Ready… hands behind the line… Get set… heels and buttocks up… BANG!
And we’re off! Running as fast as our legs could carry us through the 100m track. All nervousness temporarily forgotten as my mind blanks out and my legs propel me forward.
Before I knew it, I could see a sliver of a white horizontal line. I felt myself slow a little as I throttled over it. I remember smiling to myself as I slowly looked to the stands.
That’s when I saw my coach and teammates furiously ushering me to move onwards down the track. I was confused, why were they — And as if in slow motion I saw the rest of the competition run straight past me! I staggardly snapped out of it as I began to run once again. But alas! I was then restarting from the 60m line, and I no longer had that speedy momentum I needed to win.
For years to come, I would always replay scenarios in my head of how I could have done that race differently. I would regret this event for a disproportionately long period of time. So many people have told me “There is no use crying over spilled milk”, but still I look disparagingly at that empty milk carton.
There was one particular event in my life though that gave me a sizable mind shift on how I viewed ‘spilled milk cartons’. That event happened when my mom was getting treatment for Breast Cancer, a wrong decision that costed her way more than losing an interschool race.
As the story goes, my mom wanted to get a full mastectomy, but her doctor advised her not to because the cancer was still at stage 1. As it turns out, the cancer quickly came back with a vengeance. She eventually had to get the full mastectomy done anyway, and by then the cancer had already spread to the rest of her body.
At this point in time I was filled to the ‘brim of my milk carton’ with regret for my mom’s circumstance. She was also a doctor, and IF ONLY she had listened to her instincts and immediately gotten that full mastectomy! As I watched my mom wither away slowly each day, I had to ask if she regretted her decision way back when.
She said to me in plain terms: “It was the best decision I could have done given the information I had at that time.”
Nothing like hearing these words from someone battling with cancer to snap you into thinking how shallow and pointless all your other regrets are. Yes, life is too short to live in ‘what ifs’. I keep her words to heart and do my best to apply this line of thought to my everyday circumstances.
And with this, I can’t help but look back at that race many many years ago, of when I throttled and stopped at that dreaded 60m line that haunted me for so long. But this time, however I think about it, I do see that I couldn’t have done anything else given the information I had at that time.
I deeply regretted that race because I couldn’t forgive myself for being so careless, but I do realize now that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself based on information that I found out after the fact. Simply put, mistakes happen. And really, that mishap didn’t even have any detrimental consequences! If my mom can look at the face of a life-threatening illness without regrets, then surely I can shrug off anything else that may come my way.
I have come to the conclusion that life is too short to keep living in the past. If my mom has taught me one thing, it’s that I shouldn’t live my life with regrets. That’s how she lived her life and that’s how I should live mine.
And in her memory, I hold on to her words and work hard to tell myself that no matter what happens I have to keep on running — straight on forward. And you know what, for as long as I can keep picking myself up… the race isn’t over yet.