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FUCHS: Regret is not as important as focusing on future

Column: Questioning Jules

Instead of regretting past events, focus on the future and make it what you want it to be. – Photo by Brett Jordan / Unsplash

Throughout my time in college, especially with my undergraduate years coming to an end, I look back on all my experiences. I was a transfer student at Rutgers, which made my experience extra funky.

I started at a school that ultimately was not for me, decided to transfer too late, went to community college for a semester, finally made it to Rutgers — where I belong — and spent a year and a quarter being online.

As I close out my senior year, I honestly do not feel emotionally ready to graduate. I think my college experience has been so lopsided that I only really got comfortable with college and began having good experiences during my last year.

Despite everything that happened, I have no regrets. One thing I have learned definitively from college is how useless regret is and how harmful it is to future success. For instance, life may have been easier for me had I just stuck with the initial school where I began my college experience.

Or perhaps if I had just started at Rutgers, my college experience would have been smoother. While it might seem like there is reason to regret my choices, I do not. I was allowed to experience living in a new state and met people in both schools I would never have met otherwise.

Regret is an easy feeling to have in today's age — especially when all that seems to get any attention are the mistakes people made and negative aspects of life. No matter what happens in life, whatever happened was what was meant to happen.

There is no way to change the past. Therefore, feeling upset about it wastes time and energy, especially with the pandemic and quarantine period taking such a toll on everyone's life.

Pre-pandemic, people still felt regret, but it was not as present since the shutdowns began. With the world slowing down, many people think about what they should or should not have done before everything became more complicated. The pre-pandemic world, as people envision it, was "ideal."

On social media, photos will often appear stating that 2019 was the last "good" year or that everything has gone downhill since then. The world before the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic was far from perfect. Many of the same issues people face today are still present. It was not that long ago, and although things have changed a lot, that does not mean that life was not hard for people in 2019.

People think about money and monetary value more than anything else these days. The most scarce resource in life is time, which is something that can never be given back. Money comes and goes, but it is possible to make more money at the end of the day. It is not possible to gain more time in your life.

It is essential to think about your time the same way you think about your budget. You would not want to waste money on things that are useless to you, so why waste time having regrets?

As my younger brother has taught me, regret is a sunken cost in economic terms. A sunken cost refers to a cost that has already occurred that cannot be recovered. Having regrets will not change the actions that you took in the past. The only thing that can help you live without regret is focusing on the future. The past is over, and your actions cannot be undone. But it is important to remember that the past also does not define who you are.

If you had spent money on something that ended up being a waste or a bad experience, would you dwell upon it or focus on making your money back and being more conscious of your future financial choices?

You obviously would want to focus on making better decisions with your money rather than be upset about something you cannot change. Sunken costs are often unavoidable and do not impact the future. The same goes for regret and mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, but they do not necessarily have to pave the way for the future.

It is perfectly normal and human to feel wrong about some of your actions in the past, but growth comes from taking accountability and moving forward with your life. What matters more is what you do after making mistakes and how you grow from them rather than the mistakes themselves.

Having regrets is entirely different from owning up to your mistakes and actively trying to grow from them and correct them. Live a life without regrets — focus on improving your future rather than trying to change your past.

Julia Fuchs is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in history and anthropology and minoring in French and archaeology. Her column, "Questioning Jules," runs on alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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