Would You Do it Differently this Time?

If you could re-do your studenthood experience, would you?

I’ve gotten into wonderful show called Being Erica.  It is about a young woman – Erica – who has her life falling all over the place and gets an unexpected, bizarre but wonderful opportunity to fix up her life in exchange for attending therapy. In the therapy, she writes up a “list of regrets” – a list of decisions, choices or actions she’s undertaken in the past which she feels have been poor decisions. Some of the regrets are small mistakes, others are big, wrong decisions which, if she had taken another avenue, could have changed her life completely. What is very special about this therapy is that, in every session, Erica’s therapist, Dr. Tom, sends her back to the past, to re-live and re-experience that regret.

In rare instances, Erica is able to change the past – but most of the time, the re-living of her regret is meant to be a learning experience. She has an opportunity to try taking a different avenue, even temporarily, and it helps her to come to terms with her own decision and regret.

As students, there are many instances where we make a decision and later come to regret them – wish that we could go back and see what the other opportunity could have  been like. For example, last Wednesday, the Snider lecture series at U of T Mississauga took place, featuring Little Mosque on the Prairie create Zarqa Nawaz, and lead actor Zaib Shaikh. It was right up my alley, I am a drama student, a Muslim, and a young woman – who has a passion to work with television. I would LOVE, love, love! to meet the creator of the show. The problem? Well, it wasn’t at my campus – it was at UTM and it would take me 2+ hours to get home (one way). “Whats two hours travelling,” you ask “in order to achieve your dreams? Weeeelllll, I had an exam the next day. After many hours of thinking about it, I finally pulled out from the event and decided to stay home and study.

The Snider lecture would be one of the things on my regrets list – a key moment in my university career, where I could have had a wonderful, amazing opportunity to meet the creator of a show I would LOVE to be on, and I substituted for studying for an exam (in which I suspect, in hindsight, the added time did not assist in my mark.) It wasn’t so much the opportunity to “be discovered” as it was the opportunity to learn from veterans in a business where experience and connections mean everything.

If you had asked me the night before my exam, I would have said not attending was a good decision. But now (literally 4 days later) or 25 years from now, I look back and think I gave up on the epitome of what I think university should be, in substitution for academia. For me, university should be about the experiences outside the textbook – the amazing opportunity to connect with real people, who are more educated and inspiring. Despite the many exams I will have in my undergraduate career, I chose to give up on the one opportunity I would have to experience the world outside of the book.

Unlike Erica, I don’t get the opportunity to go back in time, and see what could have been. Instead, I have to see the good in my decision, even though it might be minimal: that I could have done worse on my exam if I hadn’t studied, that I would have taken me  3.5+ hours to travel to UTM from downtown and then back home – a waste of study time and it would have left me too exhausted to study after etc. It isn’t supposed to be the Wolf and Sour Grapes fable, (where if you can’t have something you pretended you never wanted it in the first place) but rather, the recognition that part of making a decision means coming to terms with it.

You ever have an experience like this? I would take solace in your advice.


Surviving Studenthood.


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