What was the biggest mistake you think you ever made and how did it change your life?
I’ve been staring at this prompt for eight weeks, ever since I agreed to become the Friday Voice. And not at any time was I able to grapple with this one in my mind. I look back at my life, and in truth, I can’t classify anything as a mistake; let alone “the biggest mistake.”
It’s not that I haven’t done things wrong, or in ways I don’t look back upon fondly, but in the rear-view mirror, I honestly wouldn’t change one single decision I’ve made. The amount I have learned, grown, changed, and come to accept never would’ve happened without them.
For, there was the time halfway through college in Des Moines,IA, that I applied to a much larger school in a different state to transfer. I was accepted. But I didn’t go. Staying where I was gave me a lot of opportunities I never saw coming – like holding an executive officer position in my sorority, studying abroad, and graduating with both a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Science degree. The decision was hard, but I learned that sometimes staying is better than going; sometimes seeking out opportunities is better than waiting for them to come to you.
Or, there was the time that I box dyed my hair… and left it in a little too long. Four days later when my parents joined me in the ER when I was again experiencing excruciating abdominal pain, they looked at me and agreed on the first thing in maybe a decade – jet black hair was definitely NOT my thing. The following week, my mom made me an appointment to have the color stripped and to start again. (Note: I have not dyed my hair since then.) This simple “mistake” taught me that nothing is truly permanent – and that there’s always a way to fix things… no matter how hard or overwhelming it may seem at the time.
Shortly before my 20th birthday, I felt like I had to prove something to everyone I knew, and consequently did something really stupid. It was honestly the only dumb thing I’ve ever done (per my own opinion), but it did teach me that nobody is invincible. That life is precious and that when were young, we often never realize the consequences of our actions (or others).
Also, there was my move to Ann Arbor last fall, to start a grad program I wasn’t even sure about… because admission to my first choice program had fallen through by an incredibly narrow margin. Yes, it cost approximately $1700 to move the 260 miles from home and get set up in a new life. No I didn’t love what was there – academically or socially, but if I hadn’t gotten sick again, I would’ve stayed my whole two years. I’m not a quitter. However, saying all that – I absolutely LOVE Northwestern, it’s the right program and structure for me, and I’m actually enjoying graduate school. But, if I hadn’t gone to Michigan, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It’s not that I believe everything happens for a reason, but I do know that without x, there’s no way I would’ve gotten to y.
Mistake is a harsh word. And in truth, I think we’re the only ones who can adequately decide what it means to us. So were any of the decisions above mistakes? Possibly. But in my head, not likely. Would the outcomes have been different if I had made the opposite choice? Most definitely. Would I change any of those decisions? No chance. If I went back and did it all again, I don’t think I would do one single thing differently.
Amanda Kasper is a writer, reader, quote lover, CASA advocate, and non-profit believer, seeking space as a lifelong learner, passionate lover, and irreplaceable friend. Amanda tweets at @AKasper513 and blogs over at “& this I believe”