In college, I had the opportunity to present a paper at a writing conference.
I turned the offer down.
At the time, it was the right thing to do, for personal reasons. But though it’s such a small thing, and I’m not writing academic literary analyses as part of my job description five years down the line, every once in awhile, I find myself wishing I’d done it.
Why? Because not many people get to say they’ve had that kind of experience? Because to this day that’s still one of the best papers I’ve ever written?
I had a chance to showcase my writing skills to hundreds of writing professionals. But I didn’t take it.
It hasn’t altered the course of my career (that I know of) and it’s not something I think about on a daily basis. But it will always be one of those things from the college era of my life I will most likely always say, “I wish I’d done that.”
I have a feeling I’m not the only one here who has a small regret like this. But I want you to know that’s OK. The past is confusing — especially when we don’t fully understand how the things that did or did not happen then have shaped what’s going to happen next. If it ever will.
These things you weren’t able to do when you had the chance … I understand why they hurt. But if you really take the time to think about it, you’ll realize they really shouldn’t have to anymore.
Not because you’re not allowed to feel a little sad when you reflect on the ups and downs of your life, but because, for most of us sitting here reading this, life is far from over.
There’s still time to do the things you didn’t do before.
Maybe I’ll never be able to present an essay to a bunch of literature nerds. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get to share my work live with an audience in some capacity at some point.
Just because you didn’t write for your school paper doesn’t mean you’ll never write for a publication ever again.
Just because you didn’t submit to x writing contest doesn’t mean you might not become a finalist in another, or something similar.
I don’t want to spend my whole life regretting small things that didn’t or couldn’t happen. And I don’t think you do either. There is still time. Granted, we have to figure out how to make the most of it — but I prefer to believe that sometimes, something doesn’t happen when you think it will because you’re going to have a much better experience doing something similar later on.
You’re no longer in control of your past. And though you’re not in complete control of your future, what you do in the present, in large part, is up to you. “Never” isn’t an option. The only thing you should be wondering is, “When?”
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.