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From Our Readers: To All the Boys I've Snubbed Before

There are days when I do regret my choices in the past.
GIF FOX ART Clare Magno

I have jumped off waterfalls in a remote cave. I have danced all night beneath the stars fueled only by adrenaline. I have swum alone in pools waiting for the morning mist to clear. Yet I've never fallen in love, never known the thrill of elicit high school affection or the tentative sweetness of that first kiss.

I read this statement and feel a crippling sense of embarassment, the same overwhelming shyness that comes over me whenever I get asked pointed questions about my perceived past relationships.

Trust me when I say this is about as awkward as any social situation can get, especially for me who likes to look like she's got her life together.

Don't get me wrong, I know my life is charmed in more ways than one. But one thing that sometimes keeps me up at night is the stabbing regret that I missed crucial experiences in my life. I will never know what it's like to hold hands on your first date in high school, never have the bittersweet priviledge of reminiscing the abrupt end of an innocent puppy love.

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Everything would have seemed more important at 16, when the sheer bliss of youth demands nothing more than for you to feel everything in a mad crazy rush. I think I got too scared to say yes, to get past my own insecurities, too frightened to convince myself that I was good enough and worthy of being loved the way I wanted to be loved.

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There were some who came close, too close for my own misguided sense of comfort. There was D who was sweet enough to tell my that my face was anything but unpretty. There's Q, who sent over four dozens of French macarons which I gave away in the deranged notion that eating them would make me fall hopelessly under his spell—I remember cracking a joke about them being laced with a love potion.

How careless I was with their emotions then, thinking only of the selfish need to keep my walls up. Harsh replies and sarcastic jokes were my weapons of choice. I must have seemed so uncaring of how much courageous gestures cost.

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I really don't blame them for giving up when my every action and word was calculated to drive more distance between us.

It wasn't because I thought they're all not worthy of my attention. I kept them at arm's length because I was afraid that if I let them get too close, I may not stand up to the scrutiny of being their perfect dream girl. I work so hard to project an image of self-confidence yet underneath that shiny penny façade, my head is crowded by self-doubt. What makes it worse is that every year that passes seems to add an extra layer of fear.

I've often been accused of having high standards that no guy can ever match. I guess I know now that I will never deem myself quite ready enough, never be that perfect girl my vivid daydream constructs demand me to be. But why do I hold on to this idea when I know that every day, people find love and learn to accept each other's imperfections?

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I can give myself no clear answer. All I can do is tell myself to let go of these fears and continue to live a life that inspires and thrills me. And with each passing day, I hope to be a little bit braver so when I meet whoever it is that's meant for me, there will be no barriers of my own making in between us.

It will be just him and me, and all the infinite possiblilities I thought I've lost stretching ahead of us.

To all the boys I've snubbed before, I am very sorry. In a fight between me and my personal demons, I find myself always losing. I've heard about how happy they are now. I only dare to hope that one day I'll be brave enough to grasp that kind of happiness for myself.

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If you know me, and know me well, I am not the biggest fan of idyllic lifestyles. With a Type A personality, I act immediately upon whatever challenge that needs to be addressed. I actually enjoy keeping my mind preoccupied: doing university work in my favourite cafe then running errands around town, grocery shopping here, updating my accounts there, photocopying documents on the way down the street - all just in time before having a glass of champagne at the bar with my friends come evening.

And so, you could imagine my bewilderment when the next challenge to be faced was an extensive self-quarantine protocol. I didn’t know what to do when my greatest responsibility in this situation was to do nothing at all. My first few attempts to combat my consternation were very much rooted in distraction and imagination. My distractions involved conducting research, writing songs, calling family and friends, filming videos, and eating chocolate! My imaginations and fantasies were centred on travelling, shopping, even clubbing (which I rarely do) for when they find a cure to COVID-19. I did anything and everything that could be considered constructive in order to pass the time, mainly hoping I could just undertake the basic human necessities to survive - that is, eat and sleep the day through - until the next day comes, until the world is closer to becoming a better place, until quarantine ends, until my flight follows through, until I see my family and friends again.

Days in self-isolation and suspended flights turned to weeks and turned to months. By the third extension here in Spain where I study Fashion Business, I had to tell myself this shall be my new normal now, that I was blessed to be healthy, that I was tired of merely existing and missed what it was like to actually live - even if just within four walls. Little by little, I began to find significance in the simple occurrences of the day: the soft glare of the rising sun beaming golden streaks through my bedroom window upon waking up, the fragrance of freshly washed bed sheets that I had painstakingly hung to fit a relatively small clothes rack without crumpling them, the crunch and tanginess of warm toasted bread topped with raspberry marmalade, the buzzing sound of a phone call from home just waiting to be answered, to the caress of a fuzzy sweater to keep warm at night. I realised, “What pleasures to be enjoyed in the pause of slow living!” Through this continued pause, which I loathed at first, I began to appreciate each moment of the day rather than wish it would pass more swiftly, moments I had overlooked so often before the lockdown. I started to find that the challenge of self-isolation was never to pause both the regular routines of life as well as the positive emotions that came with these - as initially, I thought it meant to pause all happiness, so as to withstand a time of endurance in hopes for a better tomorrow, much like a form of delaying gratification. Life is just too fragile these days to delay gratification any further.

Life has paused, but it has not stopped. Believe that like any punctuation mark in a sentence, the pause will provide the right timing of things to take place. Till then, let us not waste our time waiting. Instead, we could be in the moment, seek substance in simplicity (that is, in what we already have), And enjoy the pleasure in pause. “Practice the Pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When stressed, pause. And when you pause, pray.”

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