There’s always that one question that people have a textbook response to: “What’s your biggest regret in life?” Usually people respond with, “I don’t know, I don’t really have any regrets,” or “Regretting things that have already happened is a waste of time.” It’s usually something to that effect. I like to rephrase this question to the following:
“What is your biggest mistake in life?”
I think the real point here is that a mistake isn’t necessarily something you regret. The two don’t need to go hand-in-hand. The mistakes we make in life is how we learn to be better and do better moving forward. If you don’t, then you’re just stuck in the same miserable place you were before. And that’s no fun, is it?
So again, I ask: what’s your biggest mistake in life?
I’ll tell you mine. It’s my undergraduate degree. I know, I know. Who thinks going to university is a mistake, and who would actually say it out loud?! That would be me.
You see, I already had an associate’s degree in Health, Wellness, and Recreation. I received that degree in my early twenties when I followed my passion for health and fitness. It was still expensive and time consuming, but it did open some doors to me that were relevant at the time, and it helped me learn a lot about myself, fitness, and the human body. After I finished that degree, I received a job with a very supportive supervisor. She was always giving me advice on work place issues and the general path of my life. Eventually she told me that I should put my intelligence to good use and go back to school for an undergraduate degree. I decided to study commerce.
The world of business and commerce has always fascinated me, and there were so many people taking this path in university. I figured it would be a great fit. I was wrong. My first two years consisted of all prerequisite courses that were dry and not exciting. I was told after the second year is where everything gets more interesting. Apparently, that’s when the classes relevant to my major are taken. Finally, I got to my 3rd year and my classes became better and more interesting, but the monotony of going to school everyday and doing homework every night became too overwhelming. I was only interested in some of the courses I took, and I felt like a semester is so short that I didn’t really have time to put the knowledge to good use.
“But education is so important!”
In no way am I saying education isn’t important, but I just don’t think a formal education is something someone should just jump into. It’s insanely expensive, and you can’t earn a lot of money while you’re in school to offset the costs. It has probably the highest opportunity cost out of any other professional move out there. I am now in some serious debt with the same undergraduate degree that everyone else has. If I want to get a leg up on the competition with my formal education, I would have to get a Master’s or an MBA. That’s just not possible with my financial situation that I now have to get myself out of. This whole process has affected me directly, but it’s also fallen back on my parents, my boyfriend, and my friends.
For the sake of adding something positive to this post, I will say I learned a lot about myself during my undergrad. I learned what my limits are, what types of teams and people I work best with, and how I prefer to learn new skills. I just don’t think this set of things and the piece of paper I now own is worth the almost $30,000. The costs definitely out-weighed the benefits.
What’s the point?
The point I’m trying to make here is this: if you want to pursue an education, do it. But think long and hard about what you want to study and what kind of skills you want to achieve at the end of the day. It needs to be worth the money that you and/or your family put into it. If you can walk away from university without debt, I commend you. Unfortunately, that’s not possible for most people in this world. I strongly believe that a lot of the skills I learned in university are skills I would have learned on my own in my natural progression in life.
It’s important to think about the big decisions in your life. Take into account what you learned, what it took to get there, and if it’s worth it to you. Your decision could have yielded positive results somewhere along the line, but it might not be worth the financial, emotional, or mental cost it took to achieve it. I know it wasn’t for me, and that’s OK.
Our biggest mistakes are what make us who we are. Yes, they tend to put us in more stressful situations than before, but without them, we wouldn’t learn important lessons. My biggest mistake is pursuing my undergrad, but I do not regret it.