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What do you make of people who look back at their life and say they have no regrets? Is that even possible?
Show me a person with no regrets and I’ll show you someone so repressed, their resting face reads: sucks on lemons all day long. Regret is part of life, along with anxiety, neurosis, and self-doubt. Besides, if people had no regrets, where would therapists get all their money to build houses in Union Pier? No, it is not possible, at least not from my standpoint. I regret at least seven things a day. Over time, that’s a big pile. I regret things I said, things I didn’t say, things I ate, things I didn’t eat, people I dated, people I didn’t date, aspirations lost, disappointments found. Being human sucks. But it can also be very beautiful! Therein lies the rub. We’re stuck with our joys and our regrets (unless you were born in the movie “Groundhog Day,” in which case you would be Bill Murray and could thereby afford to buy your therapist the entire town of Union Pier). The trick is keeping your regrets in perspective (hello 12-step program!) and not in your frontal lobe (hello “it’s five o’clock somewhere!”). And of course, the wisdom to know the difference.
Why do many people feel it is appropriate to comment on the college choices of other people’s children? My son has just been through the rather challenging process of applying to and selecting a college. It was stressful, to put it mildly. Like most kids, he didn’t get in everywhere he’d hoped. He had some good choices, but was struggling to decide between them. Every relative and family friend began asking where he’d gotten in and what he was thinking. Fine. I understand the curiosity. But most of them, when they learned what the two final contenders were, would begin telling me their own thoughts about the schools. One friend told me about when he brought his daughter to one, and they hated it. Too preppy. Too southern. Another relative started advocating for the smaller of the two colleges, going on about all the ways in which the tiny college where his son goes is perfect in every way. Never mind that that was one of the schools where my son was actually rejected. Did these people not realize that my kid was going to be going to one of the two schools, and that I forever would have to think about how they thought it was crummy? Is there something I should have said to stop them in their tracks?
Pissed Off Parent
I feel your pain! People can be so thoughtless. Especially when all that is required of them is two simple words: “Fantastic!” and “Congratulations!” I’m sorry that everyone feels so free to offer you their unsolicited opinions. Opinions should be meted out very judiciously and carefully, like say, life sentences. And once again, I say to people who offer their unsolicited opinion about anything to anyone, know your audience! But back to the question at hand.
It’s hard to keep people from spouting off since a lot of people love to hear themselves opine and think that what they have to say is of international import. I am related to many of them. But you don’t have to let their poison seep into your view of a college or university, whether it is Harvard or Podunk U. What counts most is what your student brings to the experience anyway. And if I know your kid (though I don’t), he’s gonna have a great time and if not, you’ll worry about it then. Next time someone asks, tell them that your son is very excited about his options and that he will be announcing his choice soon. If that doesn’t work, just say, “it’s such a long and grueling process, we’ll share our news when we have some.” If they still don’t get the hint, you’ll just have to flash a red cape in front of the bull and say, “I’d prefer to let him speak for himself” or “I’m so weary of the whole thing, let’s talk about something else.” It’s a little more polite than “would you shut up?!” (but if you have the nerve to pipe up with the latter, then by all mean, report back, cause I wanna hear all about it!)
My best friend just found out her mom has cancer. I want to support her, but she lives across the country and her mom lives in another country altogether. What can I do to help her through this?
A Worried Pal
Your friend only needs one thing from you right now and that is friendship. Being there, being there, being there. Cancer scares people into inertia because they “don’t know what to say.” You don’t have to say anything other than “This sucks!” Here are some other things you can do for her…
– Call her regularly to catch up and find out what is going on with her mom. Listen with concern but not pity. You don’t have to solve the problem, just say “that sounds hard,” or “this sucks!” because it does.
– Do not be afraid of talking about what is going on with you. Often people appreciate the distraction.
– Send her a homemade care package (i.e. cookies, a beautiful mug with some nice tea, etc.).
– Send her mom a care package…another country just means more money for postage. If you can afford it, treats can include the same items mentioned above (or even a super soft throw blanket to use for naps).
– Don’t drop off after an initial burst of concern. Consistency is more important than anything else.
– Go to the dollar store and find the cheesiest cards you can and buy 10. Send one every week.
– Plant a tree in her mom’s honor and take pictures of it to send her.
– Make her a playlist of funny podcasts or a list of humorous books, ’cause laughing is always encouraged and welcome.
You get the picture. Get creative! She is lucky to have a concerned friend like you.
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Friday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at email@example.com.