The biggest regret I've ever had came on the day of my high school's big basketball game. As a sophomore, I had no license or any way to get there. So, I considered asking my senior friend to drive me, whom I hadn't hung out with in months. But then I started to feel guilty for not seeing her in so long. I felt like a nuisance. So I didn't ask and stayed home.
About a month later I was attending her funeral. She had died in a car accident. This experience changed my perspective on life forever. I realized that life is short and you never know when your time is up. I decided that I never wanted to have that feeling of regret ever again and that I would take advantage of every opportunity that came my way.
One of the first opportunities I took advantage of that spring was going to the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York with two of my best friends. I thought this experience was something not everyone gets the chance to do, so I took my friends up on their offer even though I was still feeling depressed. It was something I really needed. It was the first of many "yes's" to come to start living life to the fullest.
After the parade and a few other experiences, I felt like I was on a roll. So when my friend asked me to come to New Hampshire for a weekend to drive UTVs and snowboard, I happily obliged. The weekend I spent in the snowy New Hampshire woods opened my eyes to a whole new way of living. Passing tall trees on a dirt path on a UTV and sliding down a snowy mountain on a snowboard were some of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had and I started feeling open to doing so much more.
One major setback I had was when my friends and I hiked up a cliff to jump off of. We hiked for two hours only for me to turn back because I was too scared to jump. I regretted my decision as soon as we got back to our cars. Everyone's mom asks them at some point or another, "If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?". I thought my answer was "no". I never thought the time would come where I actually would do it (maybe it wasn't a bridge but close enough). But the time finally came on that same hot spring day. My friends and I hiked two hours all the way back to the spot on a cliff where the water was deep enough to jump into. Standing on the top of the cliff I felt my life in my hands. I was scared. I didn't want to do it. But I reminded myself to stop making myself regret not doing things. Then I jumped. The moment my feet left the ground I felt a rush like never before, I was so alive. And then the moment I sank into the freezing water I felt another intense surge of chills up my spine. This experience marked the moment where I started to transform into an opportunity seeker rather than a taker.
After begging my parents to let me go, that summer they sent me to Spain for a once in a lifetime trip. I was truly living life to the fullest: traveling through the entire country, meeting my family, and trying every food there was. Meeting my family was the most significant part of the whole experience. I knew that there would never be such an opportunity again and if I had never met them I would always regret it. After conquering a foreign country by myself, I knew I was up for anything from that point on. That's when I truly became an opportunity seeker.
The next winter I went to Mexico with my family. While mostly everyone was content with relaxing on the beach all week, my dad said something I'll never forget, "yolo". I'll never forget this partially because it was embarrassing to hear my dad say but mostly because he was right. It's not everyday you're in a place with so many potential adventures. So, he and I set out to do something cool everyday. Ziplining was one of the craziest things we did. We flew through a jungle and over a river in what was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. The thrill made me want to do more, so we kept looking for more adventures.
The next day I proved to myself that I was really living life with no regrets.
My dad and I pulled over to a shack on the side of a road with a sign that said "Cenotes". The man working there put us into a van and drove us 45 minutes on a bumpy dirt road through a jungle until we reached a clearing with another little shack. He went inside and handed us each a flashlight, a snorkel mask, and a life vest. We then climbed down into a pitch black cave where the only sign of life was the bats flying overhead. As badly as I wanted to leave, I knew I would regret not going through with it. So I followed my dad who followed the man as we dove into the water. Because we were only snorkeling there were multiple points where we had to hold our breath and dive through huge tunnel formations. I was the most scared I have ever been. But I slowly started gaining confidence. I started feeling at peace. It was the scariest experience I have ever voluntarily gone through but it was unforgettable and the best thing I have ever done. Now I know I can get through anything and can continue pushing my limits to life life to the fullest.
Fast forward to last week. Penn State made it to the B1G championship game played in Indianapolis. This season has been an historic one and I knew if I missed the biggest game they have had since the Paterno era that I would always regret it. I bought a ticket, booked a hotel, and got a ride from my friend. Penn State rewarded me with a 21 point comeback to win the championship in a thriller of a game. As we stood together and sang the alma mater after the huge win, I thought about how my life feels like it has come full circle. I have taken advantage of every opportunity I can think of these past few years. I am finally living by my mantra of "living life with no regrets" and it feels amazing.