“If you could get one do-over in life what would it be and why?”
We’ve all made mistakes. It happens. But, what we learn from them is worth its weight in gold — or in scholarship money. These scholarship winners used their do-over moments to help them earn free money for college. See our past winners and their scholarship responses below.
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Crowded around the living room table listening to chatter from cousins and uncles and tias alike, every conversation ended with Great Uncle Pepino. The adults were always telling me to talk to him, listen to his stories, and learn about his experiences. Pepino traveled the world, serving in the military, and then as a distance runner on the world stage of the Olympics. But as a child, I was more interested in stealing candy and chasing cousins. His old tales were boring to a tiny child with a short attention span. I saw how the adults admired Pepino, how they retold his stories as if they were treasured gold. As young kids, however, we continued to run around the backyard and build forts with blankets, finding that much more entertaining than sitting still and listening to outlandish tales from an old man. Time and time again I was told to listen to Pepino’s wisdom and stories of the world, and time and time again, I continued to ignore the suggestion in favor of “more exciting” activities. Eventually, Great Uncle Pepino started showing up to family gatherings less and less, until I heard that he had passed on, and the news hit me like a ton of bricks. I never got to hear his stories. I wish that I had taken the time when I had the opportunity to sit down and listen to Pepino’s colorful stories, because now I can only hear them through the voices of others.
Speak up. Say something. What do you have to lose? My dad started smoking when my parents got divorced. I knew that it was a bad habit he picked up, but I couldn’t help but feel sympathetic for him because I knew whatever heartbreak and pain I was feeling, he felt it tenfold. My aunt begged me to say something to him. She knew that he would only listen to me, his only daughter. I was willing to turn a cheek because I thought that it was harmless, a habit he would eventually shake off, something to numb his pain. The following year, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I have had to watch my dad slowly deteriorate as he tried to smile through the pain. I watched his once lively demeanor turn into endless days and nights of watching TV because it hurt too much to stand. His wrists were smaller than mine, a 4’11, 93 lb girl. Surgery after surgery, multiple infections, and countless doctor appointments later, and there was still no sign of getting better. For years, I watched my dad die in front of my eyes. All of this could’ve been avoided if I had found the strength to say something. So, learn from my mistake and speak up. Use your voice. Have that ‘difficult conversation’. Stand up to injustice. Point out when someone is doing something wrong. You could save a life. RIP Kevin Luu.
Thirty hours a week at Jamba Juice. Thirteen units a semester at Glendale Community College. Daily homework. Two to three hours every night helping my mother with her own nursing homework. I worked tirelessly, knowing I would have to cover tuition and board independently once I transferred to a four-year university. One night, after arriving home late from a closing shift, my mother asked me if I had time to help her navigate her online learning module. Anak, I do not understand. Can you help me? Hindi ko alam. I was still in my orange uniform, splattered with smoothie stains, and hadn’t even touched my own homework yet. In a moment of weakness, I yelled, I don’t have time for this. What about me? She replied with her heavy accent and broken English, Can’t you see? When I finish, this will be good for all of us, with tears streaming down her face. If I could have one do-over, it would be to have never faltered in my expression of gratitude and love for her. I felt sharp pangs of pain in seeing the English language frustrate her to no end. Then, these pangs subsided and transformed into a complex mixture of patience, gratitude, and self-shame. I realized that one of the best ways I could reciprocate my mother’s sacrifices was by helping her learn through the education I received – an education that she ultimately granted me access to.
May 27th, 2019 my best friend gave me a letter in which she came out to me as bisexual, telling me that she had been in love with me for the last two years. That night I drove and cried and thought only of the future of our relationship and what was in store for us. Would we awkwardly drift apart? Would the nearing summer distance us from one another? I listened to the voicemail she had sent and instead of calling her back or going to her house, I just cried. A few hours later I sent her a long paragraph telling her that I will ALWAYS be there for her. But, if I had one do-over I would have gone to her house. I would have hugged her and cried with her and made it so obvious that she had not jeopardized our relationship, as her letter had voiced that concern. I would have thought not only of the future of our relationship, but also of the past. I would have fully realized the extent of this news. I would have talked to her and done everything possible to understand what the last two years had been like from her point of view. I eventually did all of these things, but I wish more than anything that I had immediately gone to her. I love her friendship and the memories we share and that is why May 27th, 2019 deserves my one do-over.
He was easily my biggest regret. Laughing brown eyes, always warm and teasing. Bright smile. Braces. A mop of curly brown hair, tanned skin, and excruciatingly bad jokes. But to me, you were hilarious–they were bad, but we told and laughed at those jokes together. We were always together. We would sit on that manhole cover at recess and tell stories; you would pick at yellow dandelions as you talked. We both loved to write and liked the same books: A-Z Mysteries, Captain Underpants, and Percy Jackson. We would play footsies under the guided reading table, play pranks on each other like all best friends do. I even miss the days you slipped Expo Dry-Erase spray into my water bottle. So, what happened that summer before middle school? If I could turn back time, I’d make it so that I was still your best friend, that you were still mine, and that we never drifted apart. I hate it, seeing you around the high school but not being able to say “hi.” People would talk about you, and I could barely stand it–they knew you better than I did. Every time I heard your name, about your achievements, about how you wanted to be an English teacher, a knot forms in my chest (cheesy, right?), and my heart remembers. I’m happy plenty, but I’d be happier still if you were with me, too.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Very few get the chance to redo a past mistake. Despite all the regrets I’ve compiled as I’ve aged, I’ve come to one conclusion on the option of do-overs: I wouldn’t change a single thing. A younger me would have seen my past mistakes as unconquerable obstacles when in fact–I now realize–they were so much more; they were do-overs within themselves. My mistakes gave me the opportunity to learn from them and develop more personal growth to prepare me for future obstacles to come. More importantly, my mistakes gave me a reason to persevere and keep trying.
Didn’t make the basketball team? Train harder and try again next year. Fail a test? Study more; kill the game for the next test. Had a terrible fight with your best friend? Apologize and reconcile with her.
Over the course of my years, I’ve learned that I don’t need do-overs because life continually gives me the opportunity to try again, this time with greater effort, greater determination, and greater heart. With each challenge and curveball that life has thrown my way, it shines through to me that do-overs are available in abundance if we choose to look at life with a different perspective. Essentially, each day is our own personal do-over–another day to try again and be better than the person we were yesterday. Personally, I’ve learned to appreciate each opportune day and to take criticism as another chance to improve and grow as a human being–and I wouldn’t change a single thing.
A letter to the one who should’ve been my first love:I’m sorry about all of the times that I told you to change, thinking that if you did maybe I’d finally love you.I’m sorry that I dismissed all of your dreams while trying to force you to grow up quicker.I’m sorry that I never nursed your potential to be brilliant until you thought that it was too late.I’m sorry that you had to watch me search for love and purpose in the approval and arms of others when you tried to offer me everything I needed.I’m sorry I didn’t give you the respect you so deserved and that I didn’t teach you to demand it.I’m sorry that I can’t undo the years I spent avoiding alone time with you or take back the lies I whispered in your ear, during moments of confidence, to remind you of who I thought you were.I thank God that even without my love, and despite my neglect, you became a woman of strength and an inspiration.I thank God that you never gave up on me.I can’t wait to see what you become.Love,
Los Angeles, CA
An Open Letter to My Dear Soft-Hearted Friend
You sat six seats across from me, tears falling in the middle of class. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t care to know at that moment— petty middle school envy over grades of all things— but I overheard anyways. Classmates were faced down, eyes on their own paper, quiet; no one paid you any mind except for Jeffrey who was trying to console you. And me.
Your sentences were broken up with sobs so you began speaking in shorter ones.
“I lost it.”
“I need it.”
“No— I do.”
Physically, it was a small slip of paper, one an observer would deem easily replaceable. One I deemed easily replaceable. I could have done it— replicate the design, give you something to rewrite the pledge to yourself.
“I will be kinder,” your pledge said.
My dear soft-hearted friend, it was not you who had to be kinder, but me. Even if the situation wouldn’t have played out the way I thought it could— your tears still likely flowing, but your heart now smiling— there is no end to the guilt.
Do-overs are the rare epilogues to the trilogy of mistakes, regrets, and could’ve-would’ve-should’ves. It was a mistake not to comfort you. I have regretted my lack of action for the last five years. I could have, would have, and should have been by your side. But I wasn’t. I could have, would have, and should have tried. But I didn’t.
Three hours, twenty-three minutes: Everything has gone wrong. Macey is dead, my bug is crushed, Carlos has a broken arm and I have to wear a neck brace as the paramedics race me to the hospital.
Three hours, ten minutes: I only look down for a second to reply when the car smashes into the side of my little, blue bug and flips us onto our side. I hear screaming; I feel my seat belt tighten and my head hit the window.
Three hours, nine minutes: I’m sure I can turn left before the Mustang gets anywhere near me. It doesn’t look like it’s going too fast. As I turn, there’s a buzz from my phone with another text from Sam.
Three hours: The movie finishes and Macey mentions how the movie played longer than expected and that we should hurry home. I guess I’ll have to take the short cut.
Two hours, twenty minutes: It feels like the movie is playing forever. I hope it ends soon.
One hour, forty-five minutes: Sam texts me and asks how I’m doing. I reply quickly because how can I keep his cute face waiting?
Ten minutes: My mom says to be home by midnight or my phone will be taken away. Let’s face it, I can’t live without my phone.
One minute: I ask Macey and Carlos if they want to see the new movie that just came out. It might be a school night, but what could go wrong?
United States of America
The shriek wakes me; it’s a piercing, horrifying shriek that invades my peace like an unconcerned army marching blindly under the control of unknown generals. It rudely jolts me awake with the cruel apathy of an inevitable fate.
“He’s not breathing!”My mother’s voice breaks with panic, with absolutely arresting fear.
We race against the last few grains in the hourglass to the place that houses the last flickers of an extinguishing life. The flashing lights of the ambulance pulsate in the unnatural silence of that early morning. My mom rushes into the house, feverishly wringing her hands; the expectation of impending devastation holds her face hostage.
I glimpse inside, see the men bent double, working desperately to stoke the kindling of a diminishing fire. I cannot bring myself to cross the threshold, to glimpse the last few sparks.
I see the small body, battered from years of sickness, the life robbed by an accident of genetics. Tiny hands that used to hold my finger, now unable to grasp onto a thread of life; and a beautiful heart, now sounding its last valiant beats.
My beautiful brother.
One step, that’s all it would have taken. One step to see him and to say goodbye. But the fear and the pain shackled me to the outside wall. I clawed at the pavement, grasping desperately at the delusion that remaining outside would protect me from the panic.
I lost my breath that day.
I haven’t caught it yet.
Rio Rico, AZ
Selfish. Careless. September 25, 2004. Opportunity was in the air as my parents left me at my grandparents’ house. My mom stared into my eyes, “Just behave.” I knew exactly what I needed. Grandma kept a turquoise ring inside her closet. She’d wear it for special occasions and my mother had to ask to borrow it because, well, at the time my ignorant little mind didn’t know why. While searching I came upon the box of hidden treasure. My hazel eyes lit up and a smirk grew across my face. I grabbed it and made a dash for my secret laboratory (the bathroom). My stubby fingers seemed too big for the exquisite ring but I forced it onto my thumb. I felt a knot in my stomach; the ring was stuck. The temporary pain of the ring could not compare to the pain and guilt I would face the rest of my life. I screamed hysterically; the astonished look on grandma’s face said it all, her beautiful blue eyes began filling with water. I will never forget the first tear which rolled down her cheek. The look of disappointment hit me like a giant garbage truck. Once at the hospital the doctor brought a simple saw which freed my finger. The doctor handed my grandma the destroyed ring which was once a gem. As she burst into tears my parents stormed in the room. “Are you okay, sweetie?” they asked. “I don’t think so?” I replied. And I wasn’t.
“If you could give any celebrity or famous person a do-over, who would you give it to and why?”
Falls Church, VA
Sun Tzu warned in his Art of War that “straightforward actions generally lead to engagement; surprising actions generally lead to victory.” However, in 1943 as the Allies prepared to wage war with Germany and, ultimately, strategize for victory, the Royal Air Force could have used more pilots who valued the straightforward, direct approach of engagement than those who saw merit in the unexpected. I would give my do over to pilot Terrance Clyde, the hapless commander from Oxfordshire who dropped the very first bomb of World War II to a set of very unnecessary and surprising results.
The first casualty from a World War II bombing had been born in Africa, but had moved to Germany at a young age and, by all accounts, had acclimated extremely well to Berlin. As with all innocent bystanders, his death was tragically unprovoked, yet more importantly, it smacked of Neville Chamberlain’s avoidance of conflict and poor allocation of resources: the intended target of the bomb, an ammunitions plant 20 miles south, would remain unscathed for two more years, a time during which it would churn out hundreds of thousands of weapons for the Third Reich.
If poor Terrance Clyde had a second chance to drop his bomb and to cripple Berlin’s main ammunition factory, perhaps fewer weapons would have been produced, fewer soldiers of the Allies wounded or killed, and victory more quickly achieved against the Axis Powers. The first casualty from a World War II bombing was the only elephant in the Berlin Zoo.
The goalkeeper went right. Asamoah Gyan, Ghana’s leading scorer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa went down the center and hit the crossbar. Gyan took his penalty kick in the last minute of extra time. If he scored, he would have made Ghana become the first African country ever to reach a World Cup semi-final.
It didn’t matter, though. He missed, and Ghana went on to lose the penalty shootout to Uruguay. It wasn’t a normal atmosphere that day in South Africa. Ghana was not the only country behind Gyan on that summer night at the World Cup, as he ran up to take his penalty kick.
The entire continent of Africa would have been euphoric had Gyan scored. Parties might have lasted for weeks, or even months. It was the perfect setting: Ghana makes it further than any other team from the continent in its history, with this event taking place on African soil for the first time.
Gyan could have simply rolled the ball down the center and he would have shocked the world and the history of soccer. He would have been the hero, the savior, the legend.
If I could give anyone a second chance in the world, Asamoah Gyan would be allowed to walk up to the spot one last time. Not only did his team deserve to go through in that semi-final against Uruguay, but it would have been the most meaningful World Cup match ever for an African country. Ever.
“What so proudly we watched at the twilight’s last reaming.” Grand Central Terminal!–that can’t be right? Despite being a New York native, potentially a true Yankee, Christina Aguilera spoiled America’s own National Anthem in front of the most American of crowds–viewers of the Super Bowl XLV. Aguilera, however peculiar to some, would never intentionally fluke as disgracefully as this. She was discomfited, to say the least. Christina Aguilera dramatically decreased her star status with that one line; she went from respected artist to shameful screw-up in the eyes of thousands. That she messed up a few words in a song could be overlooked, but that she messed up the National Anthem, a tune hummed passionately throughout these fifty states and one as familiar as a mother’s voice, cannot be excused. Christina Aguilera needs a do-over as a heart attack patient needs nitroglycerin. While she has seemingly moved on and her recent successes have dulled her mishap, ‘Aguilera’ will be a name associated with a chuckle at her expense. Nothing short of a redesign could cause the star to come out from behind the stars and stripes that she ducked behind to avoid public scrutiny on that fateful day of American football. Aguilera deserves a redo for she will be forever condemned to regret.
The figure of a patchy green body rested underneath my tiny button-like nose. I stared at its beady eyes, blinking as it slipped back into the folds of wrinkled skin. The stench emanating from its slimy cavities lingered as I admired the rugged contours of its underside. I steadily brushed one finger across the rough, swelling surface. In shock, its stubby leathered limbs disappeared, and I was left with an unmoving round object.
Curiosity had me snooping around the shape; the shape that once pulsed in a strange and sluggish fashion. I giggled as I pinched one of its little toes and playfully dragged it out into the open. The foot shot back inside as quickly as I pried it out. In wonder, I took the object in both hands and shook in the attempt of flinging out the remarkable creature that was held within. In a split second, the object flew out of my grasp and into the air.
Like a clip played in slow motion: the round figure was air bound and I was scurrying with my arms out for dear life in hope of catching it. The shell landed on the tiled floor with a loud ‘CRACK!’ and I abruptly stopped in my tracks, frozen. The creature emerged, and trudged off into the next room.
As an act of a child’s innocent curiosity, I wish to redo this encounter to be free of the guilt left by hurting my poor pet turtle…
The day went smoothly at first only had three babies cry, and two kids sucker punch me, but then I left my fourth set. I was playing Sir Topham Hatt, the lovable conductor of Thomas Town, as a costumed character at Six Flags Magic Mountain that summer. Exhausted and steaming, peering through the foggy mesh eyes of the plastic head, my escort suggested the short cut to the break room.
Sweet! I thought. But then twelve camp kids, two instructors with them stood in the way.
The duo approached my escort to ask for directions to Gold Rusher, the rugrats swarmed me. While my escort explained how to get to the lamest ride at the theme park, the kids asked me a million questions I wasn’t allowed to answer. I tried to sign answers to their questions, the smiles became disappointment.
“He’s not even real!” yelled a kid.
“Kill him!” yelled another tugging my arm.
Panicked, leaving no time to see if they would, I ran as fast as the 10 pound shoes would carry me. Then, in slow motion, my big feet betrayed me, my plastic head flew off. I fell flat, although cushioned by the fat suit, nothing could cushion my ego as the kids surrounded me pointing and laughing.
“Sir Topham is black!” one shouted “And he’s a girl!” shouted another.
My escort helped me up and replaced my head, and held my arm as I limped my walk of shame.
Why did I take that shortcut?
Palm Springs, CA
The Old Me, Grandma’s Young Visitor
The old people’s home smelled like lemon cleanser and cheese. If I could walk in again, I wouldn’t cringe the way I did.The nurse asked me if she could help me and I said no. If I could talk to her again, I would ask her, “Yes, could you just hold my hand? I think that that would help.”
She showed me the door my grandma was behind and I just walked right in. I shouldn’t have turned the TV on, because there was nothing on the screen that interesting. Instead I should have dusted off her favorite Book and cracked its holy spine.
My grandma sounded weak whenever she moved her mouth. I should have told her to just relax while I read her a passage to give her strength. I should have told her about the Heaven that she believed in, but I just moved my mouth to make mundane phrases, like “School’s all right, I guess” and “Yeah, everything’s just fine.”
She asked me to hold her hand and I did.
But I should have done more, should have lowered my head and kissed her pale, spotted cheek.
She asked me if I believed in Him yet and I just shrugged. But I know now that I should have lied to make her smile, because the way she sighed still makes me cry.
I miss the dew on the green blades of grass on Saturday mornings, the stretching and jokes of the circle, the camaraderie and bond we shared, the common goal.
I miss the summer running on the afternoons where the sun refused to go down seemingly to let us kids play on forever on that field.
I miss the heart break of defeat, the jubilation of scoring, the bliss of victory, and my teammates.
Take me back to those days, when I swore I would never let it go; when the weekend plans were dictated by game times and family trips meant 15 teammates traveling together.
Please let me live the night before games just one more time. Let me feel the anxiety and the excitement. Let me close my eyes and go, go back to the days when I dreamt, asleep and awake of playing on the biggest stages when I hoped for fame and success on a pitch.
Allow me to again be afraid and defiant of defeat. Allow me to rekindle the fire and this time to keep the flame going, just like I swore I would.
Don’t make me have to keep wondering what if? Just let me close my eyes and go back to playing soccer and this time I promise I won’t quit.
Chestnut Ridge, NY
The air was hot and dense. Bright light entered through cracks in the window shutters, but it was worthless with the smoke and the air mask sealed around my face. I crawled along the concrete floor, dragging heavy gear, an air tank, and an axe. I was training to be a firefighter. That day I was learning search and rescue. I swept the axe handle along the floor, searching for walls, doors, and victims. I knew that the instructors had placed a dummy somewhere in the training building. I was about to give up when I reached the last room, where a ladder led to the ground below from an open window. I maneuvered the axe handle under the bed and around the floor. My air tank was running dangerously low. I was ready to climb out to fresh air, but then it struck me – maybe the instructors had made it tough by making it simple. I reached out for the bed, and sure enough, a large dummy – a good 100 pounds – lay curled up on the dirty blanket. I lifted her and started for the window. Heaving and gasping, I descended and lay it down, her plastic head resting on the pavement. Pride washed away my weariness. I broke the seal of my mask and breathed in deeply. My instructor came over. I wasn’t prepared for what he was about to say. “Where’s her baby?” he asked. “She was holding her baby.”
“What one event or moment from your school years would you do over and why?”
It was ‘mystery‘ meat day in the school cafeteria. Marty, Debbie, John and I had not brought our lunches to school. We stood in line, trays in hand, with the usual verbage of ‘peas or corn‘, which we mimicked behind Mrs. Monks back, (“Peas or corn, peas or corn”). A scoop of mashed potatoes and orange jello were plopped into compartments on our trays. Marty’s appetite was ruined, so he began peeling the top sticky film off of the jello and burying the mystery meat to protect us girls from the inhumanity of the gray unidentifiable slab. John then contributed mashed potatoes from us all to build a massive volcano over the gray matter. From there, we hunted down a bottle of ketchup that hadn’t been consumed by other students also attempting to disguise the gray mass in ways of their own. Our volcano spewed, sputtered and mounds of lava came pouring down the sides. By this time Debbie & I were adding our peas (mine) and corn (hers) to the landscape for trees, flowers, dead people and whatever else our imagination could conjure up. The final artistic flair was to create an island using some remaining milk. Then Mrs. Monks walked by us. The woman had never developed the eclectic taste of a true artist. No scope of the imagination as she proceeded to order, then watch while Marty was forced to consume the masterpiece. We should have grabbed our forks and assisted in the consumption.
I just sat there. I didn’t say a single word. I didn’t even laugh. This poor girl was being ridiculed and humiliated and I didn’t do a darn thing about it. It would have been easy to stand up and say “Stop it!” I didn’t though. All I did was sit there and listen to the taunting of the heartless kids. She looked at me through her hot, sticky tears, but I just looked away. I could almost taste her salty tears, but I did nothing. She cried, they laughed, and I stared out the bus window, wishing the ride would end and I could go home. How could I do that? If the same situation happened to me today, I wouldn’t even think twice about standing up for her. Why didn’t I do so something then? I was only in the third grade. Maybe I didn’t have the self-confidence or the courage to tell my friends to stop. She deserved some help, though, and she didn’t get any from me. If I could have a “do-over,” I would take it in a heartbeat. I would go back to that moment and stop the torture. She has probably forgotten all about the incident, but I may never get over the guilt that I feel. I’m sorry, Cheyenne, I’m sorry.
One word — Oompa Loompa. The big thing these days are self tanners which are said to be safer than the sun…but back in 1987 things were very different. My skin was so white in high school that it had that blue hue to it — veins I guess…really sexy. I eagerly decided to try a fake tanning, but rather than rubbing the cream on your skin — it was a pill! (Too young and stupid to see the down side to that one.) Sure, everything was fine the first day, but the second day I started to look like my diet consisted of only carrots. The third, fourth and fifth days turned me into an orange (very unpopular) creature walking the halls of school. My friends were cool to my face, but my locker told a much different story, or rather movie. Pictures of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory appeared each day as a joke. My orange tan lasted two weeks. Being really white is a drag, but being an Oompa Loompa is no way to live.
“It’s an investment and just a few thousand!”
…that “few thousand” turned into upwards of 15, as there were many pre-requisite courses required for my graduate school program of interest — now, with less than ideal debt to limit & income ratios, I’m at risk of being denied private loans for the very education I was charging (pun intended) towards in the first place. This is why you find me here, applying for the “do-over” scholarship. If could do-it-over, I would responsibly research appropriate educational funding, and know the importance of using credit wisely:
Be credit card savvy; shop around for the right card, read the fine print! Know the terms & conditions, charges & rates, expirations & limits!
Create and stick to a budget! Pay attention to where your money is going & plan for the unexpected!
Use cash/debit for recurring daily expenses/things that are not forever tangible (e.g. gas, food, haircuts etc.)
Unless it’s an emergency, or you have the means to pay it off in a timely manner — DON’T CHARGE IT! Stop & think: “What will I have to show for this purchase in the long run!” and “how many hours of work will it take to pay this off?”
Take advantage of secure online banking, track your spending and set up reminders/alerts!
Pay (more than the minimum) on time, every time!
Check your credit report!
Report any lost or stolen cards immediately
Securing your financial future is all about research, budgeting & discipline!
Suppose one day, as you were cleaning out the back of your bedroom closet, you came across an old box, labeled “childhood memories.” Among the broken friendship bracelets and photos of you and your sister dressed as pirates for Halloween, there is a letter in the box. You soon discover that it is a letter from your high school guidance counselor, the one who wore Hawaiian shirts and a bleach blonde beehive every day. The letter is a present, of a sort, offering you the once in a lifetime chance to ‘do over‘ one event from high school. Would you take advantage of the offer? I had just such a letter sent to me at one time, and after much deliberation, I forwarded it to someone else. Of course, there were many events from my high school days that I would have loved to alter according to my specifications of how my life should go. There were tests I could have retaken, friendships I might have restored, or just days I could have spent more time with my family. So why did I choose the way I did? Because every experience I have had has made me into the person I am today. Of all of the growth I have achieved as an individual, most of it originates from the difficult times. These experiences are more valuable to me than a life of smooth-sailing. So I sent the letter to my sister, who might want to re-think that pirate costume.
I have met people who limp through life, silently nursing splinters of regret. These painful shards, driven deep into peoples‘ psyches whilst they walk barefoot over the rough-shod boardwalk of experience, take many forms.
To one person the shards symbolize historical wrongs that they long to retroactively transform into rights. To another they represent forks in the metaphorical road, long-since taken, which in retrospect appear to have led to less than prosperous endpoints. For yet another the psychological splinters are indicative of an overwhelming desire to visit one‘s former self, and to impart a fraction of the accumulated knowledge gleaned over the years.
For me, there are no splinters.
Were there times when I unintentionally inflicted mental or emotional hurt on my loved ones? Yes! Were there decisions that my past self made that changed my life‘s path in such a way, that at the time my course seemed to have been altered for the worse? Definitely!
But I do not desire a do-over, a mulligan, or a take-back. Yesterday‘s failures, last month‘s disappointments, last year‘s pain – the bad times, along with the good times, have inextricably woven themselves into the fabric of my being, making me who I am today, and allowing me to unflinchingly return a proud look to that strange-but-so-familiar-face staring back at me from the mirror.
For me, there are no splinters – there are only experiences; and those experiences are me.
River Edge, NJ
Jordan‘s platinum blonde hair caught the light streaming in through the window. Her eyes, rings of electric blue lightning bolts, stared determinedly at the pink plastic Pretty Pretty Princess game sprawled out on the floor between us. She had just rolled a four, but her six-year-old hand stopped mid-air before setting her playing piece down on the designated spot. The four would take her just one space short of the last adornment she needed to complete her royal ensemble: the purple clip-on earrings.
“No, no,” she tutted, shaking her head and immediately re-flicking the disobedient spinner. “I get a re-over.”
A re-over? What in the world was a re-over? Oh, of course: a re-do/do-over hybrid. In Jordan‘s one-track, naive mind, a simple “re-over” could fix just about anything. But I (older, though not necessarily always more mature) had grown to learn better; no mistake could be mollified by redoing it. What‘s done is done. Words once spoken cannot be rescinded. Yet consider this: why even make the mistake at all if erasing it was as easy as that? No, mistakes are necessary to live and, more importantly, to develop a sense of self. Regret, of course, is natural (we are only human, after all). But regret is the best teacher.
“Sure Jordan,” I smile knowingly. “Try again.” The purple clip-on earrings match her Dora the Explorer pj‘s, anyway.
I watched him suffer daily; I could see the torment in his eyes and in his movements. I followed him every day because what happened after the incident fascinated me. He only blamed himself, and that is why I gave him another chance.
He was driving in the rain, and he wasn‘t alone, there was a girl in the car as well. I could see him tightly holding the girl‘s hand; he turned and faced her, smiled at her. In that second, another car hit them. Everything happened too fast for him to even react; in the end one died.
Everything he cared about, he no longer did, everything he once enjoyed, he no longer does. This one girl meant that much to him? I wondered.
I never spoke to a human before and I doubt he has ever spoken to a thing like me before. I came up to him and told him that he could have one more chance. A second chance for a different life.
Bewildered and confused, he took out a box and inside it was a ring. He slowly smiled a very sad smile and said, “How I wish I could re-live that day, how I wish it never happened. But, I’ve learned my mistake; I can‘t take advantage of anything because life is short and unexpected. I have grown and I have learned; I can‘t, even though I want to, accept the offer.”
I smiled. What a captivating human.
Virginia Beach, VA
It only took once.
She was hooked. On the fast track to nowhere. Cravings, obsession, destruction. Heroin. It ruined her life and her children‘s. They were without a mother and a home, just two innocent babies left to the world of welfare and foster care, and all because of that one time.
If a do-over would make the difference, I would give it to her, if only the next time around she would say, “No, drugs are not for me.”
My cousin was once my idol. She was confident and successful. Little did I know, her life would come toppling down. When she had her twins, I prayed that they would not have deformities and would be healthy and happy. Unfortunately, “crack babies” are cheated of the chance to develop properly, and her boys were no exception. They were slower, possibly mentally handicapped, and possibly deaf. If only she could make the decision again and think about her children and how much they needed her. If only she could live without drugs. If only she had thought about the consequences. If only she could change that one time.
My train of thought:
Lake Forest, CA
I am Me. There is no almost there or half-way done. There is not a second chance and there is no re-do. I have said goodbye to start-overs and done away with regrets. I am Me and there is nothing I would change.
My story may be filled with triumphs or it may be filled with despair, but it doesn’t matter. There is beauty in every story and purpose with each line on each page…regardless of how tragic or magnificent each chapter may be. I am Me and that is enough.
My mistakes are not regrettable. My imperfections are obvious and unavoidable, but they are beautiful because they are mine. I embrace who I am and I love all of me, even my flaws. I am vulnerable in my weaknesses, but vulnerability gives me power. I am powerful because I am imperfect?
It is not my past that should concern you, but my future. I am Tomorrow and I am Change. What good is it to chase after regret? Why long for a re-do? Yesterday is already gone, but there is hope in tomorrow. It is tomorrow I can change? So I regret nothing, because it was my yesterday that gives me the courage face my today and to change my tomorrow.
Author George Elliot once said, “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.” Over the years, I have made as many bad decisions as any other teenager, and I would be a dishonest man if I said that I have never wished I could change any of them. It was only after reading Mr. Elliot’s words that I realized that I should not be concerned with the past, but with the future. God giving us another day on this earth is the closest to a “do-over” that we will ever receive. To rise with the sun each day and have a second chance at all the choices we had made previously is a true gift. I do realize that not all choices can be relived each day, but learning from our mistakes and taking the lessons that they teach us in stride will make us better people in the long run. If every time I made a mistake I sat down and cried, where would I be today? The decisions I have made and dealt with throughout my life have become an integral part of the man I am today. To change them would make my entire struggle for naught. Dealing with hardship is what makes individuals grow into strong, functional members of society and while America’s youth sit around wishing about their “do-over,” I revel in my choices. I love the man I have become, and I wouldn’t take a hundred “do-overs,” let alone one.
Behind the Wheel
What a morning it was! Bright, crisp, and so full of excitement, the air was electric.
It was almost summer; our junior year in high school soon to be a distant memory. “To the lake, to the lake!” was the call, and we couldn’t wait to heed it. The anticipated laughter, the sparkling water…magic awaited us.
Seven of us jumping in–a toss of the keys, an egging to drive, and a moment’s hesitation lost forever. If only I could do it over. If only I hadn’t gotten behind the wheel.
Hitchhikers picked up along the way, now there were nine. As we crossed the dam, the group yelled, “Faster!” Pounding on the windows, “Faster, faster!” A foot atop mine on the gas pedal and the words in the wind, “We have to hit 80!”
We hit 80. Slowing now, curve ahead, panic, the brakes locked. We didn’t make it.
So numb I can’t feel the glass under my feet. Running. People hurting. My friends on the ground. Her beautiful face is gone. Help. Help us.
A hospital. A funeral. A courtroom. The judge decides–a “group” action. But me, I will never accept that.
If only I could do it over, I wouldn’t have gotten behind that wheel.
The year is 2070, the location is heaven. I sit across from the grandfather I haven’t seen in almost eighty-five years, and ask myself why? Why hadn’t I asked him the questions which now wander through my mind so repeatedly when I had been given the chance? Why had I been so content with never knowing the deep history and incredible experiences which he had witnessed?
As if he can read my mind, my grandfather reaches across the space between us and pats my leg the same way he did when I was young.
“Laura,” he calmly says, “there is no sense in regretting the past. What is better is to learn from your mistakes. We missed a special time in our relationship, but your other grandfather is still alive today. Although you may not be as close to him as you were to me, time is a gift which needs to be treasured. Learn from him, Laura. He is a fountain of wealth. Take advantage of what you are given.”
Slowly, as the fog clears and I awake from my dream, I realize the significance in what I have just witnessed. I can never get back lost time, for it is exactly that–lost, but I can learn from the past and I can change my future. Time is wasting, and I will let no more pass before I do-over the relationships I have with those around me now.
It’s near the coast. In a space of sea-salt air and sailboats. It’s a cold day, cloudy. She sits facing inland. She doesn’t hear his approach. They embrace. The embrace is for his sake not hers, though she pretends. She is the first to release. They’re not old friends, though they did love. More than she’ll admit. Slowly, he releases, tracing the backs of her arms to her fingertips letting his hands fall useless into his pockets. They wander the streets. He misses her. They stop and order coffee. Black and midnight strong for him. Iced, blended and sugar-creamed for her. They continue on to the waterfront and sit. He tries to laugh at her jokes and confusion, letting her gossip and pretending to be interested, when really all he wants is to hold her quietly. They live disconnected lives, countless miles and lifetimes away. Their own past remains unspoken while those of strangers fill the air between them. He watches the stark lambency of the blue peter on a nearby ship. I have to go, she says. He nods. Another hurried embrace that she is the first to forget. A fog has set in. He lingers as her car recedes. Soon, the first rains of the season will come to wash away the dust and dirt off the streets. He soon begins to wish he had not let her leave. She crashed on her way home. Dead at seventeen.
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