The thing about beaches is that they always get me thinking. After the excitement of sunshine, then sunblock, then sunburns, I reach a point in every beach day where I pause, look at the waves and start to examine my college life.
This process usually involves an overload of questions: Did I party enough in college? Did I party too much? Why didn’t I major in something more practical? Why didn’t I really follow my passion?
And then it comes, unexpectedly and with full force: the flood of regret. The flood of regret happens most frequently during senior year and is almost always ruthless. It can cover everything from academics to social life and often hits hardest right after March Madness ends, when suddenly everyone has lots of free time.
So the next item on my bucket list before graduation is this: Fight the urge to regret the past.
College regrets can come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, much like Barney Stinson’s many “plays” on women, these can be nicely categorized.
First, there’s the Major Malady: the point in your college career when you realize that you actually despise your major and that it’s time for a complete switch. This happened to me about two months into being a chemistry major, and luckily, with the right medical attention, I got out of that one immediately. But if you have reached the point of no return, then the best thing you can do is go through with it. Ultimately a major is simply an area of study and not necessarily a career choice.
Second, there’s the Friday Night Double-take: the point where you look around at your current friend group and realize that you have nothing in common with these people—the only reason you are friends with them is that most of them own cars. As appealing as late-night Cookout runs are, this is not a legitimate reason to superficially like people. There’s a point in college where you have to re-evaluate your social life and find the courage to scope out a new social circle if your current one is not working for you. At the risk of some awkward initial situations, don’t regret your social experience here because you’re too scared to make new friends.
Next, we have the Résumé Fluffer: the point when you’re looking over your résumé and realize that “expert salsa dancer” will probably not impress the right people. There are a ton of organizations at Duke that I wished I had joined and would have looked awesome on my résumé. At times, I think my future employers would have been so much more impressed with me if I had been president of a service organization or wrote for a scholarly publication. But ultimately, I realized that the organizations I’m in should make me, and not my future employers, happy. When I look back at college I don’t want to remember sitting around for hours at some board meeting. Rather, I want to remember doing the Wobble in front of a confused audience with my crazy dance team. Trust me, you never regret doing the Wobble.
The last and probably hardest regret to overcome: The One That Got Away. This is the person whom you had a short fling with in a foreign country, or met on a bus to East and forgot to ask his or her name, or have known as a good friend for a long time and never had the guts to tell him or her how you felt. This regret is a tough one, because it often hits after you missed your chance and realized that someone was more important to you than you thought.
If it is definitely too late to contact the person, then the best you can do is learn that it wasn’t meant to be, and try to move on. If you met that person in a foreign country, don’t fret. Your ardor may have been the result of a “foreign country fetish,” when the excitement of being in a foreign country and large amounts of tequila make you instantly fall in love. But if it isn’t too late and it wasn’t just a fling, then tell the person how you feel, especially if you’re a senior. Why? Simply because it will be one less beach-side regret.
There are many more token regrets that I haven’t listed, but they all serve the same purpose: They make you forget the things in college that went right. So for the last couple weeks I have left here, I’ve decided to put the regrets behind me and focus on preventing new ones.
For that, I may need some more tequila.
Sony Rao is a Trinity senior. Her column runs every other Wednesday. You can follow Sony on Twitter @sony_rao.