OPINION: Life gets easier when you learn to make mistakes.

Here is the biggest life lesson I can personally teach you:

Make as many mistakes as possible while you’re young, and when you do, do not panic. Mistakes happen, and it’s okay because you’re young and still learning.

If I hadn’t learned this lesson a while ago, I would panic in every situation where anything goes wrong (which is a lot for me). So, here’s a tip: nothing ever goes according to plan.

For me, this is especially true when I am traveling. The moment I turned 18, I started traveling by myself and experiencing the world. The first place I went to was Hawaii. A hundred things went wrong, including being trapped in my Airbnb, isolated from Uber drivers, taxis and neighbors, all with no car.

As a fresh 18-year-old, it was terrifying. However, I did not let it stop me from experiencing what I wanted. I worked through each problem with as much logic as possible and was lucky enough to have parents to call when things got out of hand. Ultimately, I made it out with stories to tell and lessons learned.

However, this mindset does not just apply to traveling. As college students, we are bound to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you should give up and walk away. Whether you sleep through a big test or find yourself in an embarrassing situation after a night out, you must move forward. Do not dwell on something you cannot change, and do not let it scare you into never trying again.

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You can’t be afraid that things will go wrong for the rest of your life. Instead, plan for things to go wrong.

If I went into every situation with the mindset that it had to go perfectly, I would be disappointed time and time again. But messing up does not mean you have failed– messing up is a learning experience. With each mistake, you learn a little more about yourself. You know what not to do next time and how to handle the situation better.

These mistakes can be small or large.

A small example would be skipping class one too many times. Every student decides they don’t need to attend class occasionally. It may become a habit, and by the end of the year, you barely know what is happening in the class.

It has happened to the best of us.

It doesn’t feel like there will be consequences in the moment, but there almost always are. Whether you fail the final or lose a potential connection with a professor, you have taken a hit in your education. This isn’t life or death, though. Although you can always expect consequences, you can often minimize these if you take the appropriate action to fix them.

However, not learning from that mistake and continuing the same pattern the next semester will become detrimental. Soon enough you can’t fix all those mistakes. So, take the lesson and learn from it. Change your behaviors and grow as a person and a student.

[Related: OPINION: It’s OK if college isn’t ‘the time of your life’]

A large-scale mistake can often come in your life as well. The error can have significant repercussions, whether during a night out or out traveling the world. These mistakes shape who we are as human beings as they are vital in becoming who we are.

You can’t avoid these mistakes, and you can’t prepare for them. When they occur, remain calm and focus your full attention on fixing the problem. No matter the outcome, try to learn from the situation.

Whether you are a first-year student looking ahead at the next four years, terrified and determined to be perfect, or a senior preparing for the real world, just take it one day at a time. If you are expecting to be perfect, let that dream die. It will not happen.

Do not let the failures drag you down. How you react to the mistake determines the results. So, remain calm and learn from it.

Gentry Keener (she/her) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.

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