Lessons vs. Losses

Photography by: 3 Little Birds Photography

A couple of days ago, someone asked me if I could go back and re-do college with a different major or not go at all, would I do it?

See, when I went to college I thought I wanted to be a teacher. That was the plan for as long as I could remember. But during my last semester of school, when it was too late to change my mind, my mind changed. My major was History with Teacher’s Certification. I graduated with a degree that qualifies me to teach high school history and social sciences. However, that was a little over two years ago and I’ve never held a teaching position. I’ve never even applied for one. And at this point, I don’t plan to.

Right now I’m working full-time at a brewery as a shift-lead/sometimes production assistant/social media person/basically whatever they ask me to do. And I love my job. I love working for a small company. My bosses and co-workers are great. I like bartending more than I ever thought I would. I’m being given opportunities to use social media marketing skills and to utilize my passion for photography. I’m learning new things and I honestly enjoy going into work. And I have no need for my college degree that I spent 4.5 years and quite a bit of money on.

So when I was asked if I could take it back & not go to college.. I was stuck for a minute. Obviously it feels a little bit like a waste of time, and of money, and of so much mental effort. But all of the things that have happened for me, all of the choices I’ve made, all of my life experiences have led me to where I’m at right now. And I really like where I’m at right now.

So would I take it back? I said no. I wouldn’t change those 4.5 years. I might not be using my exact degree, but I’m still using the skills I learned while I was in college in my every day life. I’m still relying on the habits that helped me to be successful in school.

For roughly the last two years of college, almost every single day was a struggle. Between commuting, personal issues, not enjoying my classes, and feeling like a failure, it was a daily battle just to get myself out the door to school. I was struggling with confidence issues and overall unhappiness. I was in a less than healthy relationship. And I did not want to be going to school anymore. During the last semester in which I was student teaching, I dreaded each day. I would come home and cry because I hated it so much. But you know what? I rarely skipped class. I still put in the effort. I put in the long hours and I drove two hours every day to get myself to class. I went to night classes and made time for group projects. I worked on the weekends and some nights. I paid most of my own bills. I wrote all the papers, and turned in all the assignments, and jumped through every hoop. And I graduated with a 4.0 GPA and High Honors. I did that, even when I wanted to be anywhere else in the world than where I was at.

It taught me that I am strong. It taught me that I can do anything that I put my mind to, if I just work hard enough and push through the tough part. It taught me to be confident in my abilities. It taught me that hard times don’t last forever. It taught me to be resilient, and tenacious, and to never give up. It taught me to listen to my gut.

College taught me to be organized, and to get shit done. It taught me how to work with others to accomplish tasks. It taught me when to be quiet, and let other’s actions speak for themselves. It taught me how to be okay with being by myself. It taught me so many things that I am thankful for today.

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn. No matter how hard you “failed,” if you can take a lesson away from that circumstance you’re not completely failing. Instead of seeing college as a waste of time, I focus on the lessons I learned while earning my degree.

Instead of seeing my 4-year relationship that ended as a waste of time, I focus on the lessons I learned from my first serious relationship. Jobs that didn’t work out, friendships that failed, mistakes I’ve made, they aren’t failures – because I can take lessons away from them. You have to be constantly learning, and growing, and striving to be better. You can’t do this if you’re focused on the failure.

When you’re in a place that you’re not happy in, it’s easy to focus on all of the things that have gone wrong to get you to that spot. It’s harder to focus on the lessons that you are learning from being there, and the lessons that you will learn along the journey of getting yourself to a better place. One of my favorite self-reflection tips is “Instead of saying ‘why is this happening TO me?’ say ‘why is this happening FOR me?'” You have to stop viewing yourself as a victim and instead start picking out the lessons that you are being taught by your circumstances.

A loss is only a loss if you don’t learn from it. You should have wins, and lessons. It’s usually hard to see that at the time, especially when you are broken or hurting or disappointed or frustrated or feeling lost and confused and so far from where you want to be. But everything that has happened for you, every choice you’ve made, every success that you have celebrated and every hardship that you’ve endured has shaped you into the person that you are today. You have the power to decide whether you are going to be bitter and get stuck in the “why is this happening to me?” mindset or whether you are going to use the opportunity to get better and figure out “why is this happening FOR me?”

I could choose to regret the four years I “wasted” (I know they aren’t wasted) in college. I could choose to dwell on wishing I could change the past. I could be bitter about it. Instead, I choose to be grateful for the lessons I learned about the world and about myself. I’m grateful for the skills I gained. I’m grateful for the opportunities I had. And I am grateful for where I’m at today. A different path would not have led me here.

If you’re in a place right now that you don’t want to be, for one thing – you need to change it. You can do it. You have the power to change your life. But also – take a look around and find some sort of positive thing that has come out of your negative situation. What have you learned? How did you grow? What are you thankful for? If you look hard enough, you can find something positive in every single situation. Every single one. Its just a matter of changing your mindset.

If you aren’t happy, that’s on you. If you aren’t where you want to be, that’s on you. You have the power to choose your mindset. You can choose where to place your focus. You can choose to have an attitude of growth or an attitude of bitterness. You can change your circumstances. You can choose to focus on joy over pain, gratitude over regret, and growth over stagnancy. You have the power to decide how you want your life to be. Are you going to count losses or are you going to count lessons? Are you going to be bitter or are you going to get better? Its up to you, but I know what I’m choosing.

Thank you for reading. Drop a comment or send me a message to let me know what you think and please share, you never know who needs to see this today.

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