Collegiate mistakes can make the best memories. Alternatively, many missteps are prone to remorse -- some more regrettable than others.
During undergrad, our blunders and oversights occasionally suffer the magnitude of consequence that they would in "the real world;" this is the time to have fun and try new things, we're told. So, we experiment with skipping class, changing our majors, adopting bizarre nutrition habits (cheesy bread at 4:00 a.m., anyone?) and talking trash about our roommate's significant other who looks like he/she hasn't showered in a week. They could totally do better.
Through a quick survey of friends, I learned that my network regrets studying too little, not taking advantage of programs abroad when they had the time to travel... and hooking up with that guy, respectfully.
While I can admit to feeling a short-term pang of disappointment for indulging in an extra slice of pizza at bizarre morning hours or bag of chips during a stressful study session in college, it's not keeping me from sleeping at night. As a close pal and former classmate has stated more than once, "You shouldn't regret it, because it's something you wanted at the time." Another scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, please!
As for long-term regrets, I have one that haunts me with guilt. It's the kind that you can't undo by jogging three miles on the treadmill or swearing off sweets for a month. My story starts in middle school and abruptly ends during my sophomore year of college.
I met my best friend in seventh grade -- doing laundry -- in the boy's locker room. Cue the nostalgic music.
An odd place for 13-year-old girls? Yes, I'd have to agree with you. Especially because even today, I very much dislike doing laundry.
Among five other teen females, I volunteered to transport dirty, sweaty, sports towels from bin to machine (a two minute exercise that really two hands could have accomplished), all in effort to avoid running the track during Phys. Ed.
Don't get me wrong, I was active and athletic during adolescence, but 95-degree weather (aka spring, fall and a cool summer day in South Florida) is no fun for anyone.
After unintentionally overflowing the boy's locker room with soapsuds (none of us had real-life laundry experience by then), my accidental accomplices giggled our way to becoming fast friends.
One of the bubbly bandits was Pam, coincidentally my neighbor, who I had never met. Pam and I became best friends and remained close into high school.
To say we were opposites is an understatement. I liked converse, and she liked couture. I liked sports, and she liked shopping. She earned A's, and I earned Varsity letters.
Things we did have in common: curly brown hair, our obsession with the movie Zoolander and Starbucks Frappucinos. Yum. We spent nearly every weekend together, rode the bus to school, worked at a day camp, joined Key Club and volunteered countless hours of community service.
Unfortunately, in 11th grade, we drifted apart. I can't remember if we fought about something and never made up or if our uncommon interests had finally become focal points in our friendship. By senior year, aside from the occasional hallway head nod, we did not speak.
Upon high school graduation, even our respective colleges were fittingly opposite. She would enroll at The University of Florida, and I would attend Florida State University.
Fast forward to sophomore year of undergrad: a morning in the fall.
I woke to several missed calls and voicemails from my mom. There was a rumor circulating that Pam had been in a car accident, and it had been fatal.
Stunned, I phoned mutual friends -- most of whom I hadn't talked to since senior year. What happened? Was it true? Was I in a very realistic and disgusting nightmare?
By noon, a source confirmed the ugly truth. A day later, a local newspaper verified the same. She was gone.
After high school, I assumed Pam and I would speak again. I figured we'd see each other home from school vacation, or we'd Facebook message at some point. It never happened, and I wish I had reached out.
In light of my regret, I make an effort to stay connected with people that aren't part of my day-to-day life. If we've lost touch, let's reconnect and be friends again.
As for the future, I'm sure there are more missteps to come including, but certainly not limited to, eyeballing a disproportionate amount of soap to laundry.
Fortunately, small mistakes can be fixed, and items are replaceable. People and memories are not. Friendships and lives are fragile.
I've learned the things we do -- or don't do -- in college stick with us long after graduation. I've also learned that soapsuds can be mopped.
What is your biggest college regret?
Follow Hilary Sheinbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hilary_she