This morning, a reddit user asked, “Older users of Reddit, what are some of your biggest regrets in life?” Many older redditors* chimed in to say what their regrets are, and the list ranges from small things — Brush your teeth, kids!! — to broader sorrows about roads not taken. Unsurprisingly, the thread is a depressing read at times, but amidst the sad stories about people’s long-term regrets are some very useful pieces of advice that people of all ages should learn.
One thing that really stands out throughout the thread is that a lot of people’s regrets are contradictory; for every person who regrets not taking more chances, there’s another who regrets not being more practical. I think the lesson here is that life is complicated, and none of us can expect to be happy all of the time. We can make the best choices we can, but there will always be greener pastures somewhere, and there will always be times when we wonder what would have happened if we’d taken a different path. This all sounds really dismal, I know, but it doesn’t need to be: By accepting that there will be regrets, that there will be things that just don’t work out, we can take a lot of the pressure off ourselves to get everything right all of the time, and instead try to simply enjoy where we are.
These are some of the lessons you can learn from these redditors’ regrets:
Say “I love you” as much as possible.
These three words mean so much, and they cost nothing to say.
Don’t worry so much about what other people think.
Don’t let your fear of what other people might think of you keep you from doing what you want to do — because in the decades to come, what other people thought of you won’t matter. What will matter is how you lived your life.
Start taking care of your finances early.
Dealing with financial stuff may seem really boring when you’re young, but these reddit users learned the hard way that it’s hard to start creating financial stability when you hit middle age.
Work hard in school, kids!
A number of respondents wrote that they wished they had worked harder in school and taken advantage of the opportunities they had while still students.
Money isn’t everything — Find a job you love.
This respondent wishes he had pursued a career path that actually made him happy, instead of one that made him money.
Take care of your mental health.
Don't waste years and years struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses by yourself. Seek help when you need it.
Although many redditors expressed regrets that they hadn’t made more practical long-term choices when they were young, others regretted not having more fun and more adventures when they had the chance.
The grass is always greener.
Some redittor’s regretted opposite life choices, like this pair:
And this one:
The lesson here is that not every choice is right for every person. And, even if you’ve made the right choice, you’ll probably still find yourself thinking wistfully from time to time about what your life might have been like if you’d done something else. That’s just life, folks.
And, for God’s sake, TAKE CARE OF YOUR TEETH.
Seriously, guys. Flossing is important.
*The definition of being “older” in Redditland apparently can mean anything from being close to retirement to being in your late-20s. As someone who, in her early 30s, is apparently ancient, I would like to emphasize that life doesn’t end when you turn 25, or 35, or 45, or ever, really, at least until you are actually dead. So although it can be therapeutic to think about the regrets we have, let’s not get bogged down in the idea that if your life hasn’t worked out how you wanted it to by the age of 30, it’s never going to get better. Life can still change! You can still have adventures! You can still do amazing things! Be bold, y’all!