Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The embarassment of regret

It's graduation season, and everyone's cheering that they made it, parents heaving huge sighs of relief that their money hadn't gone to waste and proud professors on stage nodding politely to the next generation of learned with the flame of education passed on.

It might seem the most inappropriate time to discuss....regret?

Yet 5 years (has it been THAT LONG?!) since I wore my first mortarboard, I sat in the audience of robed graduates asking myself, was this all a huge mistake?

This post is not to discuss the things "I would have done differently" nor a romantic reminisce of better times back in the day that I'd wish I'd done differently. This is rather, a post to discuss the embarassment of voicing one's regret.

I have a close friend tell me, that s/he regretted taking geography because s/he felt that history was his/her real passion. I have another friend tell me, I regret going to NUS even, when their hopes and dreams were in a technical college in Germany. Of course, life presents us with crossroads and decisions, often made with partial information available to us. We lool back in regret and we feel embarassed to talk about that.

I think that's not healthy. It invokes self-blame, sometimes justified, many times not. Not that by avoiding self-blame is a measure to encourage arrogance beyond belief. However, it is the simple acknowledgement to one's limits.

While some of us regret signing to a bond, to be working in a profession we otherwise realised we're not suited for, we can either blame ourselves for being "weak" and taking the easier comfortable route, or take this as a learning curve to finally understand that there is nothing to be afraid out there in the world and that opportunities will come to you if you're open to them.

Consequences of self-blame is to take on something you regret doing, and then doing it all over again in a different place because of the reluctance to learn and step our of your boundaries. Over time, it manifests into divulgment of blame - everyone sucks - rather than a reflection and reinforcement that old habits yield the same result.

Having the moral courage to shed embarasment and admit to yourself (in secret, in a cellar, whatever), you were wrong by choice or by circumstance, and find another way out of this maze, is the first step of taking back control and mature as a person. I don't personally think it is wrong to regret because re-gret is also re-flection. I try to be encouraging or stern in pushing those that come to me voicing their regret, in the direction that empowers their life rather than feed the monster of self-blame. I try not to judge, being human and all, and it is important that we start recognising regret as not a dirty secret, but one that we should openly come to terms with.

As we celebrate the start of a new journey, be it marriage, career or education, regret and reflect while you wait on the aisle or in the auditorium and as you step up on the stage or platform, or look through your photographs, ask yourself, "what is my biggest regret, how can I choose differently moving forward?"

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