I have a cousin who graduated from high school over Memorial Day Weekend. This post isn’t necessarily for her, because she’s smart and active and kind and beautiful and will absolutely crush it at college. This is for 18-year-old Allison, more than anything, and for anyone else wondering what lies ahead in the next four (ish) years.
People like to claim they have “no regrets.” That they always “live life to the fullest” and “embrace the moment” and “enjoy the journey” and are “grateful for where they are right now” and “wouldn’t have gotten here if I’d done anything different.”
It’s also bullshit.
I don’t know, maybe in your case it really is true. Good for you.
For me, though?
I have tons of regrets.
I regret not taking more journalism classes in college.
I regret not at least trying to get on the cross country team as a walk-on.
I regret not joining more clubs and organizations.
I regret not finding more part-time jobs when I was in school.
I regret not going to a single career fair.
I regret not taking on more creative challenges or projects.
I regret not spending more time talking with my professors and faculty advisors.
I regret not reaching out more to classmates who seemed cool and potentially could’ve been really good friends.
I regret not staying in touch with more than a few people after we all graduated and moved on from SLO.
I regret giving up on my first attempt at a blog after a little over a year.
I regret not having face-to-face conversations about my feelings with any of the guys I liked before my husband (actually, I had one of those conversations. It didn’t end well and I took myself out for ice cream after, but at least I gave honesty a shot).
Notice a trend here?
All my regrets are things I didn’t do. The things I wish I could change about my college experience all involve times when I was lazy or passive. When I let things happen to me, convincing myself that things were “fine,” when I went along with things because my friends were doing them. When I was too scared to try something new or different.
The fact is, I’m grateful for and happy with my life right now. But I look back and can see so many places where I could’ve done something and my life, especially my career, might be better.
I want to be clear here—I’m not saying I wish I’d made a *different* choice. I’m saying I wish I’d made *a* choice. Instead of, say, just checking off my graduation requirements, I wish I’d pursued minors or even double majors in subjects like journalism or statistics. I would have had different career paths open to me when I graduated, and even if I’d ended up in this same spot, I would have additional skills, experience, and contacts, so I’d be further along in my career.
So to high school graduates, whether the next step for you is college, or vocational school, or traveling, or an internship, or the workforce, or whatever, my advice to you is to just DO something.
Take note, whenever you sign up for a class or make weekend plans or go out with friends—what are you actually getting out of this? Is it really, actually making you happy or are you going along with something because people are telling you to or because you feel like this is what you’re supposed to do?
It is an unimaginably rare 18-year-old who knows, completely 100% no doubts sure, exactly what he or she wants out of life. This is your chance to discover it. Don’t lock yourself in a box until you’ve explored as many as you can.
If something sounds even the slightest bit interesting, whether it’s a gender studies class or the triathlon club or swing dance lessons or joining a sorority or a study abroad opportunity in Argentina or slam poetry or volunteering with a crisis hotline, you lose absolutely nothing by checking it out.
Go to one class, one lesson, one informational meeting or orientation. If that makes your stomach flutter even the tiniest bit, even if it’s partly from fear, even if your friends don’t get why you’re bailing on them in Flip Cup, keep going. Pursue it.