1. Not attending U-Wisconsin for graduate school.
I interviewed at U-W, and I had an absolutely amazing time. The research was interesting, and the grad students were both active and social. It was spring break when I visited, and I got quite drunk with a big group of them. The guy whom I immediately wanted to be my best friend was a big Chicago Bears fan, and he went to a few games a year at Soldier Field. They showed me the desk they had waiting for me, and they were confident that I would succeed there. I've seen several of them at national conferences, so I'm more than aware of their department's productivity. Instead of going to another school in the BigTen, and having to root for a team that I rooted so boisterously against, I accepted a research position at UCLA.
UCLA was a chance to do something drastically different from Michigan, and it was in the same time zone as the amazing job offer Annie had accepted. Originally, the plan was to go to UC-Berkeley, but a strong argument with one of the interviewing professors both turned me off to the department and turned them off from me. I burned that bridge, making it impossible for Annie and I to live together with her new career, so I figured UCLA would be the next-best option. Plus, who doesn't want to live in L.A. for a few years just to say you did?
I made amazing friends down in L.A., and strengthened some old friendships, but I just never really felt comfortable with the students or lifestyle or traffic or cost of living. I didn't really fit in at UCLA, and my lab ended up being a big hoax. It was the worst grad student experience I can imagine. I remember regularly waking up and thinking, "Had I just gone to Wisconsin, my life would be dramatically better." Maybe it was this regret that held me back from fulling involving myself in my research or in the student life at UCLA, but I really think that it was just an honest realization.
2. Quitting high school football.
I love football. I'm intelligent. I have huge shoulders and a fair amount of weight to throw around. I think it is fair to say that I was a good offensive guard leading into high school, and I had all the qualities to be great in high school. I was in the starting line throughout 8th grade, and later in my high school career, the freshman football coach (who doubled [though clearly not his strong suit] as a U.S. History teacher) told me that I was in line to be moved up to J.V. by the end of summer practice. That would have made me one of about 5 kids (2 of which got moved to Varsity for our State Championship run that ended with a 1-yd fumble in the semi-finals).
However, I let two things get to me, and I quit before school started. First of all, my shoulders were much wider than they were thick. So, pads fit me awkwardly, and if I was in any position other than standing, they would rotate back and start choking me. I had to wear a 'toilet seat' to keep them in place. This was continuously frustrating. Secondly, one guy was a complete ass to me. I dyed my hair throughout middle school. It was all types of colors and patterns, from Ronald McDonald's red hair to a calico cat. (Hey, I was a Chicago Bulls fan in the Dennis Rodman era, and I guess it left an impression!) Anyway, I had dyed my hair red again before football practices began. While sweating through the first week of practices, the hair dye ended up running into my helmet and down my shirt. I looked a hot mess. I pretty much put a ginger curse on myself.
One guy went out of his way to make fun of it. He was a year older, and redneck neanderthals tend to do things like that. I can't remember names or anything, the only thing that I haven't repressed was one break where he was punting balls in my direction. Retrospectively, I should have just fought him. Win or lose, it would have put me higher on the pecking order for all things, including play time on the team. Instead, I let him get to me, and I walked off one day. At that point, I was too embarrassed to ever return. I truly believe that football would have changed my lifestyle if I had kept up with it. Instead of being scared of weight rooms and being completely uninformed about nutrition (both things that I still continue to struggle with), I would have continued working out as I had done coming into high school.
|Yep, this was our uniform.|
Every other decision I've made, good or bad, doesn't haunt me nearly as much as those two do. That's the thing with regrets, I guess. I suppose I should be happy in that these are the only mistakes that haunt me.
Happy with 99.9% of where life has taken me,