Fiction of Regrets

When I was 16, one of my teachers called me to her office and told me that I wasn’t selected for a particular prestigious book prize. While my academic records were stellar, it would seem that my attendance records from 3 years ago for Chinese Calligraphy practice sessions was absymal – at least I didn’t hit the require threshold of turning up 75% of the time (or something like that, I don’t remember). That little blemish was the reason the book prize went to someone else instead.

Oh bother, I thought to myself. I actually had a 100% attendance record for Chinese Calligraphy practice that year but the system had made a mistake and claimed I did not attend some sessions. I didn’t think much of it nor did I consider it important so to avoid kicking up a fuss over the small matter, I let it slide. Too bad for me.

I told the teacher the truth of what happened and I could see she felt sorry for me. And she said there was nothing she could do – so she probably broke the news to me just to get some closure for herself. But I would say that this was perhaps an important juncture in my life where I realised that sometimes I just have to hustle and fight for myself a bit more. Letting others’ mis-impression or mistakes slide just won’t cut it.

What is fortunate, is that I did not allow my mind to dwell on the notions of ‘what if’ I got the book prize. I did not allow myself to build this perfect-life narrative of ‘if only’. That is really important because that is where regrets take root, and where they become such entrenched stories that we tell ourselves over and over again. And we might even convinced ourselves nothing we do going forward matters anymore because of that one misstep in the past.

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