As I write this article, it’s winter break. It’s the end of December after final exams and the culminating end of the year during which college students like myself get a nice chunk of time to just do nothing.
Winter break doesn’t have the bustle of the summer, with internships we hope will turn into jobs and mid-class crises as we finish one academic year and prepare for the next, nor does it have that narrowly close expiration date of our beloved spring break that creeps up on you as days pass timelessly during this week of reprieve between exams.
Instead, winter break is a time of rest and relaxation, but most significantly (to me, at least), reflection.
I’ve spent more time this past week I’ve been at home contemplating my life decisions -- from whom I spend my time with to what I ate for breakfast -- than I have in the past four months combined.
With constant work, exams, social and professional stress, the four months that make up a college semester don’t leave much room for super-meta internal thought. (PS: The breakfast thing is serious; eating healthy is definitely something I need to improve upon.)
One thing that keeps popping into my mind, however, is the concept of missed opportunities: the “shoulda, woulda, couldas” of life. The things you didn’t do because you didn’t seize the moment, or because you were afraid, or because you were tired, distracted or unmotivated.
They are the things you purposefully didn’t make time for, and are now purposefully lamenting on for missing. The “shoulda, woulda, couldas” in my life aren’t grave, but they’re there.
It’s the opportunity I missed to go away with friends because I was nervous to travel far away; it’s the opportunity I missed to have a new and exciting experience because I procrastinated doing my schoolwork.
It’s the opportunity I missed to meet a great person because I was pessimistic in thinking I wouldn't have a good time, and didn’t expect I would meet anyone exciting.
When I think about the reasons why I’ve missed most of these opportunities, I notice a pattern I don’t like: A lot of the missed opportunities in my life were completely unavoidable.
I know that hindsight is 20/20, and it’s easy now to say that I “should have” done something when in the moment I didn’t want to, but what I don’t like is that during the decision point of all of these missed opportunities, I had, indeed, considered pursuing them.
I made a conscious decision to forgo something I only now realize to have been an experience lost. I’m not beating myself up for every single experience I’ve missed, but I’m definitely looking back on the ones I should have reconsidered.
There will always be times in life when you have to say no, and I’ll remind myself of that in the future, but when I think about this past year, I wonder how many of them deserved a “no.”
It’s these missed opportunities that amount to a lifetime of moments completely lost. As the end of 2014 approaches, and I think about the New Year ahead, I can’t stop wondering if I’ll change any of this next year.
Will it be "a new year, a new me"? I want to look back on 2015 a year from now and applaud myself for carpe-ing the diem at every chance I get.
But, as has happened in the early honeymoon phases of many new years passed, I somehow anticipate that just a fews weeks into the year, my desire to seize the moment will inevitably be trumped by my desire to take a nap.
So, I’ll say it here that these “shoulda, woulda, couldas” are the premise for my New Year’s resolution this year. Fingers crossed it will last at least past January.