By Riley Park, Opinions Editor
On Jan. 10 in the year 49 BCE, Julius Caesar stood at the banks of the river Rubicon with his army. He had a choice to make: cross the Rubicon, entering his homeland of Italy, and inevitably begin a long and bloody civil war of defiance against his government and homeland or turn back. There, on the brink of the northernmost border of Italy, he faced the choice of action and consequence or ease and submission as well as ignorance and regret. Finally, his decision made, he used a gambling metaphor as his signal to cross: “Alea iacta est.” “The die has been cast.”
As an avid gamer and Dungeon Master of countless Dungeons and Dragons games, I have always loved the phrase.Firstly, because it is in Latin and everything sounds impressive in Latin; but secondly because it implies a certain hopeless determination in the fact of incalculable odds.
When you make a choice, there’s always going to be a consequence and a reaction. Despite your best laid plans, your choice may indeed have unintended consequences. But isn’t a life spent dealing with those consequences and reactions better than one lived with regret of never knowing them?
That has been the lesson of my life in these last few months. Senior year, and life in general, have left me with moments where I wish I could pretend that things hadn’t happened, or had gone differently, or had never been even set up to occur at all. But in the end, after the dust began to settle, I noticed great changes come over myself.
I discovered myself, stronger and more self-assured than ever. It’s been a long and hard to get to that point, but I ultimately think it was worth it. And when those closest to me have asked if I could go back and not know, or not choose to do that, I think on that question but eventually always settle upon the answer of “no.”
I hated myself for the longest time. Sincerely and honestly I did not like the person I saw in the mirror. There would come days where I would wake up and see nothing to even like in myself, let alone love.
The reason for this? Regret. I saw where my life could have gone. I saw the choices I had entertained but not chosen, the rivers I had seen but not crossed. I have a very good memory; the taunts of people from second grade still haunt me to this day. But somewhere, in the maelstrom of these last two months, I learned to stop having regrets and it in turn helped me not be so haunted and tortured by those other memories.
Perhaps this is partially because I am a senior and finally coming into the realization that the people I’ve met here and the opportunities I’ve been given here will soon fade from me faster than I think. I’m realizing the temporary nature of my position and life on this campus and I’m trying to make the most of the last of it.
This is not to say I do not consequently regret some of the actions I have taken. In my attempts to make the best of the end of my college career, I have been very forward about some matters in my life and activities which I would have never been in the past. I have progressed and changed and formed my world better to my liking; and, as a result, formed myself better to my liking.
But I am still not left without regrets. “Should I have said this instead of that?” “Should I have not done that or tried a different approach?” No life lived is beyond examination and change which could have gone better. But it is better to act, better to seize the moment for what it is and try for your best, than it is to watch it pass you by and wonder, “What if?”
If there is one thing these last two months have shown me, it is that I would rather know and be in hardship because of it than not know and be in indeterminate ignorance of how it could have been. If I see an opportunity to say something nice, I take it. I have grown more appreciative of the people I have surrounding me, of the things I have done and accomplished and of the opportunities that I have been afforded.
There will always be regrets, second guesses. But the one thing you can change about those regrets is to not leave yourself with them when you can clearly act. Even if the action is not immediately beneficial, it is a far greater courage to leap and look than it is to never leap and wonder. Let the dice roll. You never know what might turn up.