Do you ever look back and wish you could do something over? The decision to date that person in high school, perhaps? That thing you blurted out because you were way too tired that irreperably damaged a friendship? Perhaps it’s something bigger, like your major in college, or the career path you feel locked into now. At the end of the day, despite a veiled claim by an ex-girlfriend, I think that everyone regrets something.
Initially, I’d say that I regret the story arc more than individual plot points. That is, I wish I had held a fundamentally different perception of my compass heading. The reason for this is that I was constantly moving from one box of a compartmentalized life to another for years, working from the starting point that I had to choose one and stay with it if I ever wanted to be anything when I grew up. Thus, I just tasted everything on the buffet, thinking that doing so was part of a decision to choose my permanent entree. This mindset began toward the end of my college career, when I was pressured by well-meaning loved ones to exit stage left from the production of trying different things and decide on something that would earn a living. Thus, the compartmentalization began.
Only shortly before I began grad school did I experience my first inkling that life is more holistic than that. I think that wrestling through that was a huge part of my graduate studies, one that informed my research, and for which I am so much better off now. You might even call me more enlightened. In any case, I feel as though I’m emerging from the other end, and recognizing that a holistic worldview leads to an interdisciplinary academic pursuit. And I can’t even describe the freedom that comes when you stop trying to decide which one of your million interests you want to nail yourself down to pursue, and realize that they are all just different ways in which to see the others, different ways to overlap and illumine each other.
I know, I know, I’ve written about this (too) exhaustively here, but I’m a firm believer. So go pick up those extra interests you’ve always wanted to devote more time to, recognize that a job is just a job and maybe, just maybe, careers are illusions. In fact, try something new, just for the fun of it. Don’t even lock yourself into one type of pursuit (science or art, right-brained or left-brained). Exercise the muscles on the other side. You may discover yourself to be like me, and completely mathematically clueless. Or, you might discover that you’re the next Renaissance man or woman.
Give something a try! And I’d love to hear your thoughts.