What’s Passed is Past

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Do you ever have that…I want to call it a fear…a fear that you should have done something sooner? That you’ve waited too long, and by waiting too long you’ve ruined everything? Do you find yourself turning the things you may have missed out on in life over and over in your mind?

I know I do.

I try to use these kinds of regrets as motivation to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” and all of those familiar platitudes.

But that can’t change what may have already passed me by.

It seems the fear of what’s already passed, never to repeat, is coming up as a theme for me a second time in a row now. But it’s a different kind of fear than the worry that good times may never be as good again. It’s the fear of better times that may have been missed out on completely.

Maybe this fear, this anxiety, is so well-honed in me because my ADHD-fueled executive dysfunction has made procrastination and I old friends. I am so familiar with that sense of disappointment curdling within me as I realize I’ve missed out on yet another window of opportunity.

I am thinking of all these things now as I once again embark on an attempt at making grad school applications. This will not be the first for me, but I am currently holding out hope that it could be the last.

Some part of me keeps thinking back to when I was graduating from undergrad at Temple. Back then, there was a push for graduating undergrads to apply for their grad program of choice at Temple. It could have been an easy choice. Temple’s clinical psychology program is considered to be up there with the best.

One evening, not too long ago, I turned my gaze to the ceiling and announced in defeat, “Maybe I will just go back to Temple.” All much to the bemusement of my mother seated not too far from me at that moment.

A part of me resisted the idea outright. Because if I did go to Temple for grad school, what would even have been the point of waiting so long to do so? Why did I let so many years pass by just to end up in the same position I would have been in if I’d taken the easy option back in 2018? The option I turned down.

To resist it on that basis alone is irrational, I know that. But the sunk cost fallacy comes for us all. I have spent all these years puzzling over grad school, I can’t help but cringe at the imagined waste if it all ended back at a choice I could have made years ago.

Of course, that’s not something anyone should let stop them. There’s no point in deciding for the future based simply on the desire to prove that our past choices were the right ones. The best time to make the right choice will always have been yesterday, but the second-best time will always be now.

Ultimately, though, I’m not going back to Temple. Not because I didn’t consider it, even with some chagrin. Even after forcing myself to genuinely contemplate it, as I had to admit I’d had a good experience at Temple as a psychology undergrad, I decided a clinical psychology Ph.D. didn’t suit me. Wanting to pursue a Psy.D. rather than a Ph.D. has been a decision I’ve made before, but somehow this is what solidified it for me. Returning to considering Temple had its purpose, even if my answer remained the same.

Yet having made that decision, with more finality than ever this time, I feel even more pressure to quickly make all the decisions that come next. And that familiar frustration with myself for not deciding sooner. The length of time a grad program can take constantly makes me regret not starting sooner, even knowing all the reasons why I haven’t.

I know realistically 2020 did complicate my attempts to decide on grad school programs and to improve my experience and connections for the sake of applications. I know I’m so much better situated now to make successful applications to a program of choice than I was a few years ago. I have far more professional connections and even some greater experience with research (mainly as a consultant). And I know I didn’t apply to anything last year because I wanted to get a better sense of what I wanted to do professionally through working at my current job. While maybe I could have been less hesitant, less indecisive, should I really criticize myself for not taking a decision like grad school too lightly?

Still, I worry about how things may be harder now than if I had started earlier. I worry about opportunities I may have lost, however nebulous, by not making decisions sooner. But these are vague unknowns that I know I can’t always be dwelling on. If I make a decision, doing so because I feel the pressure to race into it, is just as wrong as letting uncertainty stop me from doing anything.

As before, the answer is to look forward. Not fixate on what is behind.

Knowing that doesn’t always prevent me from obsessing over the past, of course, but it at least reminds me what I should be focusing on as I explore my grad school options once again.


Rachel is a Jewish bisexual autistic woman (she/her) with ADHD in her twenties. She loves writing and can always be found with her nose in a book! Her plan for the future is to earn her Psy. D. in clinical psychology. This interested in psychology started as a way to help her understand people better and to figure out what it was about others I kept not getting. It is also something deeply linked with her self-advocacy. There is a gap in communication between the autistic community and providers, and she want to help bridge it and challenge others to see things from different perspectives.

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