It’s the Friday afternoon of your first week of your junior year of college and you find yourself letting out a heavy sigh as you close the apartment door behind you. You realize the feeling is reminiscent of the first week of freshman year, but now the reasons have changed and the sigh holds much more weight than it did two years ago. It’s not an over-dramatically lonely or homesick sigh anymore — those reasons couldn’t seem more trivial now. Rather than a product of uncertainty, it’s one of regret.
Back then you may have been overwhelmed, but there was so much untouched space to explore and time for things to fall into place. Now, there’s a little less time and a little less space, and the path forward is narrower yet just as uncertain. The last thing you should be doing is agonizing over things you can’t change but frankly all you want to do is redo the last two years in your head. And you figure that if you want to dig yourself out of this rut you might as well go ahead and acknowledge all of the things you did wrong for the first half of college while you have the chance.
Seeking out risks
The purpose of college isn’t necessarily to shape yourself into a slightly improved replicate of your high school self. It’s a mistake to not take as many chances as possible when you have a clean slate and there are minimal barriers to experimentation and exploration.
So you wish you hadn’t ignored all of those people promoting their organization or program in that first week of every semester because it meant you missed the opportunity of learning a skill or gaining interest in whatever it was that all of those people handing out flyers were so excited about. You may even wish you had stopped by the occasional forum, workshop or internship fair because there’s so much knowledge, expertise and passion surrounding you that you never took advantage of earlier on.
You wish you had said yes to more shows, socials and weekend trips. You wish you had gone to those stupid organized outings that your dorm put on or the various events that some club organized. The extra hour or two of studying really wasn’t worth missing out on the possibility of memories that might’ve made your year, or a friend that you might not have been able to imagine your college career without. After that first half of college, you’ll wish you were an underclassman again when those opportunities were new and exciting and you still had plenty of time for them.
You regret not introducing yourself to more people. There’s really nothing to lose from making conversation with people in your lectures, discussions or workplace. Those connections, most importantly, counteract your stressful academic life and further enrich your social life, especially when you start to realize you’ve been hanging out with the same two or three people everyday. But they can also be valuable in the future if you’re specifically looking for people who you can study or share common interests with.
You may feel like you didn’t take full advantage of whatever potential you thought you had coming into college, and now you’re afraid it’s too late to use it for anything meaningful. Looking back, you desperately wish you could tell yourself to work harder and make smarter decisions to achieve the high goals you set for yourself.
All of the commitments you neglected to keep up with in the latter half of the semester and the classes you stopped paying attention in or stopped going to entirely haunted you after every semester ended.
You regret wasting too much time. Bad time management and procrastination can be one of the greatest undoings of your college career. You might have said too often that you didn’t have enough time in the day or week even though you probably would have had twice as much time if you became more aware of how you allocated it.
You regret not having confidence in yourself. Think about all of the applications you never filled out because you told yourself you wouldn’t get the position or the classes you dropped because you realized how low the average grade was. Of course your mental health should be a first priority, but there’s always the possibility that you could have surprised yourself and found you had much more potential to succeed than you thought.
Being more self-aware
You often feel you should have better appreciated underclassman life when you had it. If you could, you would probably go back and erase any negative vibes and tell yourself to be more actively conscious of yourself in those earlier years.
So you regret not appreciating that you only get one chance to experience undergraduate life. You regret ignoring the family that supports you and the friends that still care. You regret never fully absorbing the reality of a new reality. You wish you had gauged what was necessary and what wasn’t a little sooner. You wish you had already discovered your niche and yourself.
This may be the onset of your mid-college crisis, but you’re probably not alone. Everyone has regrets, but we’ve somehow deemed it taboo to talk about what why we have the regrets we do and what we would if we had the ability to go back and make different choices. “Never regret anything because at one point it was exactly what you wanted” is a ridiculous and unrealistic philosophy. Everyone has regrets regardless of whether or not it seemed like the right decision at the time. We’re all human, and we all have the right to agonize over the past so much that we have no choice but to improve ourselves for the decisions of our future.
Contact Jasmine Tatah at [email protected].