I’ll be the first to admit I have a lot of regrets in my life, though most of them are quite small. If I had to do some things over again there are things I would absolutely change over the course of my life (who wouldn’t?) but most of these things only had minor and temporary effects on my life. Then you have the moderate regrets which have had lasting but not catastrophic effects on my life, but there is one life decision I made that has had a very negative impact on my life and I will take this negative impact with me to my grave.
So what’s my biggest regret in life? I have no hesitation on the answer to that question. My biggest regret is going to college (and later grad school). If I knew then what I know now, I would have skipped it altogether and not wasted six years of my life and taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt that I will never be able to pay off.
Like most, I was brainwashed by the American K-12 system into thinking the only way you’re going to have any sort of a decent living is to go to college. To be totally fair, if I were to pursue an airline career it would have been beneficial, but not absolutely essential, to have a college degree. However, I was still in high school by the time I was shut out of that career so that’s neither here nor there. Alas, I went to college, got a bachelor’s degree and spent a year and a half teaching high school math before eventually moving 1,300 miles north to pursue what I was intending to be a DA (Doctor of Arts – a teaching doctorate as opposed to the research emphasis of a PhD).
Alas, that didn’t happen either. Due to some unfortunate home life circumstances as well as the grips of clinical depression and burnout taking a toll I petered out before even completing the MS and I wound up finishing that elsewhere at a no-name college. Of course, I had plenty of time to do so as well – I was unemployed for a period of nearly four years. Nobody wanted to give me a job. Even the lowest level jobs didn’t want me. It wasn’t until a long time friend of mine pulled some strings to get me into my current company that I had the slightest of hope that I’d be employed again and I had all but resigned myself into thinking I was destined for a life either in an institution or on the side of the street begging for change. Of course, if that had been my fate I wouldn’t be here to type this right now as I would have no doubt committed suicide rather than to live that way.
Alas, are my degrees really being used? The answer is absolutely NO. I’m not using my degrees at all. I could be doing what I am doing now with just a high school diploma and some technical training. I don’t have the pure, raw brain power to even think of ever being a P.E. so a low-level engineer is where I will cap out in this career path. If I did have that level of brain power, I would consider college a worthy investment, but I just do not.
So rewind 12.5 years ago, and I’m just about to graduate from high school. What would I do instead of going to college? That one’s an easy one: I’d take the money my parents had saved up for college and I’d invest it while starting out with a low-level job somewhere and being completely debt-free. I’d treat it as temporary and a way of biding my time to self-educate on how to start my own business. Then, when I was confident I could, I would have launched my own business. L&B could be a reality today if I hadn’t fucked my life up with college/grad school.
Now, none of this is to disparage college entirely. It can be a good choice if you have the brain power to be a scientist, engineer or doctor. I’m reluctant to say education is a good choice because it doesn’t pay, but teaching is a noble profession and if that’s your love then that’s what you should do even though you’ll be in debt forever. That said, for most of us? I think college is a bad deal. It costs too much, returns way too little on investment and the average person is worse off for going to college. This much is clear to me now.
So that’s why college is my biggest regret. There is no doubt that I’m much worse off financially and in overall life satisfaction because of it. I won’t say it’s totally ruined my life, but it’s probably the worst decision I ever made and it has had substantial and lasting negative effects on my life. Alas, as they say hindsight is 20/20 and I guess what’s done is done so there’s no purpose in just dwelling on it.