Thoughts on Regret

Regret is a pervasive and terrifying thing.

The idea that you can look back on your life, on decisions that you made at the time, and come to the conclusion that you made the wrong decision. That the path you chose is thin and winding and leads nowhere, and there’s no way to get to the path that you wish you had taken now. Because now that you are on this path, now that you realize that it is impossible to turn around and walk back, now you know that that other path was a much better path to take.

I know many people who have felt this way. I know many people who have gotten lost to this feeling, have become bitter and depressed because of it. And for a brief time, even I found this feeling creeping up on me.

I regretted the fact that I allowed my depression to cripple me for a year.

I regretted the school that I had chosen upon going into post-secondary.

I regretted things that I couldn’t possibly have changed or even chosen, things that I was born into. Things that simply were. Things that I could only curse fate or the universe of God or whatever you believe in for, because only that could have been responsible for it.

And you know what I began to realize? There’s absolutely no good to be found in regret.

Once you start down a path, you can’t turn around and change your mind, that’s true. You can only move forward, not back, and it’s important for you to keep that in mind – and one of the reasons why it is so important is because you can still move forward. You don’t have to stay on the path you are on. Just because you have started on it, it doesn’t mean you have to continue. You can change your mind, you can start on a new path, you can cut across and cheat your way onto a new road. Your past is set in stone, but your future is free. Your future is something that you still can change.

And often times, we make the decisions that we do for a reason, and it’s too easy to forget that reason when we have grown and learned new things. At one time, I regretted allowing myself to be crippled by depression, but I forget that I was crippled by it because I was deeply, intensely depressed, and I didn’t understand that at the time. I understand that now. I know how to cope with that now. But I didn’t at the time, and that’s why I made the choice that I did. It’s important for us to remember that, because it makes it easier to forgive ourselves for the decisions that we made in the past.

More than that, we should never regret the bad times because, often times, the bad times need to happen. Nobody’s life is constantly perfect – we all need to experience pain because we learn from pain. From pain, we are given the opportunity to find our strength. The bad times teach us lessons which we can then take with us into the good times, which we can then use to teach others. Maybe I did lose a year of my life to depression, but when I hear someone else voicing the same thoughts that tormented me during those years, I know what they are going through and I can try to help them. So why would I regret any of it?

Regret can be a very harmful thing. It can become something that overwhelms us, that depresses us, but it can also be a good sign. We regret things when we realize that we now know more than we did then, and that if we were to make the same decision now, we would have chosen differently. Regret is a sign of growth. So do not linger in your regret. Be proud of the fact that you have grown, and take that growth into the future with you. After all, the future is the only place where you can take it now.

Being Not Okay

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As I was scrolling through Facebook this morning, I came across this post from QuotesGate. “A strong woman knows how to keep her life in order,” it said. “Even with tears in her eyes, she still manages to say ‘I’m Ok’ with a smile”.

And I’ll admit, maybe I was in the wrong place in life to come across this post, or maybe I’m just not the right audience for this post. I mean, yeah, sure, I’d identify myself as a strong woman, and that’s the only audience that this post specifically calls out, but I’m a strong woman who was diagnosed with depression and anxiety three years ago. Ever since then, I’ve been working hard every single day of my life, every last second that I’m forced to spend within my diseased mind, to achieve peace and happiness. But as hard as I’ve been working, the last month or so has been particularly hard on me. Completing my B.A. in English sent me into an existential spiral, wondering what the hell I was supposed to fill forty hours of my week with now – what would fulfill me in the same way that reading and learning new things did? To try and ease my pain, I got myself a job, which turned out to be thoroughly unenjoyable, and I was let go from it as soon as the busy period ended, which just threw me right back into that very same existential crisis, but with the added depression of wondering what I had fucked up, if I was actually employable in the real world, and what it was about this job that I had hated so much. And on top of all of that, I’ve had a very hard time getting in contact with old friends, I’m not very good at making new friends, and I am very, very, very, very single. And I’m not saying all of this to complain – everything that I’ve gone through is very simply a part of mundane, everyday life, and I know that I will get through it eventually. The only reason I am saying this is to explain why I have not been emotionally okay for the last month.

My life has not been kept in order. I’ve been trying to keep it in order, but I’m twenty two years old, which means that I have a whole lot to balance right now. My arms are filled with creative pursuits, my job, my ambitions, my friends, my family, my health, my love life, my passions, my financial situation, and because of my history with depression and anxiety, I’m holding all of them while balancing on one leg. And for the most part, I don’t think I’m doing a particularly terrible job at holding them. Some things slip from time to time, sure, but I’m confident in my ability to pick them back up again. Maybe not right now. Maybe not for a long time, and maybe life will suck a little bit until then, but I know that I’ll figure it out eventually, or at least learn how to live without them.

And here’s the thing – many of us have lives that aren’t in order right now. I am not alone in this. And more than that, many of us have lives that aren’t in order, and yet we don’t know how to put our lives back in order, but why should that make us any less strong? Having an orderly life is not the thing that indicates strength – what indicates strength is your ability to persevere, your ability to keep trying even when things aren’t in order. A strong woman (or man) may not know how to keep their life in order, but they shouldn’t be expected to. That is a hell of a thing to expect from a person, because nobody has all the answers, not even the strongest of us. The strongest of us just don’t give up, even when we don’t know what the hell we’re doing.

But more than that, let’s talk about the second part of this post, because it might be the part that irks me the most: the part that claims that a strong woman (or man) can tell the world that they are okay, even when they aren’t. And, yes, sometimes it is incredibly admirable of a person when they put aside their own feelings to fix or otherwise manage a situation. But that is not something that we can expect from someone constantly. As someone with a background in depression and anxiety, I know this firsthand. Sometimes, emotions get to be too much. Sometimes I need someone to talk to. Sometimes I need to let those tears in my eyes actually spill out onto my cheeks. And sometimes, when I’m not okay, I need to admit that I’m not okay, because that is the only way that I can figure out the best way to deal with the situation.

Emotions do not make us weak. Talking about our problems and admitting that we are not okay does not make us weak. For generations now, young boys have been told that strength means swallowing their emotions to become men, and as a result, there are many men who are emotionally immature and unavailable – this is not a message that we should be extending to women and girls now. Because here’s the thing – emotions are simply a part of us. We should be allowed to learn how to deal with this, how to talk about it, how to learn and grow with our emotions. Suppressing our emotions does not get rid of them – it only makes them manifest in different, more harmful ways.

And from my own personal experience, I was only able to confront my feelings around depression and anxiety when I was finally able to talk about them. I was only able to become okay when I was able to admit that I wasn’t okay. Because being not okay is perfectly natural. Sometimes it happens – there’s nothing shameful about it. And sometimes, admitting that you aren’t okay is the strongest thing that you can do.

What I Want

I want to be okay. That’s all. I want to be healthy, happy, unconcerned. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to get out of bed.

I want friends. I want people who like me and understand me. Not a lot of them, maybe – just one or two would be nice. One or two who stay. One or two who don’t move away or find other people or just stop talking to me all of a sudden. I want to sit in a group of people and not feel like the outsider for once. I want to be with them and not feel like I have to keep trying for them to like me.

I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone who is attracted to me and who I am attracted to as well. I want a relationship that goes beyond an exchange of phone numbers and maybe an awkward kiss or handshake. I want someone who understands me.

I want a job that I enjoy. I want to spend the majority of my day doing something that makes the time go by, and yet I still make money nonetheless, at least enough money to survive. I want a stress-free place to stay in and depend on. I want the opportunity to feel free, like I can grow and change and become who I was meant to be. I want to be in the light and the earth, growing tall and new and green like a vine, rather than stunted and ugly like a weed.

I want a mind that remains calm in the storm. I want to face difficulty with a carefree smile and a shrug, rather than the question of whether or not this is it, the thing that breaks me for good. I want confidence in my ability to weather the hurricane, rather than the fear that I will be drowned in it. I want arms that are clear and soft and free of cuts or claw marks. I want hope and thrill and contentedness.

I want little, I think. I just want to be the way people say I should be – a happy, beautiful, well-adjusted young woman with my whole life ahead of me. That’s what I want. That’s all.

Bullies at the Gym

I’ve only really been attending a gym since about last summer, although I’ve been exercising regularly for a year and a half now. There’s no real reason why I started at home, besides the fact that I had a sufficient amount of equipment (thanks, mom), it was fairly inexpensive, and it was just easier to do in general. But because of this, I never really had the experience of being a person who was self-conscious of her body going to the gym. By the time I started, I already felt like I was fairly fit – maybe not as fit as I wanted, but still, nothing that I was ashamed of.

But even still, I hear stories all the time of girls who are incredibly self-conscious of their bodies and afraid to go to the gym because they might get made fun of.

Hell, I hear stories all the time of girls who do go to the gym and get made fun of.

And though I’ve never seen it personally (I’m pretty oblivious to what’s going on around me at the gym, with my headphones blaring 80’s rock music directly into my brain), I am sorry and disgusted for the girls who have, and the girls who are afraid to go to the gym because of it.

Because the gym shouldn’t be an elitist sort of place. In fact, I love the gym because of that. I love looking around at all the different sorts of people that go there. I love the muscle-heads who drop their weights dramatically after every set and walk away, satisfied to have achieved dem gainz. I love the super skinny girl there to show up every guy who automatically assumes he can do better than her. I love the people who are just starting out and don’t know what to do yet, because this is all so new to them and who knows, maybe they’ll grow to like it. Or maybe they won’t. That’s okay too.

The gym is supposed to be a place that brings so many different kinds of people together in a non-judgmental, trying-to-improve-your-life-if-you-can sort of way. It is not supposed to be a place that knocks down your self-esteem.

Because regardless of how your body looks, regardless of how much you can lift or how long you can stay on the treadmill, this is supposed to be a space that you can occupy. It is supposed to be a space that can help you – not to lose weight or look better (the two things do not necessarily go hand-in-hand), but to achieve your fitness goals and maybe get a little bit healthier. To build up a endorphins that will make you feel a little bit better throughout the day. To do what you want to do without anyone trying to pull you down because of it.

And that’s what I think all of this bullies at the gym forget when the mock someone for how they look. These bullies buy into a very limited ideal of what is beautiful (probably because they’ve spent so much time and energy simply trying to chase it themselves), and in some strange, cruel way, I imagine that they think they’re helping you by giving you inspiration to work harder and lose the weight that, really, isn’t holding you back. The gym is a place to get healthier, and fat isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re unhealthy. It’s just fat, and it is as beautiful as anything else on the human body.

These bullies are wrong, and you don’t need to listen to them. I know, it can be very hard to do, especially considering (whether they realize it or not), they’re preying on the weak. They’re attacking things that your very presence in the gym might prove you’re self-conscious of. It can be very discouraging to be trying to lose that weight and have some make fun of you because it isn’t going away fast enough. They might make you want to give up, to stop trying altogether. But they shouldn’t. You have just as much right to this space as they do, and you deserve every chance to make the most of it.

So as difficult as it might be to do, if someone ever tries to tear you down because of how you look at the gym, remember that they’re the pathetic ones. They’re the ones who have bought into an incredibly limited definition of beauty, ones that is harmful and false, and you don’t have to listen to them. All you have to do is keep doing what you do, and rocking what you have. Because it is incredibly beautiful.

The Strength and Goodness of Superheroes

In many houses around the world, today is known as the day when a fat man with a bushy, white beard and an addiction to sweets breaks into your house and leaves you nice things. And as the fact that I am DC Comics trash is known as wide and far as the North Pole, Batman and Wonder Woman swag was an easy choice for Santa to leave me.

And as I am opening what must have been my fifth or sixth present that revealed the DC Comics logo beneath the snowflake wrapping paper, I find myself asking a question that I actually don’t consider all that often: what is it about superheroes that I love so much?

Well, my sixth present does, in fact, offer me some sort of hint: I unfurl the entire Wonder Woman workout outfit, and I’m filled with excitement for the inspiration I’m going to receive from it. Because, strangely, superheroes make me feel powerful.

You’d think that it would work opposite. After all, I (unfortunately) don’t belong to a race of Amazons like Wonder Woman, and I’m not nearly as wealthy or mentally ill as Batman. I can’t dress up in a costume and fight crime, and I don’t know if I’d want to even if I could. But nonetheless, whenever I look at these characters, I’m filled with their strength – more their emotional strength than their physical strength.

Because a common theme in many superhero story lines is the theme of never giving up. Of being beaten up and knocked down and losing everything, and yet still getting back up and doing what you know is right, what you know you have to do. Even if I can’t relate to hiding my identity behind a mask so that I can go out at night and beat up the Joker, I can relate to being emotionally damaged and wanting to give up. I can relate to losing all will to continue, and thinking that it would be easier to just let it stop, just giving in to the common flow of life. And whenever I feel this way, I can just turn to my favourite superheroes to remind me that I can’t do that. I have to stand up and I have to fight for what I want and what I need – not necessarily physically, the way that they do, but most certainly mentally.

And, in a way, that leads me to the second theme in superhero story lines that I love so much: the theme of hope and optimism.

Certain superheroes turn to this theme more often than others, but it’s present in all superhero stories. In fact, it’s an almost essential part of the genre, because every single superhero (not anti-hero, necessarily) relies on the belief that there is at least one person out there who is capable of possessing ultimate power and using that only for the good of humanity.

Every single superhero looks at the world and sees a world worth saving. They see people who are, ultimately, good, even while they fight people who do the ugliest, cruellest deeds imaginable. In fact, there are many superheroes (including Batman, despite his reputation for being a more ‘dark’ superhero) who outright refuse to kill their villains, regardless of what the crimes they are guilty of, because they still hold onto the belief that these are people who are simply in need of help, who are capable of being reformed under the right circumstances.

It’s difficult, sometimes, to maintain hope and optimism in a society such as ours, filled as it is with social injustices and war and Trump, but whenever I’m starting to feel a little bit down, all that I need to do is turn to my superhero friends, and they help me to see the good in society once again.

Superhero stories reveal the good, while still refusing to conceal the bad. They explore an endless variety of social themes, from mental illness, drug abuse, physical/mental abuse, social inequalities, ect., but at the end of the day, no matter what happens in the course of the text, there is always this one great, powerful figure, this one man or woman who desires nothing more than to help. And they remind me of the good, strong people that exist in our society, the ones who truly do strive to make a change. They remind me of the sort of person I want to be – the strength that I wish to adopt, the goodness that I wish to embody. Maybe I can’t dress up in a costume and beat up criminals, but I can go out into the world and make a change. And that is all that I need to do.