“Huh...What did I do last night? Why...” You hear the voice of your own conscience in your head. These are the kinds of days, when I wish I had the power to change at least one thing about what happened the night before. When you are lying all dressed up in your bed, missing your classes, you know that the last bottle of soju you ordered in that bar was not such a great idea. You recollect meeting a lady, but when you try to remember her details, she does not seem ‘your cup of tea’ anymore as the agonizing sobriety is clearing your mind. I wish I could change these mornings, it would ease my mind of being a contradiction to a paragon of the social paradigm and moral code.
Sometimes things do not go accordingly to the plan and you wish you could change them immediately. What would anyone do for the ability to see the outcome of their decision before even making it? Life would be so much easier, but it would lose all the thrill, clumsy improvisations and moments of surprise.
I heard a story once. There was a boy, sixteen years old, living in a small city in Europe striving to see the world. As his older sister had achieved before him, his parents wanted him to apply for a grant to study at one of the best boarding schools in the U.S. Since he did not have much of a choice, he did as his parents wanted and applied along with a thousand other candidates. The selection process consisted of two parts. The first one was a hundred question test that narrowed the number of candidates to twenty, who then proceeded to the interviews with the deans of the boarding school a week later. The boy passed the first part with flair and was confident heading into the interviews. As he proceeded to be among the final three candidates, the committee raised the final question, which would determine the winner of the contest.
“With whom would you desire to go for a dinner with if it could be anyone dead or living?” The other two candidates chose famous and ‘right’ answers such as Madeleine Albright or Albert Einstein. It was now up to the boy to determine his choice. He chose Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers, ex drug addict and person of controversy, but at least he stayed genuine, because at that time it was a figure of his upmost interest. From the disappointment in the eyes of the committee he knew at that moment, that he failed the test. He was not chosen. He regretted his decision to be sincere, because he had failed others who had believed in him so much. However, a few months later, he got a second chance to leave for another school on the other side of the world, which changed his life in ways he could have never imagined, achieving what he strived for.
Everyone has a dream they want to achieve, something they strive for and they are doing everything they can to best reach that vision. If you take a detour, it does not matter in the course of time. Nevertheless, in my opinion our dreams crystallize, just as we do over the course of time. I believe that even many people here at the University of Seoul have come to realize eventually that the major they had chosen a few years ago, might not exactly be what they want to do for the rest of their lives. As well as their college experiences may have turned out to be something completely different from what they had imagined. Let me quote Conan O’Brien from the Dartmouth College commencement speech in 2011: “Nietzsche famously said - “Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.” - But what he failed to stress is that IT ALMOST KILLS YOU!” Even the hardest worker fails sometimes and wrong decisions that hurt you so much have given you something, forged you to the person you are now. If you could change any detail of your whole life journey, you would become someone else.
Therefore, my answer to the question of this essay: “If you were given the chance to change one thing from your past, what would it be?” it is that I would change NOTHING at all. There are always things you wish you would have not done, people you wish you would have not disappointed, days and hours you would have spent differently, but in the end they do not matter. The past is gone, there is nothing you can possibly do about it, it is the present and future you can influence. It is only up to you to take the wheel and drive or let the road of the past steer for you.
David Gajdusek Dept. of Business Administration / School of Computer Science