Reddit user u/Iamdefinitelynotadog posed the question: "People who are 40+, what do you regret not doing when you were younger?" The thread quickly filled with people sharing honest regrets from their youth and tidbits of helpful advice for those primarily in their 20s and 30s. Here's what was shared:
1."I should've been single longer. It would've been nice to live life on my own terms for a while."
2."Assuming my first marriage would be my last. All of my future plans hinged upon this assumption. I was incorrect and had to reset everything at age 30."
3."I regret not getting away from toxic family faster or getting their tentacles of negative/unhelpful thoughts out of my head."
4."Therapy. I waited until my late-30s to finally heal some deep childhood wounds, and I realized I could’ve avoided a lot of hardships had I gotten help sooner."
5."Spending time getting over exes/staying in stupid relationships. In retrospect, there are so many people to meet. Spending time unhappy or feeling sad over breakups is such a waste of time that you don’t get back."
"Sometimes you think that you may not meet someone new that you’re compatible with, or someone nicer, better looking, etc. You absolutely will. There are so many new people and opportunities out there. Don’t close yourself off. Stay positive. Take care of yourself and be the best version of yourself. Don’t be in a rush! It may take two months, or it may take 15 years. Life has a funny way of placing people in your life at different times."
"I’ve been single all of my 20s and 30s so far, and it has been an absolute joy. People — especially women — are missing out. Big time."
"If you know six months or one year into a relationship that it isn’t working, don’t stay in it for another six years. There were so many people that I missed out on meeting. Also, I guess looking back now, I would've wanted kids in my mid-to-late 20s instead of staying in a failed relationship for most of my 30s."
6."Not traveling more when you're younger. Discovering other cultures, making new friends, and gaining fresh insights can all be accomplished through traveling."
7."I wish I had understood that it was OK to experiment sexually. I thought I had to be sure about my orientation and about the individual. I didn't know that I could just...try."
8."Probably an unpopular one, but going to college. I went to college because I was 'supposed to,' and I chose an IT degree simply because I liked computers. I got a job in IT with the company I had worked for in other areas since I was 16. I got laid off in 2009, started my own business, and never looked back. Working for myself has been so much more satisfying than working on system analyst jobs in a cubicle all day. Not everyone is meant for college."
9."I regret not staying sober more. Partying is great, but everything in moderation. I regret not trying to get into my career field earlier. I regret not doing what I wanted because I cared what insignificant people thought of me. I also regret not using sunblock more. Most of all, though, I regret not listening to people with more experience than me. I am 48. I have a good life, but I could have a better/more financially secure life. One thing I don’t regret is my choice to not have kids. Most folks go through a 'will I regret it if I don’t?' phase, but you won’t. I’m very happy I did not have kids, seeing where all my friends are now."
"I really regret all the money I spent partying, which isn't to say NEVER party, but I was out every weekend more out of obligation and not wanting to seem lame than actually having fun. I don't even talk to any of those people anymore. I have nothing to show for all those nights out."
10."Not making more friends or staying in touch with old friends. It gets so much harder as you get older."
11."I regret worrying so much about how my body looked."
12."I now go to bed at a decent hour and start my day before 6 a.m. Doesn’t matter what I’m doing, whether it’s working out, stretching, meditating, or reading (not phone time). Starting a morning routine has helped me accomplish more in my days."
13."Not saying no in relationships. Do I want to have brunch with your mom and sister while my friends have Sunday-funday in the park? Do I want to see a coffee house backyard Shakespeare production in February? I always said yes to be nice, but I hated every minute. In the end, yes, I was with the wrong person, and I'm not saying don't be supportive when called for, BUT things like that subconsciously build resentment. Trust yourself. Or, in my case, realize you're not with the right person, and when the right one comes along, it's soooo nice to be on the same page almost all the time."
14."I wish I didn’t work so much and spent more time doing things with my kids while they were little. I was so busy trying to make money that I missed out on a lot of milestones. They’re grown up now, and I can’t go back and get those years with them. We are very close, and I spend as much time as I can with them now since I’m retired, but it’s not the same. It’s like that song 'Cat's in the Cradle.'"
15."Not expressing how I felt openly. Let people make their own decisions with their own knowledge rather than being so afraid of losing them that you try to manage the situation (and make it worse)."
16."Not seeing more live music. I turned down many opportunities to go to concerts and festivals back in the '70s, and I really wish I had gone. I even decided not to go to Woodstock with the rest of my hippie house."
17."Presents. Gift an experience and build memories with loved ones. Your kids will remember a concert or a vacation long after you're gone. Also, for parents-to-be: Open an email account for your newborn children and send the account pictures you take with your phone. When they graduate high school or get married, give them the password."
18."I should've been saving money/getting a handle on my own finances. In one way or another, my finances have been enmeshed with someone else's since I was in my teens. I never established my own ground rules around money, so it became more difficult to establish a philosophy while having to negotiate it with someone else. I consider myself quite fortunate, however it's more by luck than good planning, and I (we) could definitely be in an even better position if we hadn't frittered away a fair amount of our cash on things that, looking back, weren't worthwhile. Get intentional about your money and what you do with it while you're young, and if you choose to share your life with someone, find someone who shares your financial goals and ambitions and won't resent your intentionality."
"You don't have to scrimp and save at the expense of a life, but set yourself short, medium, and long-term goals and work toward them. If you're considering a purchase, ask yourself this: If what you bought came up as a Facebook memory in a decade's time, would you happily re-share the memory?"
19."Not finishing stuff. I started way too many projects without following through with them. Eventually, I learned it's better to finish one good project than to work on 50 and never finish them. I still managed to get a lot done, though, so not a huge regret."
20."Not wearing sunscreen on a daily basis."
21."I regret caring so much about how I looked and not enough about getting to know more about other people."
22."Not going to the doctor more often, even if it’s just getting checked out. Just because you're young doesn’t mean you're healthy. A lot of things don’t show symptoms until you’ve had them for a while."
23."INVEST!!!!! Young people, even if you can only afford to put $5 a week into some kind of investment account, please do so. It adds up. Ideally, your amounts go up as you earn more, but just don't think because you're 'broke,' you can't also save a little bit of money."
24."Not saving money for retirement. I know that sounds ridiculous at your age, but believe me (and I cannot emphasize this enough): When you are 40, 50, or 60, you will be stressed out and lamenting over why you didn't start saving money sooner."
25."Take adventures in your 20s. Borrow the money, take what’s offered, pitch parents and family on the adventures you want to take. You’d be surprised who will support your adventures. Your 20s are the magical years where you’re typically broke, but also the most free of responsibility you’ll ever be. Most of your peers are in the same boat. Take advantage of this time by doing as much as you can. I know that this is not true for everyone. Many people are saddled with responsibility from an early age. If you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to deal with this, embrace these years. Everyone is about to get attached to something (job, mortgage, spouse, kids, car payments, etc.). Your 20s are the last time you have all of the perks of adulthood with the least amount of the responsibilities."
26."Not having better self-esteem and boundaries in relationships — for both romantic and platonic friendships, as well as with toxic workplaces."
27."I wish I had gotten to know myself better and respected myself. I spent way too much time seeking validation in other people's eyes. I didn’t understand that you should always see life through your own lens and no one else’s. It is literally the only way to be happy."
28."I regret not getting my head under control. Basically, I could never forgive myself for being human and not being perfect, like I thought everyone else was. I spent so much of my life stressed out and lost in my head, and it didn’t get me anywhere."
29."Seeing the red flag treatment from so-called friends and not dropping them sooner. I often assumed they knew more than I did when, in retrospect, they didn’t know crap and were just overly confident. Learned some hard lessons, and my BS radar is much better now."
30."Things I've learned: I wish I had spent more time making memories with my family and friends, especially family. Friends come and go. Family is forever. Memories require time, not money."
31.And: "I regret not being kinder to myself. All of my young adulthood was spent beating myself up for not meeting my lofty and unrealistic personal standards (undiagnosed ND stuff). I was miserable for decades and had no idea why at the time. If I could, I would go back and give my younger self a hug and encourage her to have self compassion and acceptance."
We appreciate the wisdom and perspective. <3 If you're over 40 and have any advice for folks in their teens, 20s, or 30s, we'd love to hear it!
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.