Older Adults Are Confessing Their Biggest Regrets From Their 20s And 30s, And It'll Pull At Your Heartstrings

A while back, we shared posts here and here where older adults shared things they "took for granted" in their 20s and 30s. In the comments, readers shared more lessons they've learned looking back on life. Here's what they had to say:

1."Tomorrow, I’m 90. My body has changed, my vision half is gone, but I look 70, so they say, and have a sharp mind. I'm thankful for the ability to live with bad arthritis, the vision I have, and mostly, my two daughters who care for me, my nieces and nephews who care likewise, and all the years I had with my parents, five brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Treasure who and what you have NOW!"


older woman smiling and grabbing a younger man by the shoulders
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2."I'm 58. I took for granted my ability to stay up all night and go to class or work the next morning with little or no sleep and feel just fine. Now, I'm in my jammies by 8 p.m. Don't ask me to leave my house!"


person asleep on their living room chair
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3."I’m 70 and usually I am in bed no later than 9:30 p.m., and that suits me just fine. I also quit drinking alcohol six years ago, and I am so glad I did that. I was always a pretty light social drinker, but I know now that alcohol can do so much damage to your internal organs that I wish that I had never consumed it — or at least stopped once I was in my 30s."


  Nicolas Micolani / Getty Images / iStockphoto
Nicolas Micolani / Getty Images / iStockphoto

4."I took for granted my physical self in my 20s and 30s. And yes, I'd hear it from people my now age (50s) to take care of myself, but I figured their aches and pains and saggy parts were all because they ALWAYS looked that way. Nope, 50 pounds heavier from menopause and learning that cutting back on a few calories won't help me shed five pounds in a week, as well as regretting all the days/nights I did not wash my face and apply moisturizer. If I could rewind, I'd stretch and move more, and develop a skin care regimen."

"I know we cannot undo aging, and believe me, I've earned my wrinkles and laugh lines, but I'd just take better care of my overall self so I'd FEEL better in general."


older woman looking in the mirror
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5."I'm 75. Before my husband died, I was doing really well. I looked after him and the household — made everything about him because we knew he didn't have long. He died. Since then, I've been a mess. Two surgeries, rheumatoid arthritis I knew nothing about. It's like I was so busy looking after him, that my own life was on hold. And when it wasn't, things started to break down."

"I should have spent time looking after me, too. So, do that. Look after yourself."


older woman getting checked out by a doctor
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6."I wish I had been braver when I was younger. I was afraid to fail, so there were things I didn't try. If I had been braver I would have started my business much earlier."

"As it is now, I am disabled and unable to work. I rely on Social Security to get by. If I had started my business earlier, I would have been able to save for retirement."


older man sitting on a bench
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7."I think I regret not pushing myself harder in school. I honestly never prepared for the future. I remember time and again people would ask where you see yourself in five years; at the time, I probably would have sarcastically said at the bar or club. Sadly, as I lived to party, I never thought how important a great education, a good job, and a decent lifestyle is and not struggling all the damn time."

"Prepare now because the future is just around the corner. Better yourself, and spend more hours CARING about your studies and less about partying. It'll be the biggest and hardest challenge ever."


students leaving a classroom
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8."I'm only 34, but I wish I didn't spend time thinking I was ugly when I was a teenager and in my early 20s...I look back at pictures of myself, and I wish I could tell her how beautiful she was."


  Morsa Images / Getty Images
Morsa Images / Getty Images

9."I feel like as adults, we are actually more scared of things than when we were children. We are scared of real life, failure, being abandoned, being rejected from jobs to relationships, having no money, having no safety net, being alone...I can go on, but I would give anything to be afraid of the imaginary monster under my bed again rather than what I'm scared of now. Anything."


kid hiding under the bed
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10."I was so busy having a lot of fun. I traveled and really enjoyed myself. I was always pursued by younger men. I was engaged a few times, but I never followed through. Now, I don't have any children. I have never been married either. I always just assumed there would be more time. I have had my perpetual fiancée for nine years now. We are happy, yet I wish that I had met him much earlier."

"I would have loved to have been a mother. It's way too late now. If anything happens to him, I will be all by myself."


older couple sitting on a dock
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11."I'm 38, and I've gone way too long doing strenuous exercise while ignoring the pain, pushing through smaller injuries. Now, my back finally said enough, and I'm getting physiotherapy. I wish I'd gone to see a doctor 10 years earlier and had the injuries and beginning joint pains treated properly."


guy working out
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12."Definitely my parents' health. As I write this, I'm waiting on a call from my mom to pick them up from the hospital after my dad fell this morning. It feels like I'm watching my grandparents' health fail all over again, but this time, I'm the one getting the early morning phone calls and worrying about the best way to keep them safe as they age."

"It sucks, but at least I still have them right now. Not taking that for granted."


  Kate_sept2004 / Getty Images
Kate_sept2004 / Getty Images

13."I'm 63. You spend your youth obsessing about looks and not appreciating your pain-free body that can get you where you want to go and can do what you want to do. No matter how well you take care of it, your joints, skin, eyes, and ears eventually decline and don't work as well. Please enjoy your body while you still can!"


x-ray on a tablet
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14."I spent so much time with my husband in college. I spent time a lot of time at his school with his friends and never made my own at my campus. At the time, I didn't see anything wrong, but now he's still got his college friends, and I don't really have anyone. I don't have any long-term friends and trying to make friends at 40 is really hard. I wish I hadn't spent all my time with him and cultivated my own friends."


students sitting outside
Rana Faure / Getty Images

And finally...

15."For every regret, there’s a 'but then.' I wish I hadn’t taken out that student loan. But then, I wouldn’t have gone to the exact college I did, where I met my best friends that I still have 25 years later. I wish I never had that awful job. But then, I was driven to start my own company because of how much I hated that job. There are things I could have done, but maybe if I did them, I wouldn’t live in this exact town at this exact time with my exact husband and kids."

"Don't waste time on regrets. Love your friends and family (chosen or not). Find out what makes you happy. Be kind."


older woman sitting at a home office
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Older adults, what are some other things you "took for granted" in your 20s and 30s? Let us know in the comments below.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.