond childhood memories (growing up, our playroom in the basement had featured some cute little blackboards…these were mainly used to to torture my younger brothers with endless games of “school”; I know I had a good time).

All it took was two coats of blackboard paint, purchased at the local Canadian Tire, to turn my previously-dull keyboard corner into a canvas.  I have never seen anything so effective in making a home more fun.

Here’s a picture from the “cloffice” post last week. You’ll see the blackboard wall in the background:

Disclaimer: If you venture to read the wall, I would like to note that Jesus/Jagger/Gambino may not have used those EXACT words. Paraphrasing.

It’s super helpful for making notes to self/one another, as well as for writing down ideas, encouragement, Pokemon doodles…the usual. I would like to note, however, that the wall was visited last weekend by two monumental artists.  This was a gamechanger.

Pictured above: The game being changed.

I rest my case. Actually, I should probably rest my case with a picture of the wall in its current state. If this isn’t fun, I don’t know what is!

I personally love the “surf borad” which defies all laws of physics, courtesy of my two favourite artistic geniuses.

Since the wall has become such a hit, I decided it would be worth it to take this chalk action to the next level in a couple subtle/clever ways around the apartment.  It’s happening. It’s happening as you read this, in fact.  Lloyd’s response earlier today as I set to work on this latest project: “You said you were going to do it, and now you’re doing it. I don’t know why I’m still surprised anymore.”

Translation: Autumn apartment part two and Chalking it up part two are very ready to make their relationship official. Can’t wait for what next Friday has in store!

Cloffice Space: A Love Story

Okay, confession time: Some how, some way, at some point, I wound up owning a LOT of clothes. And shoes. And belts. And earrings, too, though me owning pairs of ANYTHING usually ends with a lot of singletons lying around.

This is not something I’m overly proud of, and I certainly do not I know how it happened. I really, really don’t.  As a kid, I rocked the hand-me-down overalls and uncombed hair with no problem at all, yet somehow wound up being one of those women with the “CUTE SHOES?!?! WHERE?!?!” attitude. Yeahp, this little lady grew up, and now she doesn’t have enough hangers for all her pencil skirts.

       

Thanks for your influence, society.  For what it’s worth, I do try to even out these new fancypants tendencies by regularly pulling my nub of a ponytail through a baseball cap. Like a rebel? Sort of? It’s just a thing.

This summer, I took on the project of re-decorating my apartment in a big, big way.  My #1 weapon in this undertaking was my friend Josh, a magnificently organized man fresh out of Algonquin College’s interior design program .  Pizza in hand, Josh and I discussed some serious apartment overhaul. He helped me through the bathroom, the kitchen, the living area…it was all pretty easy. I knew what I wanted. He knew how to make it better. But then–what of my room? What of my clothes, and my shoes, and my belts? What of the loner costume jewelry findings that I promise, promise, I will transform into something cool someday?

I would like to take a moment to address the minimalists in the building, and explain why I didn’t just purge my closet then and there:

  1. Because in typical “I really wear all of this! I swear!” fashion, I just. Didn’t. Want. To. (Convincing, right?)
  2. Because at the time, I was a student with two jobs and an active social life.  My many outfits were, at least in part, complimentary of the many “hats” I wore.  My closet was/is my costume collection, and I tend to wear a whole lot of costumes.
  3. Because more clothes meant I could go longer without doing laundry. Which is good. I think.

The result of all this? A little closet suffocated by blouses. A room where clothes ended up on the floor. An arguably non-existent organization system that really did not work. Mainly, the result of this was a huge need for Josh’s insight. He made that insight very, very clear: “Shauna, you need a cloffice.”

Cloffice. Best word ever. I like it. Let’s do that.

…whatever that is.

This was pretty much the response from everyone I told about my new project. “Cloffice! Sweet/neat/cool!! I mean, I think it is. I mean, explain this?”  A cloffice, Josh explained, is what happens when a closet and an office make sweet, sweet love (…that is not actually what he said. I am paraphrasing).  The desk, lamps, books, and other office-y items are placed in the closet, making it a bit of a mini-“room.” This leaves a lot of space in the bedroom for (much needed) clothing racks and shoe organizers.

Spoiler alert: There are currently no clothes on my floor. Zero, none. This works.

Here’s how it works:

First, I took all of my clothes out of the closet and moved them onto a couple rolling hangers ($30 each at Zellers). In between the hangers, I hung an organizer for (most of) my shoes.

The new wardrobe space (please note: there is ACTUALLY space for said wardrobe. Finally.)
My roommate last year had her closet organized by colour. Really good call…makes it much easier to find things.

I wanted to separate my cloffice from the rest of my bedroom, especially now that this “bedroom” was really just one big wardrobe with a bed on the side (no complaints). To do this, I simply hung a curtain between the cloffice and the rest of the room.  Leftover clothing hangers made for a great impromptu “curtain rod” which paid a little homage to the “clo” side of the cloffice.  Using leftover paint, I matched a couple of these hangers to my bedroom’s accent wall to bring some unity to the colour of the room.

Finally, it was time for that sweet closet/office lovin’.  Aren’t you glad they found each other?

My cozy little cloffice!

My cloffice has now seen me through a good couple weeks of school.  Not much has changed since the project began: I still have a lot of clothing. I still don’t know why. I still am not overly proud of it, nor am I willing to change, nor do I need to change it. My solution has been found.  Game over. And I think I can speak for myself, my clothing, and my computer in saying: The closet and the office couldn’t be a more perfect union.

Home-slices…and some other slices, too

Student life is pretty crazy.  Ideally, we can make it equal parts “pretty” and “crazy.” At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

Currently, I am surrounded by Chatelaines and scissors, but also by books and brainwaves. My goal? To inject a little bit of beauty and a whole lot of crazy into everything around me. “Everything around me” also happens to be awesome, since I’m living in Ottawa.

I’m kind of obsessed with this city. Also with my home. Also with life.

So let’s chat about those things, shall we?

Every Friday, I will be posting something in the “Homestyle” category.  The weird look I got from my roommate yesterday when I told him it was time for “Autumn Apartment Phase 1” says it all, my friends.

Every Tuesday, I will be posting something in the “Lifestyle & Brainwaves” category. This will mostly be about student living in Ottawa because, well, that’s kinda what I’m doing!

Cheers!