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photo by Sean Campbell

Students share their

biggest regrets

“NEVER REGRET ANYTHING because at one time it was exactly what you wanted.”

Sorry, inspirational quote enthusiasts, but it’s time to call bullshit on your “no regrets” posters, Facebook photo captions, and tattoos. Experience may be our best teacher, but refusing to acknowledge we’ve all screwed up in the past isn’t healthy or productive. Instead of denying the things we wish we could change or erase, we at the Fulcrum are coming clean, having a laugh or a cry, and moving on.

So, in the spirit of owning up to our mistakes—the stupid, the silly, the tragic, and the life-changing—we share our deepest regrets with you.

Where would I be now?

Regret comes in many shapes and sizes. Mine is a scholastic road not taken. As a young child, I was very aware of disease and illness. At the tender age of 12, I began volunteering at fundraisers for organizations fighting cancer, AIDS, and diabetes. In high school I excelled in science and math courses, and it was no secret to my family or friends that my dream was to help find a cure for cancer.

I even had a plan: I would study natural science at the college level, apply for university and medical school, and then work toward a cure. Words could not describe my joy when I was accepted into the college program of my choice.

Fast-forward three years later and I am now studying something completely different. I love my program and am presently on track to becoming a teacher, but I still have regrets. The things I did in college changed the course of my entire life. Alcohol, drugs, and parties consumed my every waking moment and I felt I had no time to go to class or volunteer.

I have now taken full responsibility for my choices and regained my passion for my future; however, moments do occur when I wonder: Where would I be now if I had stuck to my childhood dreams?

—Nadia Helal

photo by Kyle Hansford

Coca Cola conundrum

In the third grade, I went to Korea to visit my relatives for the first time. One day, I woke up and noticed I was alone in my uncle’s home. I was really thirsty, so I went to the kitchen to grab a drink. Upon opening the fridge, I discovered a 500 mL bottle labelled Coca Cola. As there were no available cups, I decided to drink the entire bottle myself.

Now, before I continue, I must tell you it is a rule in my family that nothing goes to waste. My parents often told me how hard a farmer had to work to produce even the smallest grain of rice. Bearing this in mind, I decided I had to finish the drink, even though it tasted awful. I chalked it up to the fact I was in Korea and things simply tasted differently there, and I drank it down. Soon afterward, my aunt entered the kitchen and told me that the bottle of “pop” I had just consumed wasn’t, in fact, a Coke, but was soy sauce. I ended up spending the entire afternoon puking in the washroom.

—Jae Kiun An 

One last conversation

My biggest regret is not having one last conversation with my father, who passed away from a heart attack when I was 12 years old. Losing a parent is not something anyone can prepare for, nor can it always be predicted, but it certainly has a dramatic effect on your life.
Nov. 27 marks eight years since I lost my father, and there have been countless times I’ve wished for his counselling and advice. My mother has done a spectacular job raising me—of that I have no doubt. She has done more for me as a single parent than I know some of my friends’ parents are capable of doing as a couple; however, a father figure is something that cannot be replaced.

One more conversation with my father could help answer all of the questions I have—and the ones I had at the young age I was when I lost him. My parents separated when I was three years old and there are many things I intended on discussing with my father, even though I was so young. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the courage to ask him before it was too late. I had decided I would ask him the next time we were together, but later that week we received the call that he had passed away. Missing that conversation with my father is my biggest regret.

—Kyle Wallace

Epic Spanish fail 

I don’t believe in regrets. I am someone who follows every impulsive whim, each time inevitably winding up in situations I can’t back out of, wondering how I ever came to be there. Whether I am bungee jumping in Thailand, breaking into a Harvard classroom on a Model United Nations conference trip, or having too much to drink at my mother’s law school reunion, I’ve never once regretted my decisions for one reason: They’ve never backfired.

This past year, however, I ate my words.

While studying abroad, I found myself registered in a fifth-year law course, taught in Spanish. This proved to be a problem, as I was not a fifth-year law student, but rather a third-year political science student. My Spanish was at the intermediate level at best and the course concluded with a 10-minute oral exam worth 100 per cent of our final grade.

On exam day, I arrived 15 minutes early only to see two people from the group before me leave the classroom in tears. I was forced to wait almost an hour before the professor emerged, claiming he was hungry and leaving for dinner, not to return for several hours. Because my last name starts with a “V”, I was, of course, the last person scheduled to do the exam. I wasn’t called in to start until 9 p.m. In hindsight, I realize I not only wasted an entire day waiting for an exam that I knew would be killer, but I also threw away the five months I spent attending the professor’s lectures. The exam? Epic fail. Regret? 100 per cent.

 —Spencer Van Dyk

For a minute there I lost myself

Once upon a time, in the wayward days of my early teen years, I got into a relationship with a stranger. I spent the next 10 months of my life letting everything I had become wither away simply to make myself a more “loving” girlfriend—and I use the term “love” loosely because I really had the definition all wrong back then.

I can no longer remember what it was that drew me to this boy who would end up damaging me so thoroughly. Was he charming, funny, intelligent? I can, however, remember in acute detail why I started to hate him. He was selfish, manipulative, vastly delusional, and deeply wounded.

At first his wounds were all I could see, and of course I thought it was my job to fix him. I would hold him when he was upset and give him heartfelt advice until I was blue in the face, but nothing I said ever really made a difference.

I kept trying though, and eventually devoted myself so completely to his cause I forgot to pay attention to my own needs. Then the pieces of myself, which I used to hold most dear, began to fall away. My confidence, my curiosity, my joy, my innocence, my happiness, and my ability to say “no” were gone. They were replaced by all of the things he needed.

After a while, I had nothing left— he had emptied me out and I was simply a shell of my former self. When our dangerous liaison finally ended, it wasn’t because I got stronger or more assertive; it was because I became completely apathetic and my attentiveness began to waver. He confronted me and I told him I couldn’t give him any more. And that was that.

The ordeal left me feeling empty for a long, long time afterward, though I suppose I’m now stronger because of it. At the very least, I’ve learned not to leap into relationships anymore.


photo illustration by Mico Mazza

Meal plan blues

I regret every dollar I spent on my meal plan in first year. Over eight months I spent upwards of $2,000—mostly because I’m an incompetent cook.

Four years ago, when I first arrived at the University of Ottawa, the cafeteria was even worse than it is now. It was a time before Bento Nouveau Sushi, Quizno’s subs, SHISH, and the overpriced salad bar.

Back in the days of yore, the options were limited to the unusually small slices of Pizza Pizza, Coyote Jacks, stir-fry, and the questionable “menu du jour,” which we all learned very quickly to stay away from. I got food poisoning from Upper Crust, which is usually considered a “safe” option for food on campus. The illness got me out of an early morning shift at work—by the way, Upper Crust, I never got a chance to thank you for that—but left me curled up on a bathroom floor in Stanton.

Yes, I see the appeal of leaving residence with new friends to grab a bite to eat in a convenient location, and yes, meal plans make everything fast and simple; however, my dear first years, I suggest you skip the plan and be inclined to go to the cafeteria less often. Walk away from campus! There is a whole world of cheaper and tastier food selections right next door. Besides, if you don’t already hate the caf, by January you will certainly be repulsed by it and seriously regretting the huge meal plan you bought months earlier. After wasting a solid two grand on our campus dog food, you couldn’t pay me to eat there again.

—Kevin McCormick

Stepping out of the box

We all know that high school is a giant cornucopia of awkwardness and regret for many, so the setting of my painful memory may not come as a surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, one might be interested to know my biggest regret during this period of my life does not stem from something I did, but rather from something I neglected to do.

You see, as an impressionable, weak-kneed teenager, I was greatly intimidated by the different cliques that constantly roamed the school, so I decided the best way to curb possible rejection was to keep my head down and fade into the background. This worked for the most part and I was able to make my way through those weird four years of my life relatively unscathed.

Unfortunately, my timid nature and insecurity also prevented me from reaching out and participating in groups and activities that always sparked my interest. Throughout my entire high-school career, I never once auditioned for a role in a school play, wrote for the school’s newspaper, ran for student council, or joined a club that appealed to me. I never once challenged myself or stepped out of my comfort zone, which left me feeling phenomenally empty and unfulfilled.

Now I am desperately trying to play catch up. I’m constantly surrounded by talented writers, artists, and administrative individuals who always make me wonder about the experiences I could have had and the character-building moments I missed out on back in high school.

—Kyle Darbyson