Do you have any regrets about your younger years? Or things you miss? What about what you don’t regret,or don’t miss? All of that is exactly what a recent post by Redditor u/Aquarian_Sage on the r/AskWomen subreddit tackles: What people do and don’t miss and do and don’t regret about their 20s. The answers people have posted in the comments are wide and varied, but — particularly if you’re no longer in your 20s yourself — they’re all incredibly relatable. No one’s experience is universal, but it seems that common themes do seem to weave their way in and out of many of our stories, whether we’re only recently out of our 20s or have been out of them for decades.
Me? I miss feeling like my life was wide open — like I was at the beginning of a journey, one that could lead to a seemingly endless number of places.
But at the same time, I also don’t miss it at all.
For a good 15 years or so, I primarily defined myself by my work — by what I “did” in that, “So, what do you do?” sort of way. I don’t regret it, exactly; I made a lot of really excellent creative work during those years of which I remain immensely proud, and with each new thing I made or accomplished, I felt a new window of possibility open. But, in retrospect, immersing myself so heavily in my work wasn’t just about taking pride in what I did and looking forward to where each new opportunity might lead me; it was also a way I hid from what I perceived as my shortcomings. I was awkward; I was terrible at dating; I felt keenly the beauty standards our culture holds up as the “ideal,” and I knew that I did not fit them. But if I made good work, I felt I could perhaps mitigate those “shortcomings.” My work gave me value.
I’m close to 33 now, and I am still awkward. I still think dating is the worst, although I am happily partnered. I am still not “conventionally attractive.” But during the last year, I reached a point where I no longer wanted my work to be my entire life. What I do will always be a large part of who I am — but I also wanted time to do other things than work: Time to explore the city in which I now live (a place I never anticipated I’d end up); time to read, to watch, to listen to all the stories I want to experience; time for hobbies, for travel, for loved ones; time, sometimes, just to sit quietly without feeling like I needed to be going, going, going all the time. Time simply to breathe.
So, I upended things. I’m extremely fortunate that I was in a position where doing so was even possible — but I think it was what I needed. And I do not regret making those changes in the slightest.
I may no longer be at the start of a journey. The places I could conceivably go from here are much different than what they once were; indeed, many of the places I once wanted to go are effectively closed off from me now, maybe for good. But that’s OK. It doesn’t mean that the journey has failed — just that the nature of it has changed. And I’m still looking forward to seeing where it continues to take me.
Here’s what other people my age and older do and don’t miss and do and don’t regret about their 20s. Things change, and that’s fine; it’s just part of life. But living in the now? That’s something you can always do, no matter how old you are.