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Looking back without regret on college

Regret.

When asked about my greatest fear in various get-to-know you circles over my 22 years, this has been the word resounding in the recesses of my mind.

Although I never said it out loud, (because it was just that fear-inducing) it was a word that followed me through my many academic, social and professional endeavors. 

With my graduation looming, it is still a word that haunts my thoughts. And although it has been easy to feel alone and lost in this constant daze of growing up, I must venture a guess that I am not the only college graduate who feels this way. 

And how could we not?

The constant juggling game of grades, internships and, God-forbid, a job that actually provides a paycheck, causes us to question who we are and whether or not we have spent the last four years chasing the right things. 

The “what if” game can be the scariest and most treacherous of all the deluded games we college kids play. Some of you may have chosen to focus on your schoolwork, and therefore have exemplary grades.

Others may have gone above and beyond in internships, and gained a wealth of experience. And still others may have focused on maintaining friendships and relationship building. 

When I was in high school, there was a girl who I am going to call Caroline.

She was gorgeous, she was intelligent, she was rich and she was my arch nemesis. We traded boyfriends, hairstyles and student council committee responsibilities. We worked in a sort of pseudo-competition throughout those four years, and I worked so hard to meet the standard that she set. I fell miserably short time and time again.

Over the years, I have fallen short of so many of my goals. I will not graduate with honors. I will not graduate with the admiration and respect of all of my professors. And I will not graduate with the knowledge that I did the absolute best I could 100 percent of the time. 

But there is a funny thing about regret that appeals to my very practical mind. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. No amount of tears, complaints or pity parties will make up for what has or has not been done.

The timeline we place on our lives dictates that the fun is over after college, but for many of us, college simply acts as a buffer to buy us time to figure out our lives.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

If college is all about teaching us lessons, here’s mine.

There will always be a Caroline. And she will always be better than me at something. While my life may not be in perfect order, I have become suddenly OK with this. 

Because I will be OK. We will all be OK.

Our goals and aspirations may change, but if we learn to embrace the motivation that comes from being challenged and not become self-deprecating, we will all be in a better position to utilize our talents, without regretting our shortcomings. 

Lauren Rochester is a senior public relations major from Pekin. She was the assistant Voice editor and regrets every minute of it.

Direct comments, questions and other responses to lrochester@mail.bradley.edu.

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