As the school year rounds off, it can become easy to fall into the slump of “could have beens” and “didn’t do’s.” This, perhaps, hits graduating students the hardest, but no one is immune from the curse. It is the end of things that causes us to look back, after all,
and wonder what we would have done differently. Though there are some who marched confidently through this entire school year, through their entire college careers, a lot of us have a few “what ifs” that will always be on our minds — what if you’d studied harder for calculus 3? What if you changed your major earlier? What if you asked out that girl from your poetry class? What if you hadn’t wasted three months dating that guy you met at a woodser? What if you went to that party instead of staying in? What if you’d tried harder? What if you’d let yourself rest?
You might only have a few of these. You might be weighed down by them. But chances are, you have experienced these feelings of “what if,” “could have been” and “didn’t do.”
Perhaps it is time to reflect on exactly why these thoughts come to mind.
Society has a specific idea of what college should be: Major in something you’re passionate about but will also get you internships and high-paying jobs, maintain a respectable GPA and also join organizations, snag leadership positions and do your own research, go out on weekends, tailgate at football games and wear togas in a strange house surrounded by sweaty men, play the dating field but eventually settle down with someone from a similar demographic as you, whose future goals align with yours, and most of all, that these are going to be the best four years of your life — make sure that they are.
Chances are very few of us can check off all those criteria, but for some reason, we all think that everyone else has managed to complete the list. This can be where some of those “could have been” and “what if” feelings stem from. If you’d done something different, maybe you would have checked off a few more items on the list.
Instead of dwelling on what could have been, put away that list, and think about what you did do. Even though you waited too long to switch your major, maybe you discovered a new passion. Maybe you didn’t go tailgating all the time, but you did have board game nights with your friends. Maybe you did flunk physics and had to switch out of engineering — but you did get a few crazy nights and stories to tell.
Now, we’re not saying that we should never acknowledge the bad decisions or the ones we made too late, but often we let those weigh us down and overshadow the good things we did get to experience. Focusing on the good is easier said than done, but we can all take some solidarity in the fact that this is not an abnormal experience.
At the end of the day, you might not have had the picture-perfect college experience, but you had your experience, and it’s worth it to focus on the good that happened and hold those moments close as the year ends, as college ends for some and as you move on to a new beginning.