A chat with my dear friend the other day on ‘what ifs’ and missed opportunities made me realize how much these words actually affect us on daily basis and our decisions in life and I feel it’s just so important for us to know and understand certain things why sometimes it’s the way they are regardless of the amount of effort you put into it.
When I was in high school, I used to skipped classes but with no bad intentions whatsoever. I did my homework, submit them on time but I’ll usually be absent during classes. I thought attending school was for me to learn. So that’s what I did. I learned, I knew what was going to be taught by the teacher and I see no point sitting in class when I already know what was being taught. I left class so I could explore things that were not taught in classes, like actually seeing the world. I was more of an adventurer or more specifically a wanderer. I loved walking through the streets, going from one housing area to another, stopping by to grab some food as I pass by a random McDonalds I find along the way and I could do that for hours. As a child, I was curious. Curious with what the outside world looks like, no filters or restrictions by my guardians. So I figured it was okay to skipped school, because I was told to go to school to learn and I didn’t neglect my duties, I just had a mind of my own.
Of course my teachers did not agree to this modified view of mine and reported my absence to my parents and although they were furious (more like worried that I was turning into a problematic child), they understood where I was coming from. I remembered them telling me that the school has a system for a reason and you can’t just change it however you like because you were bored. Not being bored and staying in school is discipline itself, mum used to say to me.
So I changed my intentions again about school.
I went to school to learn, only that I didn’t have to wait for the teacher to teach for me to learn. I spent all my boring hours in classes learning myself, completing revision books like it’s my daily homework, stay at the library and read as many books as I could and take walks in between classes. I was still a curious kid, but I learned not to break rules just for that. I still believe that what my behavior about school at first wasn’t exactly wrong, but mum always reminded me of the ‘what if’ factors which was mostly worries on my safety and well-being.
And in a way, I was thankful now that it happened the way it should be and I wasn’t harmed or damaged in any way because of my youthful curiosity and careless actions.
If you ask me how I felt during that time, I was frustrated and angry mostly because life was restricted for me and I just don’t understand why it had to be that way.
I didn’t understand, which is always the cases for all of us isn’t it?
We don’t always understand why things don’t go the way we want it, even though we planned it with good intentions or worked really hard for it. Sometimes our goals backfire and we go back to square one, leaving us demotivated and super super disappointed with ourselves, the world and we blame everyone and everything for this mishap. My initial career aspiration was to be a doctor and I loved tending to sick people, going to the hospital but I graduated with a degree in Accounting and Finance, something far from the medical field.
I had doubts, regrets initially but I did try my best, surveyed all the potential medical schools and I didn’t give up till it was time to accept the scholarship offer. Later on, I realized my own qualities and capabilities would not have made me a good doctor, or even a good medical student for that matter. Things didn’t unfold the minute I made my decision, but it was more of a slow, gradual realization about my own capabilities, strength and flaws. I let go of the opportunity to study in the medical field not only because the scholarship was what I wanted, but the circumstances I was in, my result, the potential in the path the scholarship offered and most importantly my own capabilities. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision, but the minute I accepted that I was going down that path I focused only on that, putting behind all the ‘what ifs’ and the opportunities I let go.
I studied hard for my A-Levels, put in all the extra efforts and my intentions were clear; get good results and go to a good university to get my degree. So when the results were out, I was once again beyond disappointed and I couldn’t even explain why things were so bad when I did nothing but study. I had to go through clearing, letting go of all the conditional offers from good universities and start all over again. I was sad to let go of those offers but I would have been even more devastated if I couldn’t go there to further my studies.
But now when I look back, I have no regrets or any disappointment about how things went the way they did.
The university I went offered so much for my personal growth, made me feel like I was in a community where I belonged and I’ve learned so much from all the opportunities that came my way. Some people would have looked down on me when they see the university I attended wasn’t a fancy with big reputation university but it wouldn’t have affected me because my intention to go to university is to learn, and I did learn so much.
All these personal hardships taught me that sometimes, what you think is the best for you might not be the case. People always say that missed opportunities only mean that there are better ones waiting for you. In a way, that is true. But I also believe those opportunities that you miss may not even be suitable for you, or you’re not ready for it yet. If you don’t work hard for your goal, then I guess that’s also a reminder for you that you need to buckle up if you want to grab those chances. But if you did work hard and still had to choose something you didn’t initially choose, there’s got to be a reason somewhere for it to happen that way. And no matter what your choice had to be, always remember your intentions. If you didn’t have a choice to choose, as long as the path given was one that is in line with your initial intention, I see no reason why you should be disappointed.
What you make out of that choice is the one that determines how much you’ll get out of that process.
So, my point here is don’t be too quick to punish yourself if things don’t turn out the way you want it to be. I know it’s difficult sometimes and it’s always easier said than done, but believe me I do know how it feels to give your best and yet things turn out to be a huge disappointment to you. I’ve gone through enough of that, I thought things wouldn’t get worst but it did, but also here I am today still surviving. So it can’t really be all that bad you know. It messes with your mind, makes you think over and over again what is it that went wrong or was it that you were so unworthy that it was taken away from you.
But trust me now it doesn’t have to be that way.
Take it as a lesson, a self-reflection would suffice and then just continue be the best version of yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes along the journey and learn, learn about the journey itself and learn about yourself. Though I must say that not all ‘what ifs’ are bad, some makes you think in a positive manner and that’s good but if it’s detrimental to yourself, why put yourself in a situation like that. Save yourself all the misery and think of it from a positive perspective instead. It’s all a learning process, a journey to discover our potentials, capabilities and our personal development.