The Art of Regret Prevention

These past couple weeks, I’ve had several occasions where I really had to take my mind and sail it out to the future. Pardon the nonsensical metaphor, I mean that I’ve had to think about the future a lot recently. I’m always a little reluctant to do this, because no matter how I try to spin it, the conclusion’s always the same: I’m going to have to work my arse off for the next couple years. For a future that’s never necessarily certain. Not the most encouraging thought.

I had opportunities open to me in high school, ones that are no longer open now. Partly for reasons I can’t control, like getting older, but also because of my own shortcomings. I don’t wish to have to feel that ever again–that I ruined what could have been by my actions (or lack thereof). It’s a nagging feeling, that. There’s no way to prove or disprove it, so the best you can do is to not concern yourself with it anymore. I think either I or time did a pretty good job of getting myself over it this first time, which is why I’m definitely not trying to put myself through another round of it.

Hearing about other high-achieving people doesn’t help when you’re in that state. Like your own cousin getting into Korea’s #1 school as a high school junior, or the kid from the Korean equivalent of 4chan winning a gold in the World Skills Olympics, or everyone around you that got into Columbia or whatever. It doesn’t matter if people say that you were in a different situation than them, that you had hardships. You still know that maybe you could have done something, anything, differently, and any of those people that were mentioned could be you today.

I am still more than grateful to be where I am. Just like in high school, I have opportunities that are open to me right now that will no longer be open in a few years. I’m going to have experiences and develop relationships that otherwise would not have been experienced and developed otherwise.  So I’m going to try and do it right this time–college, without regret. That involves making the most out of the time I have. There’s so much that I always wanted to do in this setting, but only a few years to do them all.  I’ll be doing the whole competitive admissions thing again when I do graduate school, and I’m not sure if I could forgive myself very easily if it doesn’t work out because I didn’t make the best of my opportunities.

What do I want to be like when I get out? With a diploma and a degree, yes. Preferably in about three concentrations. I should be infinitely wiser and more learned and knowledgeable and cultured than I am now. There are several hobbies that I would like to have picked up and be enjoying by then (one of those is writing. Oh wait…). I want a large network of people, both in friends and professionals. I want to have an even firmer drive and motivation for the life after. And I want to be assured that I spent my college years fruitfully.

I would express this as “work hard, play hard”, but even barring the fact that I think that phrase is a little silly, it still doesn’t fully represent what I’m trying to do. I don’t know if I even know what I’m getting myself into yet. The last thing I need is for myself to be worn out by rigor and give up. It’s a given that I won’t be all pumped up all the time. On some days, I’ll become lax and lazy and not want to do stuff. On other nights, I’ll renew my determination, and ask for strength. I’m just going to need to make sure that second option happens more often.

We’ll know what comes out in a few years. I think I’m going to be pretty smug with myself if I do everything I just said. I’m not going let this consume my life, though–balance, balance, balance. Just help me to not drop out, would you?

4 thoughts on “The Art of Regret Prevention

  1. I honestly thing you did the best out of anyone at Lakes, opportunity wise. You worked hard, managed to have EVERYONE like you,achieve stellar scores, and you write like a bestselling author. So dont have any regrets :) I think some of the things that happened to you were just weird external things you couldnt control no matter what. Some people only got into harvard because they ‘sweet talked’ their way up. Personally if I was on those boards, I would have accepted you AND given you a full ride, all expenses paid scholarship on the spot :) Because you are just that amazing Jung.

    If you ever need a pep talk, Im here :) I have a feeling you would be the last person to drop out. Your going to do great at UW. You will blow everyone out of the water and slowly reign supreme. I bet my entire antique book collection and savings in the bank.

  2. I know exactly what you mean, with the whole “opportunities lost” kind of thing. I still wonder what would have happened if I would have been a little more serious, would have studied more, would have joined the girl’s soccer team after all my freshman year. I think everyone (or those who care about their future anyway) go through this do-over phase, in which they regret opportunities missed, even if they didn’t fully present themselves.

    I found that the only thing you CAN do now, is take a deep breath, say “Oh well” and do your very damn best to make the best of your college education. Not only that, but there will always be opportunities outside of college during that time, and it’s gonna be fun to try and see what will happen thanks to them. If you have a chance to go out with your friends, take it if you can. If you have a chance to visit an extaordinary place, take it. If you have a chance to learn about something, even if you think you’re not good at it, take it. Live life so that you will have no regrets.

    And having no regrets isn’t all about “making the best out of everything” ALL the time, there are some things that you won’t get to do, some places you won’t get to see, some opportunities you won’t get to take. But if you accept that, at the time you had the chance to try those things you did the best thing for yourself or for what was most important to you; you’ll be fine.

    When you can find yourself making firm decisions, and not thinking over the ones you made in the past, then you will have no regrets. Because you will have gained trust in yourself.

    I hope both you and I can grow; it’s certainly a suffocating feeling when you think you could have done better, but even if you feel this way, remember you are where you are now for a reson, and that you will, someday, look back and be thankful your life took this direction.

    Trust yourself c:
    People have a lot of faith in you, and although you can feel pressured by it sometimes, you should see it as a sign that they can see your strength.

    If you can accept that they see it even if you can’t, if you can accept their faith, then you will always know it’s there: your stregth.

    And knowing that alone, is the first step to use it. c:

    Good luck! Don’t spend too much time thinking about the past, or your future will surely join it without you realizing it.

    • I think you said it wayyyy more eloquently than I managed to, haha. I think we both will, in fact, end up looking back and be thankful. I’m glad that you seem to have this in perspective :)

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