Small things that seem insignificant sometimes have huge influences on our lives. Like the words to a song. Several lives ago, I joined the military. One of the reasons for my joining the US Army was the GI Bill. The GI Bill provides military veterans with tuition and/or living expenses for higher education. I already had a Bachelor’s degree in history, but I was determined to go to law school and become a lawyer. I had decided to become a lawyer when I was five-years old, and I never wavered from this decision. (Although the US Army offered me tons of incentives to change my mind.)
After five years in the US Army as a military policewoman, it was (finally!) time to head off to law school. I had basically boiled down my choice of law schools to two: The University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ohio Northern University. The first – UW-Madison – is a well-known and respected state school and was in my home state. But I was no longer a resident of Wisconsin and would be forced to pay out of state tuition. The second – a lesser known private school – offered me a scholarship that fully covered my tuition for three years. What to do?
At the time, I was working as a military police investigator at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. I worked closely with the JAG officers. Naturally, I asked their advice – state school that is well-known and respected or an unknown school that offered me a free ride? They asked me what I planned to do with the degree. I wasn’t sure in what area of law I wanted to practice, but I did know that the chances were more than likely that whatever law I practiced would not be in the US.
Their advice? If I’m not staying in the US, the law school I attend won’t matter. Although this sounded like good advice, I hesitated to listen to anyone who put their medals upside down on their Class A uniform. That sounds shallow, but my fellow military peeps will understand.
Right around the time I needed to make my decision, I got married. In fact, we eloped. While driving off to the courthouse in Manassas, Virginia, one of my favorite songs of the time was playing – Ironic by Alanis Morissette. As we drove in the rain, I sang along to the words:
It’s like rain on your wedding day
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid
Huh. It was raining on my wedding day. And I had the chance to take a free ride to law school, but I was hesitating. Why was I hesitating? Would I regret more – paying for law school when I could have taken a free ride or going to an unknown school? The answer was actually easy. We were planning to move to The Netherlands as soon as I graduated. With both the hubby and I starting our careers, money would be tight. Add on having to move overseas and start a household there and the decision was made. No way was I going to start our new life with a huge debt.
I’ve never regretted my decision. I’ve never had to make a career decision based on making enough money to pay an educational loan. Oh sure, I’ve often wondered how my life would be different if I’d made different decisions, but that’s different than actually regretting a decision. Regret? Nah, not I.