On Campus

The fork in the road

Don't waste time regretting big decisions (like your choice of university)

I had a very hard time deciding where to go to university. One of the hardest parts was my choice to turn down a position with the House of Commons page program, where I would have worked on the floor of the House in the midst of the political process. For whatever reasons seemed relevant at the time, I decided it wasn’t the best place for me, so now I’m at the University of Toronto.

I’m very happy here, but whenever Canadian politics comes up in conversation I feel a twinge of regret. I find myself trying to justify the decision I made, coming up with reasons why the decision I made was better (the university has a better reputation, the school provides a great sense of community) and why I wouldn’t have been happy there (the House of Commons is full of discouragingly barbaric MPs, Ottawa is less interesting than Toronto, and so on). It’s stupid, I know, but apparently the grass is always greener on the other side.

Despite the obvious fact that I have no idea how happy I would be in Ottawa (having not experienced it), I think that the root of this problem is that I’m attaching my happiness to something outside of myself. I realize that real, non-temporary happiness is ultimately independent of anything outside myself, but I still can’t help myself from slipping into this black hole of regret. Being in Ottawa and making high-powered connections in the political world might be exciting and, sure, it would make me feel pretty good. But the feelings would pass, just as an unhappy person who buys a new car will still be unhappy after the initial thrill wears off. A happy person will still be happy if he gets a new car, since his happiness is not attached to something external.

In this light, I suppose my spurts of regret are essentially a non-material form of buyer’s remorse. Choosing where to go to university is a very big decision, and whenever you make a big decision you’re bound to regret it at some point, because while you’ve opened one door, you’ve inevitably closed another. This is scary, since you want to know you made the “right” choice, but you can’t.

When I do find myself slipping into this realm of doubt and regret, I have to remind myself of something that might sound a little ethereal. I was fortunate enough to visit every university I was considering, and when I came to U of T it just felt right, while this feeling was completely absent in Ottawa. I think this relates to what I wrote about last week, namely the inadequacy of logic in some instances. When you “just know” something is right – even if logic suggests another option – I think it’s wise to follow that feeling. After all, nobody knows what’s best for you better than you do – even if you can’t explain it.

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