My brain and I have been playing a super fun game recently. It’s called “Reflect on every poor decision you’ve ever made ever.” It’s like Sorry, except you’re the only player, so you just repeatedly screw yourself over.
Like many self-proclaimed “90s kids,” I am burdened with an insatiable appetite for nostalgia. (Current freshmen who, at this point, “relate,” let me remind you that you were likely still wetting the bed when the 90s ended). Perhaps for this reason, as a current senior and perpetual overachiever, I’ve already gotten a head start on nostalgizing for next year. These last three and a half years, there were laughs and fun and happy times—at least, I’m sure there were. At the moment, I’m preoccupied thinking about all the stupid s--- I did.
A “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” episode once taught me that, for every decision we make, an alternate universe is created. Maybe this is only true for Melissa Joan Hart, but I like to think, perhaps, somewhere out there, there is a me who made the exact right decisions with her college career. She got involved in all the right things and made the right friends directly from the start. She never procrastinated, avoided organic chemistry, never ate at Panda Express and always knew when that last shot of tequila wasn’t a good idea. (Hint: It was never a good idea.) Now, she’s got a six-figure salary job, 6,655 new best friends and is 36-24-36 (only if she’s 5’3”). Maybe she even has a sassy talking cat.
Sadly, however, I’m not living in that universe. And as I get closer to the end of college, my hindsight only gets clearer. I shouldn’t have taken that class or gone out that night or dated that guy. I should never have started that fight or trusted that friend. I should have had a V8.
Finding there aren’t yet enough things in my 21 years of life to regret, my brain has gotten creative and has resorted to constant, almost obsessive marinating on even the most miniature of things. Mostly, this means focusing on idiotic things I’ve said that, two seconds after they left my mouth, I felt like Hagrid right after he told Harry about his three-headed dog: I shouldn’t have said that. I should NOT have said that. As someone with a notably lacking verbal filter and a publicized column best described as a written impulse control problem, this is especially problematic, as I’ve given my brain a lot to work with. Even when I’m not consciously thinking about my idiocies, my brain is always there to remind me. Remember that one time you said that one dumb thing? Well, now you do! Let’s think about it for two straight days.
But more than the things I punch myself for having done, what I find myself regretting are the things I didn’t do. In high school, when people told me college was short and I would have to pick and choose what I committed to, 16-year-old me was pretty sure that, much like traffic laws, it didn’t really apply to me.
Two seconds later, senior year sucker-punched me from behind. And although I did a lot of cool stuff in college, I feel like I missed out on tons of possibilities. I didn’t join an SLG, participate in DukeImmerse or get to know many professors. I didn’t ever ask anyone out, and, when I made commitments to others, I never took a risk. Through inaction, I let friendships fade. Hell, sometimes I feel like throughout all of college, I had not really expressed my true self to people—I was too caught up in reputation, other’s opinions and “supposed-to-be’s.” As the year comes to a close, I’m wondering what could have been these past three years if I had seized the opportunities right in front of me.
I’d love to be able to say I’m happy for my mistakes and what I missed out on. Yet one of the most terrifying parts of senior year is you don’t know if everything will be OK. Your life’s course is probably more unsure than it’s been in years, if not in your whole life. And although I’m happy now, I have no idea if, in 20 years, I’ll look back on my time in college as a wonder or a waste.
So, here, in my final column of the semester, to which I’ve ascribed importance due to its finality, I offer a word of advice: It’s OK to regret. It’s fine to miss out sometimes or make mistakes. Regret is life’s best teacher, and what are we here for if not to learn?
But most of all, DO things. College is perhaps the last time in our lives when basically everything we could want to do is provided for us and within five minutes at all times (that is, until we’re in old people homes). So stop thinking about what you’re supposed to do or what others think or what’s cool. You have nothing to lose, so take a chance. Be it taking a class out of your comfort zone, joining a new club, asking someone out or even just letting the world see your weird self—do it. You won’t regret it.
Lillie Reed is a Trinity senior. This is her final column and the final installment of the weekly Socialites feature of the semester. Send Lillie a message on Twitter @LillieReed.