Through the hustle, bustle and stress, spring finals actually tend to be a fairly reflective time for me. I look back on each academic year as they end and think about everything I’ve learned and experienced. I wonder how different the next year will be and what I’d like to do differently. When my roommate and I needed a study break, we talked about how much we’d grown and how much had changed over the course of nine months. Things seem to change overnight in your twenties. There’s so much room for experience, which also leaves room for mistakes. So we got to thinking. What are some of the things we’re going to regret most about our “prime years,” when it’s all said and done?
My roommate , Megan, turns 26 this year and will be finishing up with school soon. Her academic seniority is part of why I look up to her so much. She’s lived through five more years of life than I have, but she still isn’t in any hurry to settle down and give up any of her current freedom. She explained to me the most common regret she has seen in her peers, and one she shares as well, is that people wish they hadn’t stressed and worried so much about “having it all figured out.” She said people feel too much pressure to set strict life event deadlines, only to find themselves disappointed and lost when things don’t go according to plan. Her logic is healthy, and people shouldn’t over-worry about what a “normal” time is to accomplish something. If it works, do it. And if the common standard doesn’t seem to fit, find your own way.
My own reflection led to something a little different. People say hindsight is 20/20, but I feel like my foresight is pretty strong too. I don’t think I’ll look back on my life with many regrets, but, as of now, I’m already feeling the regret of not spending more time with my parents. They had me later than most couples and they’re essentially living oceans of wisdom, stories, and experiences I would like to explore as much as possible. I feel like, in my twenties, their input is likely more valuable than it will be later on. At this point they’re finished “parenting,” which means the nagging, help with homework, carpools to softball tournaments, etc. is all over, and they’re simply figures of love and guidance whenever I need them. Which is almost always.
With the parent-child dynamic fading, there’s more room for friendship – they never force themselves into my life, but they’re always there whenever I need them. We talk more about the stupid things my dad did in high school with his brothers and less about when my next academic counseling session is scheduled for. When we discuss my life it isn’t so much about how my responsibilities are being handled, but what music I’m listening to, and book and movie recommendations. My parents are the two most amazing people I know, and, while I do spend at least a couple days a week with them, I know that isn’t enough time to get to know them as much as I’d like to.
Everyone ends up with different regrets, whether they are tied to expectations, experiences or relationships, but there are certain trends associated with this discontentment: either you wish you had done something you didn’t, or you wish you hadn’t done something you did. Vaughn Bell says in an article by Rachel Gillett of Business Insider, “regrets framed as laments about actions (are) more common and more intense than regrets about inactions, although inaction regrets tend to be longer lasting.”
Either you didn’t travel as much as you could have before you were tied down to a career or had a family to consider, or maybe you wish you hadn’t drunkenly decided to kiss your best friend’s ex. I think all you can do is be passionate about whatever path you decide to follow because nobody lives long enough to do everything. Decide what’s most important to you, and give it your all. That doesn’t mean living a life of immaturity and minimal discipline, only to “YOLO” all the time, but being passionate about life by taking pride in hard work, learning all you can, experiencing as much as a humanly possible and doing your best to ensure the world is left better than you found it, are some of the best ways to avoid regrets.