It’s not very acceptable or politically correct to admit you have regrets, presumably because to admit such an emotion means you are not psychologically evolved. Yes, it’s all a journey and missteps are part of the learning process, but it stands to reason that the longer you’ve lived, the greater the chance of regrets.
I hear regrets about not having children, marrying the wrong person, or wishing travel had been higher on the priority list. But none of those are the most common. The number one regret is, “I should have gotten more education.” This statement is often expressed with a sense of shame and failure.
It is well known that formal education gives you more choices, opportunities, and often respect. When businesses hire, it’s very common to give the job to the person with a bachelor’s degree, rather than a high school diploma. Education provides you with a plethora of work/career options. It’s not just that an educated person has more information in her head, but education expands your cognition and problem solving skills. As the esteemed psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”
Education not only informs you about subjects, it teaches you how to think which may be even more valuable. With education, you tend to be more critical of information, not to believe everything you read or the conspiracy theory du jour. An educated person learns to gather information from disparate, but credible sources when forming an opinion or making a decision. It’s also important to grasp what you don’t know, education will illuminate our ignorance as well as increase our knowledge.
Education promotes curiosity, one of the hallmarks of mental health. Depressed people are rarely engaged in life, they don’t explore the environment intellectually or physically. A curious mind is a mind on fire, collecting all sorts of disparate information. Curious people immerse themselves in learning about subjects that do not appear to have any tangible value, but are fascinating nonetheless to the learner.
There are many well-meaning people that have done a cost/benefit analysis of obtaining an education; I don’t think it’s that simple. Education has the potential to make life easier, that is a powerful, if somewhat intangible benefit. Of course, if more formal education results in insurmountable debt, that’s not a good idea. There are many avenues to education, if your time and money is limited, you can still learn.
Sadly, there are only a few remaining brick and mortar bookstores where you can hang out and go on curiosity trips. When I first met my husband, he wanted to know how I spent my weekends, did I go to the beach (I lived in southern California), or cycle up and down Coast Highway, maybe partying with friends? He did not believe me when I replied that my favorite weekend hangout was a reading bench at BookStar, a local store with every genre of book imaginable. I was transported into another dimension among the aisles. He only believed me when the employees knew me by my first name. Yes, I was a geek.
The takeaway is this-don’t squander any opportunity for education. Go to class, sit near the front and pay attention, do the assignments with a minimum of whining. If you don’t have the money or the time to attend college, it’s still possible to learn on your own. Visit libraries, they contain magic and inspiration. Discover subjects that ignite your enthusiasm. Education can and will improve the quality of your life.