‘5 Answers’ is a simple, no-frills written series where we ask five people one same question and share them with you, the readers. A quick read aimed to spark conversations and share perspectives.
I asked five retirees this question, “What’s your biggest regret in life?”
“That’s an easy one, I think about it all the time. It’s all the chances I didn’t take. I wasn’t brave or confident enough, always saying things like “wait till I have the time and money”. Then life, as it does, went on. I was so focused on getting a good job, earning money, saving money, getting a house, starting a family etc. The days turned into months that turned into years… it’s time I will never get back. I am not saying I’m ungrateful for the things I have, I’m saying I wish I said ‘yes’ to more experiences that I actually really wanted to do but didn’t. Now I’m almost 70, although people like to say that age is just a number, the things I can do at this age is quite limited. I remember many years back I watched this Jim Carrey movie with my family, it’s called “Yes Man”. The show was a comedy but I felt quite sad watching it because it was just a reminder of all the opportunities I missed out on by not being a ‘Yes Man’.” – Richard
“Regret we all have. Nothing can change. Now so old already, just some more time I not here also. My husband also left already, 2018 the last time he still alive. It’s hard but life is like that, you don’t know what will happen. One moment here, one moment gone. No more. Good thing my children all grown up already, have children already, I anytime also can go. This age is waiting only, health not good also. Yeah that one my regret, never look after when younger.” – Chandrika
“Not saying ‘I love you’ more to my parents when they were alive. When I was younger, I always thought it was so ‘paiseh’ (embarrassing) to say it. It was just not something that was common in our culture (Asian). I think it was only after I had my own kids that I started understanding just how much these 3 simple words mean when said out loud.” – Qiao Na
“Wah, this one actually I have many. Biggest one ah… have. 38 years ago, my wife give birth but I was in Malaysia for business trip. That time I didn’t see my daughter come into this world. It’s very sad because she is my first child and she died. This one can never forget the pain, I really blame myself a lot. It was my wife first time pregnant and I got say I won’t go on business trip until our daughter born but my boss ask me go when she was pregnant 6 months. I thought it’s okay because short trip only 5 days but then on the fourth day, she suddenly rushed to hospital, emergency labour. Our daughter was born but because she not even 25 weeks old, so she was in ICU. Although I faster come back, she passed away a few hours before I got to the hospital. I never got to spend time with her during the short time she was alive, it’s really very heart pain. I see my wife cry so hard, I felt so bad, really blame myself. Really regret that I was not there by their side. But nothing can change what happened so we have to move on. After that a few years then we had our son and then another son. We never had a daughter again but we have one granddaughter now.” – Kah Meng
“I regret not studying more. I had to leave school after my ‘O’ levels because my family was very poor and we just couldn’t afford any higher education. Being the oldest of 4 siblings, it became my responsibility to work and help support the family. Life was very tough, we had to scrimp and save to make ends meet. Many of my meals were watered down porridge with soy sauce. As I grew older and the times changed, it became clear that without a good education, I could not get a high paying job. For many years, I did menial work before I got a license and became a driver. I do sometimes wonder how different my life would be if I had a good education. I imagine things would be easier without having to worry too much about money.” – Choon Kiat (response was entirely in Mandarin, this is the translated version)
What about you? What’s your biggest regret?