Monday, January 23, 2012

...but then again, too few to mention

For weeks I've been stumped by the idea of high school regrets, because as far as I can figure, I only have one and I've already blogged here about it (not standing up for my best friend when I had the chance). But that's it.

Before you roll your eyes and click away, let me clarify. I'm sure if I examined my past long enough I would find things I wish weren't part of my past, things like coral lipstick, rosary-bead necklaces, and clogs. (For the record, I never regretted leg warmers. It gets cold here. Leg warmers were A Good Thing.) But those don't really stand up as things that affect the person you become, and for me, that's what a regret is: something with a lasting effect on your life.

So what do I have to talk about? how oddly disturbing it is not to have regrets. Because it says something about the person I was in high school. No surprise, I was horribly shy. I was the book-loving girl who spent her free periods in the art studio. I had a core group of good friends and very few acquaintances. The school bus terrified me. I was too much of a wimp to ever do anything I might regret later ...

And I sorta regret that.

Don't get me wrong. I don't regret not being the chick passed out next to a toilet. Truly, I do have some perspective.

But I do regret not being this girl:

No, not Anna Paquin. The other one. I regret not being the girl who was willing to take a chance. Not being the one who had the guts to step out of her shell -- or allow someone else to help her with those steps. Or ask for help in the first place.

Straight through high school, through much of my life in fact, I let fear rule me. I was afraid of not being cool, afraid of being mocked, afraid of doing something "wrong" or "bad". Afraid of failing. So I never tried. I never took chances. I never risked. I played it safe, and boring, and silent, and slunk through high school (virtually) unscathed.

Now this little voice in the back of my mind is asking "and that's a bad thing? to never fail? to never be the object of ridicule?" Well, okay, nobody wants to be mocked. But the thing is, never having those experiences? I never learned how to recover from them. I never learned how to laugh off an insult - and each one stings to this day. I never learned how to recover from being stabbed in the back -- and that holds me back from close friendships now. And it took me a really long time to learn how to stand up for myself.

So. That's why I regret not having regrets, why I regret not being brave enough to... fill in the blank with a legal activity *s*. I regret not having a fuller life... and not understanding the errors of coral lipstick until much, much later.

And now the question goes to you. What color lipstick... no, I'm kidding. The question is, have you ever had a time in your life when you were too afraid to take a chance? Was avoiding the situation the right choice, or do you regret missing out? And hey! Keep it clean and legal!


Jo Ramsey said...

My entire life, I was afraid to take chances. I went beyond being a wallflower; I was wallboard. I had few friends because I was afraid to talk to people; I chose the safe, in-state college because it was in-state and my parents complained when I wanted to choose a better, out-of-state school; and I chose to give up writing for years because I was afraid of being rejected (and was afraid of my now-ex-husband).

I wish I could have my life from ages 15 to 36 back so I could actually live those years instead of just existing.

Beth Anne Miller said...

In high school, I was probably much the same as you, Jen. I had my 2 best friends (who remain so today), and a few others, but we kept to ourselves a lot. We were ridiculed here and there for being nerdly, but we went out and did stage crew for the plays and musicals and made our own fun, and I don't really have any high school regrets.

For college, I'm proud to say that I took advantage of some of the great opportunities that were offered. I did a semester at sea, for which I do have some regrets. I regret that I didn't have the patch to prevent seasickness, and I regret that I didn't throw myself into learning the hell out of the navigation and seamanship stuff-- it was the only C I got in all my college classes!

I am proud of myself for venturing forth on the semester at sea--it is one of the best experiences I've had.

Ginger Calem said...

Jen, really interesting perspective of regretting not having regrets. I've never thought of it that way.

In terms of high school, I regret letting it slip by a not being a part of it. I was is such a hurry to grow up, I forgot to be a teenager. I'd like to go back and get involved, go to school sports, PLAY school sports, cultivate more friendships. It's funny, I'm not better friends with some of my high school classmates through Facebook than I ever was back then.

Great post.

Kimberly said...

Jen! You totally stole my title for next week! LOL.
I'll have to switch around Frankie's words. Maybe, Regrets, I've Had a Few... My Way seems a bit too cocky. :-)
Anyway, I'm also stumped with this one. Not because I haven't had some regrets but, just like you said, not much that impacts who I've become. Not that I'm perfect, but I am happy with myself.
Coral lipstick never reeled me in with its evil intentions. :-) Neither did I cave to the beads. But, alas *big sigh* leg warmers caught me too. And I completely agree. THERE IS A NEED FOR THEM! They are making a comeback, too. I saw them in several stores this season. I was highly tempted, but I put them down and walked away.
I think, in the end, you did learn to take chances, Jen. I think being a writer and putting yourself and your words and your ideas out there is a very brave thing to do. So, who cares about the coral lipstick?!

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Jo - yes! exactly! Playing it safe, bowing to someone else's preference for your college -- and the impact it has later in life. I don't know that I would go back, but I do wish I had spent a little more time participating instead of existing.
And I'm so glad you've gotten back to writing! YAY!!

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Beth - Thanks for coming by and commenting! I'm glad you had a regretless high school experience despite being made fun of - that's awesome. be proud!

Gerb said...

That's the nature of high school, yeah? Trying to find your identity and be an individual while at the same time not wanting to stand out enough to draw attention (at least not the wrong kind). I hear what you're saying, but I wonder if maybe we place too much weight on how we were "supposed to" be in high school, and what we were supposed to do. You weren't a risk taker then? Okay. But look at you now!

There's a scene in Pretty in Pink where Iona (the record store manager) is telling Andie about how she sometimes has a feeling something is missing - she checks her purse, checks her pockets, and finally attributes it to not having gone to prom in high school. It's a great scene. Loved Iona. But I swear, there *is* life after high school, and much of it carries a whole lot more weight than prom. : )

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Ginger -- yeah, regret might be too strong a word. I always attach so much emotion to "regret", but I do have my "I wish I had..." and plenty of it.
And oh, yeah, being in a hurry to grow up, spending all the time wishing you weren't a teenager anymore and were finally an adult who can make her own decisions? yeah, a lot of life slips by that way.
I think we should do our teen years now. whaddaya think?

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Kim -- eep! Sorry for the title snag. I like "Regrets, I've had a few..." Not surprisingly, that was my second choice : )
I'm glad you're happy with yourself now -- your self-confidence shows and it's great to see! And yes, I've learned to take chances and see things through to the end, but I can't help wondering how much different life would have been if I'd learned those skills in sophomore year, you know?
And thanks for thinking I'm brave -- it's all an act, you know. Really I'd rather be home wearing my leg warmers and making art with old lipsticks...

Helen Scott Taylor said...

I was shy at school as well and not keen on taking chances. I sort of admire my son because he goes his own way and doesn't care about stepping outside the box. Even though this behaviour did get him in trouble when he was at school. I was usually on his side!

Robin Ruinsky said...

I don't believe in regrets. Life takes its time, each thing you do is a building block whether you realize it or not, whether you feel you're moving forward or not.
The girl you describe as taking chances isn't taking chances at all but changing herself to fit in, to be accepted.
I went through High School with the idea that what other people thought of me was irrelevant. As some of you probably know I still have the same attitude.
In college I had an acting teacher who gave what I think is the best piece of advice ever:

Consider the source

What is the value of affirmation if it comes from people you don't respect?
And as you might have guessed I didn't respect many people in High School.
The ones I still know of who were Happy High Schoolers are the ones who still look back on it as the best years of their lives.
And that is pathetic and gives me the last laugh.

Lea Nolan said...

What a great post, Jen. Youth is the time when we're supposed to be at least a little crazy, do reckless things, be impulsive. 'Cause as soon as real life dawns and there are jobs to be kept, mortgages to be paid, spouses and potentially children and other furry mammals to be cared for, there's no room for that craziness. I'm so sorry you couldn't put yourself out there, but I understand. Generally, I was a pretty restrained kid too, but I did do a few bold things-No, I never passed out next to a toilet!. Do I wish I'd done more, hell ya, but at least I've got a few memories to look back on.

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Gerb and @Robin -- no, no, I don't mean this to be about fitting in or doing what's expected, nothing that "big". It's more along the lines of, say a bunch of my friends were going ice skating over the weekend. I would decline to go with them because I couldn't skate well. This is a made up story. I could skate well enough, but the point being I passed up opportunities to experience life, to have fun. Passed up trying out for the school play because of fear of wearing a goofy costume (also not a true story *s*). That sort of thing. To me there's a distinction there. It's not about fitting in, it's about living life.

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Helen - yes! I fell the same way about my kids! One of the things that was very important to me was trying not to teach my kids fear. They'll take chances I never dreamed of. Of course, I might have taken the time to teach them to cook, but oh well...

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Lea - truth be told, I never passed out next to a toilet either. And that I don't regret : ) But yeah, I wish I'd been able to put myself out there more. When I was young and had the figure to wear a bikini, I was too chicken. Now that I have the confidence to do it, the figure....let's just say I'll spare my fellow beach-goers that sight, lol!

Robin Ruinsky said...

Okay, I got ya. I understand. I guess I was a risk taker but never thought about it.
I was in the school plays, wrote my own material with a friend and we performed it in revues.
I passed out petitions to make the mosquito the national bird.
I painted a mural of the Marx Brothers in the cafeteria with the quote:

"I don't care what they have to say it makes no difference anyway, whatever it is I'm against it. No matter who proposed it or commenced it. I'm against it."

Which didn't sit well with the principal. So,me and a friend who worked on it with me were called to meet with the principal.
He said take it down.
I said "You don't like it you take it down."
Then we both got up, bid him good day and left.
Nothing happened. I think he might have had a stroke.
My take? You didn't go ice skating. What did you do instead? Maybe you read a really great book that has contributed to who you are today. Falling down on the ice multiple times is overrated. I know. I used to ice skate very badly.
People are too consumed in what others think of them.
Who the hell cares? I just never did. It made no difference. I never even cared what teachers thought but I've never had a healthy respect for authority.
But, yes, I get now what the example was for. But the girl gets the guy when she changes herself, assuming I'm thinking of the right film.
To go totally off topic, I think a big problem still is girls being fed the idea in books that the big thing in their lives is to get the guy. Books like Twilight where the heroine, and I use that word loosely, becomes the undead to get the guy.
I want girls to see strong female characters who know the guy is lucky to get them!
My niece hated High School. I told her that she's supposed to hate it. If she loved it I'd worry.

And I shall shut up now!

SherylKaleo said...


For me the regrets come down to trying to be a nice person, and letting people do awful things to me and the others around me. Having the courage to speak up, consequences be damned.

Great post!


Kat Jorgensen said...

I wish I knew then what I know now. High school would have been such a different experience for me. Thanks for a great post, Jen.

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Robin, exactly. I never took risks. Had to learn how to do it later on, and you know us dinosaurs don't learn easily ; )

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Sheryl, it can be extra hard to continue to be "nice" while standing up for yourself and what's right, but the pride in yourself and your action is soooo worth it!

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Kat, do you think that's where all those "Freaky Friday" type movies come from? That whole "I wish I knew then...." I'm convinced that's the case.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

Lorie Langdon said...

Great post, Jen.
This fear of risk seems to be a prevailing theme here on Honestly YA. Hmmm...possibly a pattern repeated throughout the writing community. Maybe those who took big risks and had big heartbreaks in their formative years wouldn’t have the same drive we do to delve back into our past and write the types of characters we wish we’d been. Whatcha think?

Jennifer McAndrews said...

@Lorie, I wonder if it's a Myers-Briggs thing, that writers aren't risk takers... hmm... I feel some research coming on... *vbg*

Julie O'Connell said...

I WAS a risk taker. I don't know never seemed to work out for me. I was the chubby and not-really-popular girl who tried out for rally as a freshman, but didn't make it. Also tried out for May Queen court as a senior. Also didn't make it. Played a couple of sports. Tried out for and was in nearly every play, though was never good enough for a big role. Was president of Honor Society. I had a terrific group of friends - really awesome people - and always seemed to have someplace to go or something to do. I desperately wanted people to like me, so would do just about anything, anytime. Which meant that a few times, yes, I was also the girl praying to the porcelain goddess *ahem*, if'n you know what I mean.
It's NOW that I've had to fight becoming more of an avoider - an ostrich, if you will. 'Cause if you don't confront the bad news, it can't hurt you, right? What a total load of bollocks THAT is. :-) Facing life's problems head-on is something I strive for everyday.
And my fashion faux-pas? Let's see...Bare Trap shoes, Mork-n-Mindy side ponytails, harem pants (oh, yes...I did), really short shorts with knee hogh tube socks. Oh, seventies. You were so magical. :-)

Robin Ruinsky said...

Being a writer, an artist, is all about risk. There's nothing safe about it. It's about putting yourself out there.
I don't think you can write afraid.
You have to be fearless.

CareyCorp said...

Great post Jen! I've blogged about being afraid to stand out, but that remains one of my biggest regrets. Not only did I not fly my freak flag, I didn't even design one. Hmmmm - I sense a creative project coming on. :)

Anonymous said...

Jen ~~a eye-opening, thought-provoking post! Thank you for sharing and for starting a dialogue that most people avoid like the dickens. I can't imagine you changing your past because that would change the amazing person you are today! I think every one of those I-wish-I-had moments create a unique world view and they got you to where you are today. So viva for it never being too late to have the perfect child hood and I think that includes High School.

Liz jasper said...

Jen, I really enjoyed reading this; it is very thought provoking. And you worked in leg warmers which gave me a giggle and damned straight no regrets on those. :). I regret giving in to not following my dreams at times because other people were afraid it would be hard to succeed in what I loved. Which in college was computer science and how wrong headed were they? Lol. But there's no time like the present to give something a first step and a second and...