I want to begin this post by acknowledging the insane amount of luck and privilege that preceded my problem in the first place. In many ways, I feel guilty even voicing how upset I am about this. My feelings probably aren't even legitimate, but I don't really have anyone with whom I can discuss these issues.
Long story short, I applied to PhD programs across multiple disciplines and the choice came down to two top-ranked schools (one was slightly better than the other and is in my home state). I was originally ecstatic, but as the deadline to notify them loomed, I began to panic. Pressed to make a decision, I chose the slightly lesser-ranked one a few states away from where I grew up. It is in a better, cheaper location and the school was a better cultural fit for me. I was nervous about going to school so close to where I grew up and there was definitely an impostor-syndrome-esque response on my part that made me think I "didn't belong" (for context, I come from a low-income background). I almost immediately regretted my decision, for reasons professional and personal. I originally chalked up my reticence to nerves–I was probably going to feel this way no matter what choice I made, right?
However, concerns about being close to family (my father is in remission from colorectal cancer and has a host of other medical issues, I learned this week that my grandmother is going to need intense day-to-day care, etc.) were raised and I realized that I had made a horrible mistake. I reached out to the school I turned down about 2 days after the notification deadline to see if there was anything that could be done and, understandably, they said it was impossible. I am now feeling lost, alone, stupid, reckless, and silly. How could I have thrown away what will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (attending a highly prestigious school and being able to care for my family members)? How could I have been so rash and callous? If I had changed my mind even 36 hours prior, this would have all been preventable.
Once again, I want to reiterate that this is entirely my fault and I have to live with the (absolutely fine!) consequences of my actions. I can always leave this program and re-apply to the better ranked school from back home, though the chances of readmission are probably close to 0%. I'd like to imagine that I was thinking rationally when I picked the first school and maybe this won't turn out so bad. But I feel horrible right now. Sorry for venting, I'm just not sure where to turn.