When I look back at the decisions and accomplishments of my early 20s -- and I have been doing that a lot lately -- I feel a bit melancholy. The results do not reflect the life I wanted for myself by this time. I feel as though I went wrong somewhere in the approximate past.
Examining those choices closely, I have three primary regrets -- mistakes that I feel have made me a prisoner of the retail industry and professionally unfulfilled.
My college major
History is my passion, but finding a career for it is as promising as reviving your arm after succumbing to gangrene. If I had the chance to do it over again, I would have pursued a more economically viable degree, something that would allow me to build a career worth mentioning at gatherings without feeling ashamed or feeling as though I need to note where I went wrong.
I could chalk this up to not exploring my options. History is one of those degrees that necessitates continuing your education or going into research, which I eventually realized I did not want to do given my desire to convert to Judaism.
I regret not applying for internships and seeking out good work experience. In the current state of the job world, experience seems to be the defining component of a job application.
In my early 20s, I seemed to live in the fantasy that I could skate by on a couple years of experience, but came to the realization last summer that by not doing any internships, I somehow inhibited my ability to get a job in field that would advance my career aspirations. Instead of internships, I worked a job on campus during summer and winter vacations to stock up money for repaying my student loans.
Being stuck with the bill would cause anyone to do this, but I realize I should have at least applied for work that would have helped my career after graduation.
My third regret is more of an overarching explanation: Fear -- specifically the fear of doing things without the worry of how much it will cost. Worrying about my ability to pay off my student loans was a looming thought throughout my college years, and kept me from embarking on more worthwhile endeavors.
I am three years out of college now, and I have ended up in a dead-end job paying back my bills and questioning whether I should give up on my dreams of becoming a history teacher or getting hired as an administrative assistant -- anything to get my feet wet and my career started.
But I am not hopeless. Rather, all of this has made me less naïve and taught me valuable lessons that are hard to learn. In addition to understanding the true nature of the job market and how to be resourceful with little to spare, my experiences have made me realize what I want to do and recognize the entrepreneurial spirit I had previously ignored. I now want to put that to work and hopefully open my own business in the future.
I still would have done things differently, but while I live with regrets, I can appreciate and take pride in all I've learned. I've been beaten down, but am still here to spite the world by being, and that is a perspective I appreciate gaining, as well as something I wouldn't have noticed a few years ago. That's how life works: we learn from our mistakes and forge a better life from the ingot that emerges from the furnace.