I should try and avoid using words like “mistakes” or “regret”. I mean really, I don’t have a crystal ball, so who am I to say how things would have turned out, had I made different choices or acted differently in life. If the decisions I made, mistake or otherwise, got me to where I am, I can’t really complain – I ended up in a pretty decent place. I don’t want to imply that there weren’t some positives along my path (the least of which would be the learning opportunity!). But quite frankly, there are moments where I wish I could go back in time and just backhand myself. All of my misguided naïvetés are interrelated and boil down to a common theme: me assuming that my priorities would never change, that I had all the time in the world, and that I never had to grow up. And so, I….
1) Failed to take my finances seriously. Like, at all. I think back and cringe with embarrassment. It wasn’t the overt type of recklessness that people would have even noticed, really. Just a subtle kind of spoiled-ness that let me eat out without a second thought, let me take weekend trips on a whim, and let me ignore my student debt for years (ahhhh!). I’m actually brainstorming a much bigger post on my finances. So I’ll stop. But hey, stay tuned and I can bore you more on that at a later time! 😉
2) I assumed that my attitude/priorities/ultimately myself would never change. I had never even remotely considered the possibility that I would one day be utterly fed up with apartment living. That I would want a house, and that I may want to fill it with classier things than plastic storage bins from Wal-Mart that could dual-function as a coffee table (I’m well into my 30s and still struggle to stop living like a college kid – frig). I used to love contract work and actually avoided applying for permanent jobs because the commitment scared me. I assumed I would always want to live free-as-a-bird and denied that I would ever have the urge to settle down, I guess. But it happened. While I still find it crazy, you can ask me what my plans are for the weekend and it just might include sanding and staining the deck, followed by weeding the garden (not sure how this happened 😐 LOL).
3) I didn’t prioritize traveling. This is probably my deepest, most fundamental regret. Because of issues one and two (me not managing my money and assuming that I would never have any other competing priorities), traveling was somehow involuntarily relegated to the the back burner. It kills me, because traveling is hands down one of the most exciting, fulfilling things there is to me. If you’re a 20-something reading this, and it’s before you have a career, a family, a mortgage…I am begging you to consider taking a summer off to see a part of the world, or to consider an exchange program. I’m not suggesting that I’m *actually* too old to do many of the things I want to do. I’m a firm believer in the “never too late” mindset, anyway. I’m just saying that it wouldn’t exactly be easy to cram all my shit into a backpack and peace out for a month.
But I will figure it out. I think a fun and exciting part of my 30s will be learning from the above, and thus having the money (and hopefully a bit of wisdom?) to consciously design the life I want for myself.