After competing recently at NCFCA Nationals, I am filled with regret about all the mistakes I made and all the things I “could have” done better. Life is filled with regret. We constantly make decisions that we later wish we didn’t make. With a mixture of nostalgia and remorse, regret can be a powerfully discouraging force. Debate, an intellectual activity containing a plethora of decisions, illustrates the quandary of regret well. The best way to deal with regret is to accept your failures, learn from them, and look to the future. This post is meant to be an encouragement to others dealing with regret. For regret, if consumed in a healthy dosage, can be transformed into a motivating force.
Although I don’t have your phone number, you always know how to contact me. After every tournament, I constantly think about you. You hold a monopoly on my thoughts. You say very little to me, but your words occupy my mind: “I wish I did this. I wish I said that. I wish….”
Sometimes I wish you would leave me.
You are quick to list all of my failures, mistakes, and shortcomings when we speak. You remind me, with a twinkle in your eye, that I was just one ballot away from achieving my year-long goal. You inform me that success was at my finger-tips, but that because I failed to opportunize in a myriad of ways, the success slipped away.
Yet, in many ways, you are a blessing:
You remind me there is a better version of me out there that I have not yet become.
You check my pride, just like a water hose on a raging, out-of-control fire.
You motivate me to maintain realistic aspirations.
You tell me, although not directly, that there is value in debate that exists beyond cheap, plastic trophies made in China (oh the irony!)
You inform me that I have much to be grateful for.
You force me to realize that I take success and (debate’s) blessings for granted.
It is because of you I have no regrets that I compete in debate. Because, just like in life, failure is guaranteed in debate. By reminding me of my failure, you inspire me to succeed. By reminding me of my failure, you force me to improve. By reminding me of my failure, you encourage me to become a better person.
As I live the rest of my life, I know that you won’t be there for me in my times of success — when I don’t need you; but I do know you will be there for me in my times of failure — when I do need you. And I thank you for that.
P.S. Thank you for allowing your sisters, Hope, Gratitude, and Prudence to share in the company of my thoughts.
P.P.S. Please visit again soon, just not too soon.
After your debate tournaments (or any endeavor you embark on for that matter), next time you are guilt-trodden with regret, I highly recommend you write a short paragraph listing all of your regrets and all of the actions you “wish” you had taken. Save the record until you attempt the endeavor again, so that you may not repeat the same mistakes.
Joshua Anumolu is in his fourth year of speech and debate. Last year, he was blessed to place 6th at the NCFCA National Championship in Team Policy debate. For him, competitive debate is about learning how to communicate truth effectively. Every round he lost, was a round he learned from to become a better communicator. He believes true mastery of rhetoric is accomplished when one finds their own balance between ethos, pathos, and logos. He loves to use debate as a platform to inform the audience of issues he cares about.