Life is filled with regrets. Ask anyone around you what their regrets are and they usually have no difficulty coming up with many items on their “regret list.” And for some reason our twenties are ripe for a field of regrets. Perhaps it’s because as we get older we look back on that period of adulthood as the height of freedom and autonomy. As move into middle age, we look back and wish that we had made better choices and taken more opportunities. Here’s a list of things that we regret not doing in our 20s.

Some regrets of wasted 20s

Traveling more – I regret not travelling more, and so does nearly everyone that I have asked. Before kids, and mortgages and marriages, when our commitments and expenses were lower, the opportunities for travel were much greater, but for some reason many of us thought we’d always have time for travel later. We dreamed of visiting the pyramids of Egypt, surfing off the Hawaiian coast, dining at a Parisian café, drinking espresso in Rome, trekking through the rainforest, and so much more. Sadly, many of us never made these journeys and the opportunity passed us by.

Investing early – How many times have we kicked ourselves for not starting our 401Ks in our twenties, for not putting our excess cash in long term investments, for not investing in our future early. No matter how much we try, we can never get back the head start that we missed. Playing catch up in our 40’s and 50’s is very difficult.

Being more responsible with spending – In order to invest in our retirement or save for that down payment, we would have needed to make wiser financial spending choices. Things like buying or holding on to that perfectly reliable used car, instead of splurging on the new model…because we could, eating out less and saving for a house instead, buying fewer shoes and purses and clothes and paying off student loans sooner. So many saving opportunities lost, money spent on tangible things, instead of on the future.

Better planning – I regret not focusing more on where I wanted to go in life, what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be and what it would take to get there. With some more planning in our twenties, we’d be further ahead in our 40s and perhaps a bit happier as well.

Seizing more experiences – I wish I had learned to ski and paint, speak Italian and do the Tango. I regret not living somewhere else before settling down. Others have said they regret not pursuing their hobbies or learning to sky dive or mountain climb. I prefer to stay on the ground, but I do regret not learning more, not trying new things that are hard to fit into the life of a fortysomething working wife and mother.

Living a more active lifestyle – The bodies of youth are wasted on the young… I wish I had run a marathon before my knees ached, that I had biked more, hiked more, and took spinning classes when my legs were stronger. I regret not joining a softball team or volleyball league. We don’t often realize that we have squandered our physical abilities until things start aching and creaking.

Making more friends – I regret not reaching out more, putting more effort into creating a tribe of support that would carry me through more difficult times. We socialize sure, but many of us don’t put enough importance on building deep and lasting friendships. Some do, many don’t and wish they had.

Pursuing a more meaningful career Many of us wish we had taken more career risks, opted for meaning over money, pursued the career path we wanted instead of what we were expected to do or simply following the path that was laid out before us. How much better to have explored our options and pursued meaningful work in our twenties than to have spent 20 years doing something we don’t love.

Life is good; don’t misunderstand. Few of us walk around every day pining for our youth, at least I hope not, but we do occasionally look back with a wistful sigh and wish that we planned more, lived more, and stretched ourselves more when we had the freedom and energy to do so.

Featured photo credit:  Teenage girl depression via Shutterstock

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