“I oftentimes find myself regretting things, but I try to allow myself to learn from them and make changes.”
This sentence was in an unexpected – but thoughtful – letter I was given very recently, and seemed to come with impeccable timing, as the thought of “regrets” was at the forefront of my mind.
There is a lot of self reflection that happens when you are about to graduate college, when you’re about to take this huge step into this different chapter of your life. You look at every decision you made, every person, organization, or ideal you associated yourself with, and ask yourself: “am I proud of this?”
It’s quite easy to have regrets. Maybe you didn’t join an organization that you wish you applied for, maybe you cut ties with an important person too quickly, or maybe you kept an unhealthy friendship around for too long. Maybe you went to the bar one too many times or maybe you didn’t go to the bar at all. Maybe you let your grades slip that “one semester” and you haven’t been able to recover. Maybe you “played the college game” too safe, but maybe you “played the college game” too thoughtless and burned one too many bridges.
Every decision that you make impacts much more than that single moment. Every action has a reaction, every choice has a consequence – good or bad. If you make each decision with a full heart and a clear mind, regrets are fewer and farer between. Mistakes are lessons, but they don’t always have to be regrets. It’s okay to have some regrets that push you and make you strive for better, as long as you use those regrets to help you move forward and keep you from ever having that same regret. However, regrets that come from lack of thought and from decisions made to please others and not yourself – these regrets do nothing but set you back. Don’t let yourself sit in that guilt and those regrets – get up and do something about it.
When I leave this university, I’m not going to regret the time spent with the people I love. I won’t regret risking my life while climbing the side of a bridge with my best friends. I won’t regret driving three hours just to take my friend to the train station, or driving four hours to pick up a friend because her boyfriend couldn’t. I won’t regret late night ice cream, pizza and wine dinners when I should be writing a paper, or the unbelievably high number of meals I ate at Uptown. I won’t regret yelling and laughing outside of the library during 24/7 quiet hours, or the number of nights I didn’t sleep until the sun came up because I had spent hours sitting around, just enjoying my friends’ company. I’m not going to regret putting myself out there, challenging myself, and standing up for myself – because I stayed true to who I am and what is important to me. I’m never going to regret the times I forgave someone who said they didn’t deserve it, or the times where I did the “uncool” thing because I was following my heart. Yes, I made mistakes in college. Yes, not everything worked out the way I wanted to, and not every decision I made was necessarily the right one. But I am leaving this place having grown from my mistakes, having learned my lessons, and with the knowledge that I am proud of who I am and who I have become.
Forgive others. Love compassionately. Be selfless and be thoughtful in all that you do. Don’t do something that you know you will regret; rather, turn your mistakes into lessons and allow them to change you for the better and be that first step on the road to realizing who you really are.