On the outside, Looking in

For the first time in my whole college life, I watched the annual Awitan, our college’s version of a choir competition, last night. Normally, I don’t participate in our college week, not even to watch. Engineering week is is always organization-centric, despite the college student council’s many attempts to encourage participartion from the unaffiliated students.

I used to be a member of an org myself but I never quite fit in the org. After I got inducted as a member, I joined and helped organize our org events (and was technically and technically alone, an active member). However, working with some of my orgmates was far from what I imagined it to be. I always felt ill at ease whenever I was in the tambayan or at any org event. I made a few friends in the org and more casual acquaintances, but I never found a group where I really felt I belonged. Most of the people I felt somewhat close to weren’t active members, like me. Those who were active in the org were more than a little cliquish so I always felt left out whenever I was with them. It caused me to get disillusioned. I joined an org because I wanted to find a place in my department where I was comfortable. My org wasn’t helping me there. And because orglife always entails a certain amount of work, I found it to be too stressful, and yet, not rewarding. I did try to make orglife work for me, but, ultimately, I lost all reason to stay. I did not reaffirm my membership for two consecutive sems, esentially self-revoking my membership, as per our constitution. It was a decision I embraced the next year, and a decision I regret profoundly, since last night.

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When I was about five years old, my mom accompanied my aunt in her Christmas shopping. My mom chose a toy xylophone for me and a plastic makeup/ glamour set for my cousin who was only a year younger than me. However, when they got home, they decided to let me choose for myself which one I wanted. Dazzled by the plastic faux-sapphire earrings, and the gold-colored combs, I chose the toy glamour set. 

Because my sisters were brimming with EQ then, they let slip that my mom had chosen for me the small xylophone and that they thought my choice was terrible. After that revelation, every “ting!” the xylopohone sounded out was like mocking laughter to me. It took only a few hits from my cousin’s nimble fingers to take away what pleasure I initially had with my toy. At least, for that night. (Children are absolute models of fast recovery.) 

This is my first memory of regret mingled with jealousy.

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Regret is a hated emotion. When coupled with jealousy, it is torture. I wish I could say I’m one of those people who never look back but last night is  proof of the opposite.

It was embarrassing to sit with people who weren’t from my college because most engineering students among the audience were sure to sit with their orgmates. It was painful to be unable to join in my orgmates’ cheers when inwardly, I was loyally yelling my heart out for the org representatives. It was most painful to realize that plenty of the times in the year that I was a member, I was asked to join the chorale but I didn’t because I was too shy and too committed in my other (non-academic/non-college-based) orgs already. I was literally shaking during my orgmates’ performance because I was really nervous for them (although it must also be said that the auditorium was rather cold). I wanted them to win so badly, and when they finished their performance, I really felt so proud. I’m finding it so hard to express my pride because I feel that I had forfeited all rights to feel proud of them when I so stubbornly rejected their offers for me to join them in the past.

For the nth time, I wonder if things would have been different if i joined the chorale. It could have been my niche in the org. I wonder if it would have made more sense for me to be inactive in one of my other orgs. I question my decision to always put my acads before my orgs. Are my passing grades a trade-in for the ties I would have made had I stayed in the org? Could it be that belongingness is too high a price to pay for on-time graduation? I am appalled and exceedingly ashamed to admit that unthinkingly, I might have chosen loneliness over failure.

I don’t really know. These are questions whose answers have been lost when I made the choice to quit over a year ago. Questions that stopped to matter the day it became impossible for me to go back. What I know is that sitting in the dark auditorium among the unaffiliated audience last night, I felt sadness, frustration and disappointment wash over me so intensely. I could have been a peformer that night. I could have been someone who mattered.

Regret chaffs in my already disappointed self; Earlier this sem, I realized that last sem’s average ensured that I wouldn’t be getting an academic medal on my graduation day. For the first time in my college life, I feel that as a ChE student, I have nothing.

The things that hurt me most right now are not the ones I never had the chance to own, nor the ones I had and lost, but the ones I could have had but foolishly chose not to. The first entails no regrets. The second would leave me with memories. The third leaves me only with a myriad of unanswered questions, imagined scenarios and a whole lot of regret. It left me here, on the outside looking in.Image

This is a response to the Daily Prompt: The Outsiders. It is an edited version of a journal entry and I published it because I think it fits in pretty well with the prompt.

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