I feel guilty for many, many things in my life. I have a lot of regrets, times I should have taken a stand, times I gave up too easily.
You see, I was brought up to obey unquestioningly. When I was a kid, adults weren't on your side, and they weren't supposed to be. They weren't there to help with your problems, and they didn't really want to hear about them. You were supposed to do what they said and, insofar as you didn't do so, or didn't think what they thought, you were supposed to stay under the radar.
When my school started a gifted program when I was in fifth grade, we were pulled out of regular class to go to Gifted. We couldn't miss math or history, obviously, so the classes we had to skip were music and art.
I didn't mind missing music so much - it was pretty much just singing without having been taught to sing, and I was in band anyway. But I loved art. I wanted to be a visual artist of some kind when I grew up, although I knew better than to share that particular gem with my parents. (Once when I was drawing - this is a gem! - Mom complained that I was "wasting ink.")
No art in fifth or sixth grade. When we started junior high, we still went down to the Gifted classroom in the elementary building for a period. Which period? Art. In high school, there weren't any more gifted classes, so I signed up for art every semester. Every semester, I wasn't allowed to take art, because you only needed one arts credit, and - again - I was in band, so I'd end up with at least four of them.
My point is, I didn't think to formulate an argument and take it to my parents or to the principal. They weren't on my side. In the same way, I had to take an advanced math class (based on the track I was in, based on my grades in other classes) when I really needed the basic math class. My individual needs weren't a concern. In fact, adults didn't really think we had individual needs, as far as I could tell.
They finally let me take Art I when I was a senior, but by that time I was performing at about a third grade level, and it was really too late.
I'd still love to learn to draw someday.
By the same token, I quit piano lessons after the new male teacher persisted in sitting too close on the bench, leaning from behind with both arms to show me things on the keyboard, etc. I didn't tell anyone why I quit; my parents wouldn't have cared. I didn't confront the teacher. Nothing in my experience had given me the impression that I even had the right to say "Hey, you're making me uncomfortable; think you could back off? I'm trying to play piano here." That would be akin to challenging an adult's authority over me, and I didn't have the right to do that. In fact, a couple of years later, an adult male my mother was having an affair with, did put the moves on me in a very real and potentially scary sense. I told my mom. She said that I must have misunderstood.
I had a lousy education. I feel like I should have advocated for myself - asked to take that basic math course, for instance. My school didn't have AP classes. We didn't have final exams. There was one English class called "college prep English." that was the only class we had to write an essay in.
The thing is, this is the kind of stuff that really haunts me. My failures and losses. I can't get over how stupid I was to quit piano. What a passive loser I was. What a loss music and art were to me. I honestly get tears in my eyes in the art section of crafts stores. When I think about being able to draw, or paint, I honestly get depressed and have a crying jag because I'm such a failure at something I wanted so much.
But the other thing is -- I was a kid. A KID. I shouldn't have had all the responsibility here. Someone should have been looking out FOR me. My parents. Teachers. School administrators. For gods' sake, there were less than 50 people in my high school graduating class. It's not like they had to keep track of hundreds and hundreds of us. Someone might have realized I ALWAYS tried to take art. Someone might have noticed that my math scores were way below my other classes. The closest I got to individual attention was when the superintendent, who could see the playground out her window, called me into her office in elementary school and told me not to play with the boys any more. (In retrospect, she probably thought I was going to be a lesbian if not for her intervention.)
We were all fools.
The other thing is how passive I was with my father. He got sick when I was about ten (although he lived another 20 years), and from then on he didn't join the family for meals but instead ate by himself in the living room.
One might wonder why I didn't sometimes take my plate in there and eat with him. That probably would have made him pretty happy. I can't stand to think about how it really didn't even occur to me. Part of it was the "no eating anywhere but the kitchen table" rule, but most of it was that I was a fucking idiot.
But sometimes I think maybe I should try to forgive myself. I only really realized lately that the stuff I feel the worst about - the stuff that really makes me want to punch myself in the face - is stuff I never should have had sole responsibility for in the first place.
I mean, I won't forgive myself. I'm pretty sure I'm constitutionally incapable of forgiving myself. For anything, ever.
But sometimes I think maybe I should try.