Featured Photo by Vladislav Babienko/Unsplash
Article by Matthew Giffin
I had a plan during my first semester at MTSU in 2020 — major in chemistry, take the pre-med track, go to medical school, and make lots of money. I felt certain that was what I wanted in life. But one semester later I found myself with a different major and enrolling in classes in the College of Media and Entertainment. Am I happy where I am? Definitely. Do I still have regrets about it? Sometimes, but, ultimately, no.
Living with “no regrets” is good, but many misunderstand how to do it. Most come to this conclusion: Attempting to live with no regrets puts unspeakable pressure on a person to always make the right decisions.
Many of us put much emphasis on finding the perfect career path or calling. That decision is made with the assumption that it will have an enormous bearing on the rest of our lives. And yes, that is true — just not in the way most of us think.
Declaring a major in accounting does not necessarily mean you are ultimately choosing to become an accountant after graduation. It may mean that, while attempting to endure classwork you find unstimulating, you discover a passion for political science. (This is just an example — I have nothing against our accounting department!)
It may mean you realize you like to work with your hands, drop out, and go to trade school. You may have a religious experience and want to pursue ministry, meet someone you want to marry, or stumble upon a business opportunity.
Any number of things may happen, but they would only happen because you chose to pursue some goal. Otherwise, you never would have met anyone or done anything that could have pushed you in another direction. With that in mind, the only decision worth regretting is not choosing to pursue anything because you were afraid of doing something that you would later regret.
So what am I saying? A regretless life is almost never a straight line divided into points, with one good decision leading to another — it’s a series of “wrong turns” and “scenic routes” that twist and turn everywhere until you arrive at a destination you’re happy with. Don’t let the GPS fool you. There are multiple ways to get to where you’re going.
But where am I going? That’s the question we all want answered. What career should I aim for? What’s my calling? And am I sure I’m picking the right one?
The truth is that you can never be sure. The more you worry about whether you’re making the right choice, the more likely you’re going to make the wrong one. Don’t settle on a major out of fear — fear of not making ends meet, fear of disappointing your loved ones, or a fear of not being a success story.
If you’re teetering between different options for how to spend your next several months of college, not knowing where to land, it’s time for you to finally exercise that special ability that makes us human: make a choice. Pick something. Go for that music minor you want and start networking. Study English, and write, write, write. Fly a plane. Learn to code. Start walking down a path and commit to it.
And if you try something for a while and realize you want to do something else, guess what? You can do that too. Putting yourself out there and experimenting is a necessary part of a life without regrets. That’s because electing to turn right or left at life’s intersections is not so you can arrive at a predetermined destination. Rather, choosing where to turn in the short run is part of deciding where you want to stay in the long run.
So you might start out thinking you want to be a doctor and end up a journalist. Yes, I quit the path I started and ended up somewhere else. But I found somewhere I wanted to go. And that’s all that matters.