On gains and losses

This Tuesday, I had the opportunity to travel to Ottawa with my dad to receive one of the first seven STEAM Horizon Awards for leadership and innovation in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) fields. I met some amazing individuals (Marianne, Jacqueline, Kay, Olivia, Aidan, and Thomas), briefly talked with Leader of the NDP Tom Mulcair, Governor General David Johnston and Speaker Geoff Regan, and had the opportunity to sit in Question Period at the House of Commons. It was a fantastic experience and I am thankful for all the founders of the Award for making it happen! And yet, I also realize how plausible it would have been to gift this award to someone else – like any award celebrating leadership, or community service, or innovation, too many people are deserving.

Often times when I am disappointed by my own shortcomings, I will try to reassure myself by thinking that when I am older I will no longer care about any of it. However, my mentality is hypocritical, as I will treasure and hold dear anything good that happens in my life. If I hadn’t won this award, I would have consoled myself into thinking that this loss will not alter or hinder my life. However, since I have won this award, I have chosen to be extremely grateful and appreciative of this opportunity and financial support, because indeed, it has contributed significantly and positively to my undergraduate studies.

Yet, I’d like to think that a true loss is the lost opportunity for a new relationship, or a new experience, or a new emotion. Because I think it means that ultimately, a loss cannot be contrasted to a gain. Though we can gain immaterial things, we cannot actually lose a new relationship, or a new experience. These unformed concepts will simply be manifested in a different tone with a future event. Our losses, if we go with my definition of a “true loss”, is then simply an inability to bring something immaterial into existence. Fortunately, our ability to bring something immaterial into existence will always remain a potential, so long as we are still linked with time.

Of course, this doesn’t resolve the loss of the material aspects, such as money, or a promotion. And that, you might genuinely care about when you are older. My personal example is a stretch, but there are certainly decisive moments in life when, say, a job offer refusal would lead to a future of fruitless careers. But then, we must also realize that the role of chance plays a role in not only our successes, but our failures.

Regret, or the anticipation of regret, is at the core of a lot of our thoughts. Ultimately, what I am trying say, is that the failure to gain material things can be painful and cause deep-seeded regret. And that is something we can sometimes accept and sometimes cannot, but also something we do not have complete agency over. However, the ability to gain immaterial experiences is something we may have complete agency over, because it is a creative field that does not have a limit. Then, perhaps the least we should expect of ourselves is to value the fact that we cannot lose immaterial experiences, simply gain them!

I’ve made a short video, a material entity to express immaterial gains.


2 thoughts on “On gains and losses

  1. Love the emphasis on losing material vs. immaterial things. I appreciate how you display a great complexity of thought here. Over the past four years of my life in college, I have been rejected from countless things and have won many others, and I agree with what you say about focusing on immaterial things. Though some of the losses have hurt, I always circle back to my values (Google the Life Values Inventory if you’re interested in what I mean by values) and know that no matter what fellowship or award or scholarship I get rejected from, I will keep working hard to achieve my values, which for me center on helping others and being independent. I wish you luck on your journey of gains and losses, as life is filled with both.

    Also, a big congrats on your STEAM Horizon Award, Grace! It makes me happy when good things happen to good people.

    1. Thank you so much, Thomas! You are such a light, and I feel very lucky to know you. I strongly relate to your two values, and it is interesting how two very different things -helping others and being independent- supports the other as they both develop.

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