Regret in our lives

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“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss” – Fitzgerald

The previous day during English, my partner and I were practising our speeches with our class as we became used to interruptions while speaking. My partner had done many debating competitions prior, so compared, I felt very inexperienced.

After hearing the class object to his every word, I was worried about mine. I stepped up in front of everyone and began to read. A couple paragraphs in, I was confused why no-one was challenging me because many had intervened on my partner’s.

Nonetheless, I carried on until the end, finishing my speech on my most powerful point, with no queries.

The next day arrived quicker than expected as I prepared myself for the big debate. I arrived in English, script in hand, ready to go. As I settled down in my seat and waited for the register to finish, I could overhear people whispering about other contestants.

“I heard that someone told the other classes each others’ speeches.


“I heard that the winners have to speak in front of the whole school.”

“I heard that the debaters had to have a last minute practice in the auditorium.”

“Is Molly crying?”

Panic surged over me. My stomach began to churn and my throat began to close up, my head became flustered and… everything just became overwhelming. A swarm of people surrounded me, but my teacher fought them off, telling them to leave. I was left in my seat, tears streaming, my breathing uncontrollable.

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Somehow, my teacher managed to get me out of my seat and comforted me to the debate with my friends. As we entered the building, my nerves began to build up again. I ventured down the never-ending corridor and arrived at the grand opening to the auditorium. I stood there still, mouth dry as I peered around the room. Every seat was taken apart from one on the debaters’ table: it was calling out my name. A wave of fear passed through me and I sprinted out of the hall, covering my eyes so no one could see me cry. I hated that I couldn’t speak. I hated that I couldn’t stand in front of an audience. I hated that I couldn’t sit down at the table. The noise of the crowd uproared in my head. I raced out of the building.

I sat and sobbed on a step outside. Some teachers came to check on me while some classmates left me. A flurry of emotions filled me as I sat there: annoyance, anger, anxiety, all of which made me feel lightheaded. I was so engrossed in my own emotions that I didn’t realise the debate was starting. The chairman asked whether or not I was competing. My head was so hot and confused, that I wasn’t able to give him a straight answer. It is only now that I realise all the nuisance I created.

I was finally persuaded to go back to the auditorium to stand at the back and observe. While standing there, I saw many people glance over at me to see what was happening. I felt alone, and judged, as their eyes all focused on me, whispering amongst themselves.

The bell rang for the end of a speech as the chairman stood up to present the next debater. Before doing so, he walked over to me and asked once more if I was going to speak. I shook my head with small dribbles of tears falling again. He invited my replacement up to the podium. She looked nervous and scared; I felt bad for throwing her in at the last second. I gazed at her, my eyes widening and my ears straining to hear her speak.

The bell rang, the room went silent. I stood there with pride in my work, sobbing silently. She was off to a great start. Then someone stood up.


My eyes darted to look over at him. She replied in a calm but worried voice. He was satisfied and sat down. My heart rate slowed as the speech continued.

The final minute rang. She paused. She was on my final paragraph. My BEST paragraph.

“In conclusion, we believe that a female James Bond is bad and the public is better off with having a male James Bond. Thank You.”

She’d missed it out! I felt the tears running again. I quietly rushed out of the room. I was beating myself up. Why couldn’t I just speak? It was less than three minutes! But of course, I managed to get inside my own head and stop myself.

Many rumours were said about me the next day:

“I heard she was sick and threw up!”

“I heard she had to go to hospital!”

I heard that Molly isn’t strong enough to speak in front of a crowd for less than five minutes!

I regret not being able to stand up and talk that day. I have never been able to leave it in the past. I hated missing out on that speech and not knowing what could’ve happened if I spoke. Hearing all the rumours that were spread, I realised that I had been stupid and wrong to have not done the debate. Every one of the rumours that I heard is still stuck in my head, as well as the moment itself. Just thinking about it years later still gets me worked up and annoyed that I didn’t manage to participate.

This one regret has brought fear to every similar event since. However, it has helped me, and I now choose to continue so I never have to feel the same sensation. I still get nervous before occasions like this, but now I proceed. I won’t let another major or minor event be tossed away by fear again.

This one experience has made me grow into a stronger person. Fitzgerald was right: ‘our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss’.

Molly Hopley

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Regret in our lives. (2019, Dec 08). Retrieved from

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