Write Yourself Alive: Day Six – That Piece of Paper, Or Lack Thereof

Today’s Prompt: Is there anything you haven’t yet forgiven yourself for? Put into words whatever is still eating you up inside. Write it in the form of a poem, reflection or short story. If it’s an event, describe it in detail. Express why you still can’t let go and how it is affecting you.

View of Hong Kong & Outlying Islands from the Sky100 Observation Deck, ICC, Kowloon. December 2014.
View of Hong Kong & Outlying Islands at sunset from the Sky100 Observation Deck, ICC, Kowloon. December 2014.

I’ve learned to finally forgive myself for what you’re about to read, actually. And I’m thankful for that.


Sometimes it irks you.

For a good several months, you were a uni dropout.

You didn’t fall out of love with history. Quite the opposite, actually. You found yourself far more in love with it than ever before, and it scared you that every term paper, every seminar, every 8:30AM class was driving you further away from it. Making you hate it. And that’s the last thing you wanted.

After your mini-crisis, you had a chat with one of your old profs. He smartly and kindly took the time to sit you down, calm you down, and made you realise that while you love history and love teaching, perhaps getting that Ph.D. after almost a decade of education and having zero income and zero job security afterwards wasn’t the best fit for you after all.

You left academia disillusioned and jaded. You worked your ass off at a card shop and at the bloody Disney Store. It took nearly a year for you to return to school – this time for Baking & Pastry Arts – and you were gung ho. You were passionate. You’d found your calling. That’s what you thought.

Then you got injured, and your doctor “highly suggested” that you never work standing long hours in a kitchen ever again.

Well, shit.

Fast forward to now. You’ve got all that knowledge tucked beneath your thinking cap, and plenty of it has come to fantastic use… but none of it is, for the moment, directly related to your current occupation.

So now you’re thinking.

Did I just waste nearly five years of my life back then?

Should I have just ploughed through and sucked it up and dealt with the stress and unhappiness just so I can call myself ‘Jen dela Luna, B.A.’ like so many people are doing on their freaking email signatures?

Should’ve. Would’ve. Could’ve.

The point is, you didn’t plough through.

That’s not to say you just chickened out. You – rather wisely, I might add – put the car in reverse and reconfigured that SatNav to forge a different path, rather than speed headfirst into a wall (or off a cliff, whichever’s more dramatic) in the distance.

The fact of the matter is that who you are, what you do, and how successful you are isn’t dictated by a piece of paper (which, in its pretty gothic blackletter, is a glorified congratulatory note on surviving at least half a decade of suffering. You already did survive, just FYI).

I forgive you for that. Don’t be tethered by a non-existent ball and chain.

You’re a better person now than you were before you went to uni. You’ve got a good head on your shoulders. Your self-worth isn’t determined by some letters you can affix after your name on a signature line. You met some of your best friends in college and uni. You figured out what you didn’t want to do with your life, which is just as valuable as figuring out what you do want to do.

Good job, Jen. Keep on pursuing your dreams. Don’t look back in anger, or bitterness, or regret. Look ahead. There’s plenty more learning to be had.


And you’ll fight fire with fire when needed
But rather exhaust the flame than feed it
And we’ll take every chance this world allows
‘Cause we’re never as young as we are right now

Colin Bullock

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