I assume it is not just me, but I often find myself wondering how much better life would be if I could go back a few years with my knowledge now. Of course, this cliche worry warrants cliched advice and I know to submit to this line of thinking is a dangerous proposition. Nevertheless, I can’t help but find myself in its thrall. Recently, I’ve spent countless hours tossing and turning, thinking how different things would be if I’d only done X instead of Y. If I’d known what philosophy graduate schools wanted when I first started college. If only I could have recognized red flags in personal relationships, or maintained a healthier work-life balance earlier on.
It got to the point where I called my Dad and we spent a good long while discussing this problem. My Dad, an exceptional man, and undoubtedly one of the smartest people I know, had also (I learned somewhat surprisingly) been prone to worries of this sort. I asked if saw a way out, and unsurprisingly he told me he did. When gripped with his own regrets, my Dad said, he tried to ascertain whether he had made a reasonable decision at the time. If he hadn’t he learned from that experience. If he had, he accepted he had done his best, and moved on.
This surprisingly simple test has sufficed to free me from my worries. There are certainly a number of things I could have, and perhaps should have done differently. In many of those cases, I acted on what was apparent at the time. In some of those cases, I knew deep down something was off. I should have trusted my gut more, and acted accordingly.
I’m sure a number of my peers at Hopkins would say something similar. College, as a time of incredible transition, development, and change lends itself to silly mistakes. At the same time, my Hopkins experience has resulted in an assured sense of self hitherto un-experienced. By realizing that I can only hope to do what is best at the time, and that regret (its educational value aside) is in stark contrast to that sentiment, I can look back on my time at Hopkins regret-free. Instead, I have had numerous learning opportunities, ones which will color my forward looking glasses decidedly optimistic.