Do you have any regrets that you didn't start doing something earlier?
April 29, 2009 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Do you have any regrets that you didn't start doing something earlier?

Learn a language? A skill? An instrument? Read more? Invest in something? I'm a college student and will have a lot of free time on my hands this summer.
posted by SouthCNorthNY to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (72 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Anything physical. I did nothing as a kid and I now have the grace of a landbound pelican and it takes me 3-4 times longer for me to learn anything physical than anyone else I know.

Oddly, this bothers my instructors more than it bothers me.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:32 PM on April 29, 2009 [11 favorites]

A ton of things.

Probably "travel," mostly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:34 PM on April 29, 2009

Experiment with high risk careers, when less was at stake.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:36 PM on April 29, 2009

Get treatment for my bipolar disorder.
posted by Evangeline at 4:40 PM on April 29, 2009

I'm sorry, that wasn't really an appropriate answer. I would say travel, definitely. Take more chances.
posted by Evangeline at 4:43 PM on April 29, 2009

Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish

Etc., etc. It's so so so much easier when you're young(er). I am a person with few regrets but would absolutely change that.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:48 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Learn to play piano and guitar. Take up swing dancing, or any dancing or sport.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 4:52 PM on April 29, 2009

I regret not iearning the drums or majoring in (or at least taking classes to become familiar with) some kind of engineering.
posted by hellogoodbye at 4:54 PM on April 29, 2009

Just about everything. Particularly exercise.

For over a decade I have watched undergraduate students go through school, grad/law school, get jobs and start families. Most of them slowly inflate becoming rolly polly grown ups. Get fit, get the exercise habit. Everything else will be better.
posted by Classic Diner at 4:54 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Going to Europe to take advantage of the "under 26" discounts. Twice wasn't nearly enough. If I'd known how cheap and easy it is to stay with Hostelling International, I would have gone every summer!
posted by aquafortis at 4:54 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Conservatively invest 10% of my income starting with my first job. Compound interest waits for no man.
posted by burntflowers at 4:54 PM on April 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

Yoga, for sure. Didn't start this til last year; I had some dumb anti-new agey prejudice against it before then.

Also, I regret that i didn't start going camping/hiking til I was 24. My folks grew up in the city, and liked to take us kids to other cities on vacation, so I never went growing up.
posted by medeine at 5:00 PM on April 29, 2009

retirement savings. running.
posted by GuyZero at 5:01 PM on April 29, 2009

I'm sure everyone has regrets about not doing stuff. I actually pretty big stab at learning a language in college (Chinese) but now I wonder if it wasn't somewhat of a waste of time. I'd forgotten a lot of it (but lately I've been studying flashcards on my PC and I've re-learned a few hundred words). The reason is, I could have taken something else like art or music in school if I hadn't taken those classes.

But, if you studied a romance language like Spanish or French you could probably pick it up pretty easily.
posted by delmoi at 5:02 PM on April 29, 2009

Yoga and running. I started both at 29 and think they would have been enormously helpful throughout my 20s.

One thing I did start early and it has changed my life in so many wonderful ways: travel. I would encourage you see as much of the world as you can while throwing stuff in a backpack and hopping on a plane is possible without big job and family/child commitments.
posted by meerkatty at 5:04 PM on April 29, 2009

Exercise. Start saving your money. Meet tons of people and make friends - the friendships I made around college age have been the ones that have stuck the best. Take advantage of anything (from the swimming pool to screenprinting equipment) that is free to you now but would cost a lot of money or take up a lot of space after you graduate.

Also: have fun and be wacky while you can get away with it. If I had my college years to do over again, I'd dye my hair neon colors, mismatch my shoes, and be more vocal about all the brilliantly silly ideas I had.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:07 PM on April 29, 2009

Also, if you tend toward cynicism, cattiness, defeatism, etc., it's a wise idea to start tearing that down now. If I had been less of a cynical jerk in my late teens/early twenties I probably would have taken a lot more risks and made a lot more friends.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:11 PM on April 29, 2009 [8 favorites]

I would have liked to:
- Get into playing team sports
- Travel around Asia and/or Europe for a few months
- Have a threesome
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:12 PM on April 29, 2009

Get treatment for my bipolar disorder.
posted by Evangeline at 4:40 PM on April 29 [+] [!]

I'm sorry, that wasn't really an appropriate answer...
posted by Evangeline at 4:43 PM on April 29 [+] [!]

Oh, I think it was very appropriate. Psychological and emotional health and intelligence affect both quality of life and which doors are open to someone at every step along the way. Those who are self-confident and poised and good communicators and have a clear understanding of what they are trying to achieve accelerate into positions where they can make good things happen. The more I accept myself and become confident and clear about what I'm trying to do and what really doesn't matter, the better life gets. I'd say you should spend the summer meditating, doing CBT, better understanding your own sense of purpose, and learning good communication and leadership skills (taking classes in negotiation and mediation, one-on-one communication, assertiveness, cultural awareness, etc). [sorry this is rambling and has typos, gotta run, no time to edit]
posted by salvia at 5:19 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Seconding the put away 10% of your income now. It is really easy to get used to it if you start earlier.

I would be so much wealthier now if I had only started this younger.
posted by sickinthehead at 5:28 PM on April 29, 2009

Oh, I think it was very appropriate.

2nding Salvia. Getting treatment can change your life in tremendous ways. It did for me (with depression).

Other things for me include running, finishing college, and taking music lessons.
posted by Rykey at 5:29 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding under 26 discounts in Europe.

(I'm 26, so I'm still pretty young)

But oh! If I had it all to do again!

I would have gotten over myself and taken more math classes in college.
posted by puckish at 5:34 PM on April 29, 2009

Taking classes outside of work, especially science and engineering classes. I want to get out of my field. I feel too old to make a mistake now.
posted by anniecat at 5:37 PM on April 29, 2009

Which I guess translates to....taken more summer classes?

No, on second thought. Don't do this.

What I actually did was travel. Which was awesome!
posted by puckish at 5:37 PM on April 29, 2009

Two big ones for me: Develop a regular exercise habit. Develop a regular saving habit. Both of these, started early, would have had a huge impact on my life.
posted by jdroth at 5:48 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

The best thing I did in college was go abroad to Germany for the summer. I met up with friends and hung out in the cities, but spent most of the time traveling alone between smaller towns where very few people spoke English.

I didn't (and still don't) speak fluently, and negotiating travel alone was often a challenge. Looking back, it was the most eye-opening thing I've ever done -- it taught me a huge amount about being myself and being confident enough to reach out and make friends with strangers.
posted by puckish at 5:48 PM on April 29, 2009

I regret not getting out of an unsuitable romantic relationship and instead hoping it would somehow work out for well over a decade. I would have had a chance at a lot more happiness had I let it go and expended the effort on finding someone I was more compatible with instead.
posted by magicbus at 6:03 PM on April 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

My coulda-shoulda-woulda list:
Not accumulate as much debt
Learn how to cook healthy meals, and then actually do it every day
Exercise regularly, even if it was just walking.
Go straight to grad school--hopefully I'll still get around to that eventually.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:06 PM on April 29, 2009

Guitar is a good summer project. It has a slight curve at the beginning, but then there's a very satisfying plateau on which you can play a lot of popular songs and actually sound decent with them. It makes it very encouraging to continue.

I don't know if you're interested in this at all, but when people are bored & looking for something to do, I usually tell them to learn a programming language (and then more generally CS). I really can't tell you the number of times I've been able to save myself hours and hours of work with a handful of lines of code.

Also, do the sports that you might think are too dangerous later on. If you break a collar bone playing rugby now, it won't matter - in 20 years, it'll matter a bit more.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:07 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I wish I had taken more risks and failed in some of those endeavors. I played it safe throughout my 20s. I should have tried different jobs, cultivated new relationships, lived in different cities and attempted new skills and hobbies when I had nothing to lose.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Piano lessons. Foreign language lessons. Do it now!
posted by schrodycat at 6:32 PM on April 29, 2009

I wish I had read more. I devour books in the summer these days, but I can only catch up to my feelings of not being well-enough read so fast.
posted by PhatLobley at 6:45 PM on April 29, 2009

I always thought I'd love bike riding, but it took years out of university to discover it was actually true. In turn biking lead to running & swimming which lead to triathlon. So I would nth the sport/exercise thing. It's not a bad habit to develop.

I suggest you use the time to do what you think you might like and see where it leads.
posted by WayOutWest at 6:50 PM on April 29, 2009

i waited till i was 18 to have sex...
posted by dougiedd at 7:16 PM on April 29, 2009

rock climbing.
posted by ewingpatriarch at 7:17 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Biggest regret that hasn't been mentioned (i.e. saving more, exercising more) is that it took me so long to turn off the tv. Once we had kids, I lost a LOT of chances to do stuff around my house, etc.

if you have it, get rid of the cable, and turn off that box. Almost ANYTHING you do that isn't watching other people live will be a step forward!
posted by Richat at 7:19 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

SLR photography.
posted by halogen at 7:21 PM on April 29, 2009

Learning to program. Python is amazing.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 7:35 PM on April 29, 2009

Paying off debt. Traveling. Going to graduate school. Saving for a house. Learning that exercise is fun and feels awesome. Working on myself in therapy to get better at all things life-related. Taking risks in relationships.
posted by Miko at 8:04 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Learning to play tennis, learning to play soccer, learning to handle finances, learning to keep a notebook, learning to cook. Learning to ask lots of questions. There's probably a lot more.
posted by Theloupgarou at 8:05 PM on April 29, 2009

I wish I'd learned to play an instrument, and stuck with it. My friends who did are really good now, and I'm in my 40s and just starting to learn.

Take advantage of education opportunities while they're free and you have the time for them.

Something physical. I started martial arts late, and, like music, the people who'd started as kids and stuck with it were miles better than us old farts picking it up in our 30s.
posted by bink at 8:15 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh! And a life lesson I fervently wish I'd learned early:

Here is your weekend. (draws horizontal line in the air) Here is the homework you need to get done this weekend. (holds hand vertically, bisecting the previous line) The time BEFORE your homework is done is full of stress and worry. The time AFTER your homework is done is full of relief and relaxation. Do your homework early and enjoy your weekend. (slides hand leftward along the line until weekend is full of win)

I guess if you're in college it's a little late for this one, but if you know any kids...
posted by bink at 8:20 PM on April 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Getting into the habit of flossing my teeth every day.

Pay attention to my posture.
posted by birdsquared at 8:23 PM on April 29, 2009

have sex with a girl you care about. learn to enjoy to all types of music. if ever there's a chance to meet someone new or cultivate a relationship, do it, and learn what his life and experiences and thoughts have to offer. chat up your librarian. flirt with the girl across the room. dance in public. drink a little. drink a lot, but only among good friends. read philosophy. dance in the rain. kiss a stranger. have sex with a girl you care about.

Though i'm only 20, i'm too afraid to try most of these. But i realize that they're not nearly as difficult if you're 20 as if you're 45.
posted by cmchap at 11:15 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing travel, learning a language, and learning to play an instrument. (Other than piano and trumpet. Not useful skills for jamming with my friends.)

I zoomed through the prerequisites for my professional program without getting an undergrad degree, and now I really wish I'd taken other classes. Philosophy. Econ. Literature and writing. My science-y education left me nearly incapable of reading anything but peer reviewed journals and only able to communicate in illegible phrases sprinkled with Latin abbreviations and I'm just now beginning to recover. It wouldn't have been that difficult to take some extra classes without taking any longer to graduate. I feel I'm lacking some fundamental knowledge about the world and I need to catch up. But I guess the usefulness of that notion depends on your major.

I wish I'd discovered the awesomeness of music festivals sooner, specifically the ones that involve packing up all the food and booze you need for the whole weekend in a huge cooler and camping in a field and not showering. Festival season is nearly upon us!!

Maybe not quite the category of activities you had in mind, but I wish I'd avoided a serious relationship until somewhat later in life, failing that I wish I'd ended it in a more timely manner. I missed out on a lot because of it. Oh well good learning experience.

On the other hand, I am glad I went straight through college and got my graduate degree and got it over with. I'm glad I learned how to ski and swim and navigate well when I was young. I'm glad I've roadtripped by myself, and that I got comfortable with going to bars and restaurants alone and learned how interesting it can be to talk to strangers. And I am happy happy every day! that I moved to a new city, chosen almost at random, where I didn't know anyone, just because I thought it would be an exciting adventure.

On preview, flossing is good.
posted by little e at 11:19 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

chat up your librarian

Please don't do this.
posted by SamuelBowman at 3:32 AM on April 30, 2009

I wish I had taken more odd jobs. I would have meet a wider range of people, developed a wider range of kills, and spent less time bored, unemployed and broke. For some reason I believed that jobs not involving a computer were below me, and that's stupid.

I wish I had learned how to breakup with a girlfriend respectfully and in a timely manner, before I got involved in long term relationships. I'm not sure how I could have, but I still wish I did.
posted by gmarceau at 4:08 AM on April 30, 2009

I seriously hate thinking about this. The list is long.

Then again I ended up doing a lot of stuff. I'm 33, I'm not done, but anyway.

Right now I wished as a child I'd been more into music. I started on violin but didn't have a good teacher or anything and never applied myself to it. Switched instruments, ended up going to music school for college and then started back on the violin at 22. I'm still at it and working hard but I wish I'd had those intervening years. I think I actually could have been really good.

Here's the most important thing: I wish I'd realized that I could pretty much do anything I set my mind to. Not being president or something that only one person can be. But I could (and probably still can) be pretty damn good at anything anyone else is. Was listening about Mike Tyson yesterday about how he grew up with asthma and how that made him want to work harder during boxing because he was afraid he would have an asthma attack if the fight went on too long. Not that he's my role model but it was interesting. I think everyone is pretty much equal. Talent is over rated. I used that as a rationalization for many years to prevent me from working really hard. Now I'm working pretty damn hard. Took me a long time to figure that out.
posted by sully75 at 4:35 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yes, some regrets, most tempered by the knowledge that most of what I regret not having done was one of: impossible for me to have done at that time; I hated doing that back then; it wasn't around to do back then; I had chosen another path with which I was perfectly happy then. For example, I regretted for years not having gone to Denmark with my ex and bummed around for a month. The reality is that bumming around bores the heck out of me, that I didn't like the person he had planned to stay with and he didn't like me, and that I had a very interesting job that I would have lost had I taken a month or so off. Now that I'm more mellow and can make the time, I'd take a month in Denmark but with a list of things to do. Everyone has some regrets; the trick is being honest enough with yourself to know which ones are real, and kind enough to forgive yourself as you would forgive someone else.

I agree with Sully75: you can do pretty much anything. So choose. And enjoy. And, if you don't enjoy, explore something else.
posted by x46 at 5:37 AM on April 30, 2009

More unspecific regrets: I regret not realizing at an early age that you have exactly one life to live, and that what you do in it is important. Not to be too crazy about it, but every minute you have is one more than you'll have in one minute. So it's important to do things that are important to you. As you get older I think you realize this more, but it would have been nice to know that early in life when you have more free time.

Also I regret thinking that people didn't like me. That caused me to act in ways that made people not like me.

Also I regret not taking the dangerous anti-acne medicine accutaine earlier in my life. As nasty as it was, it would have saved me 2 or 3 really awful years of having my face bleed from open sores while I was in class. I think that would have saved me some really crappy times.
posted by sully75 at 6:34 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

  • Working on my posture
  • Taking better care of my teeth
  • Making exercise a habitual activity
It's always the health stuff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:42 AM on April 30, 2009

I wish I'd developed a great exercise habit in college, or even high school. I'd be so much more flexible and strong.

I wish I'd learned how to evaluate a relationship with more criteria than "but we love each other like soooooo much", and how to gracefully exit a relationship that wasn't working.

Nthing therapy and/or taking charge of your personal issues the first time they come up rather than hoping they will magically go away. They won't, and therapy would've been cheaper on my parents' insurance.

I wish I'd started flossing earlier.

I wish I'd studied abroad.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 6:51 AM on April 30, 2009

More sex.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:52 AM on April 30, 2009

I know it's cliche, and you've probably read/heard it before, but general rule of thumb:
The things that you regret the most will be the things that you did not do, not the things that you actually did.
posted by Grither at 6:57 AM on April 30, 2009

Take acid in a forest.
posted by turkeyphant at 7:02 AM on April 30, 2009

Jeez so many!!!
1. learn to play a musical instrument - any musical instrument
2. learn how to create art (specifically metalworking)
3. be more of a hounddog when I was younger (I was surprised how many female friends liked me in that way - I had no clue and was too shy to do anything about it)
4. learn good money habits so I can retire at fifty and travel the world. Ain't gonna happen now.
5. Be more forgiving to members of my family, pace Philip Larkin, they didn't mean it for they were fucked up in their turn.

and a zillion more.
posted by xetere at 7:22 AM on April 30, 2009

Travel. Writing and submitting fiction. Quitting smoking. Eating better. I'm 45 now, and feel the weight of all these things every day.
posted by Work to Live at 7:29 AM on April 30, 2009

Grither, the expression I've heard is: It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do. I agree wholeheartedly, and my only true regrets (to date) are things I didn't do.
posted by Simon Barclay at 8:33 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. We are talking about a college student's summer here.

2. As to whether one regrets the things one didn't do the most, or whether it's better to regret the things you did . . .

This has always struck me as deeply confused. First, lots of things can be phrased either way. ("I wish I had never smoked." "I wish I had taken steps to quit smoking."). Second, and favoring the first iteration only, I bet we are predisposed toward the things we do and don't see the downsides. Third, there are so many more things that we don't do to find -- and they are not all reconcilable, nor do we contemplate the tradeoffs/downsides.

I think it's just as likely that there an infinite capacity to engage in regret and that it's more a question of how much we indulge it, and that is driven more by our attitude toward regret and these nostrums.

The real question, to quarrel a bit with the OP, is what activities are best started early.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 9:08 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Learning to play piano, or another instrument.
Going back to school for the next level degree.
Taking myself seriously. (long explanation snipped; either this resonates, or it doesn't)
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

I started judo a couple of years ago, and every so often, I think I would be pretty great right now if I had started ten years ago. Even people who aren't athletic (like me) get pretty good in ten years. I knew a short and thin guy in his fifties that started in his forties who could just rip through bigger guys ten years younger.

You're at a prime age to get into live-trained martial arts like muay thai, boxing, Brazillian jiu-jitsu, sambo, wrestling, and judo. Your body will adapt more quickly than it will in a few decades, and your muscles heal and grow fast right now. If you've got any inclination at all for this kind of stuff, give it a try.
posted by ignignokt at 9:41 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thought about where i wanted to be in 5 years, which would have translated into picking a grad program, or looking more closely at friends/lovers, and yes, the saving 10% of income whenever you can.
posted by Penelope at 1:18 PM on April 30, 2009

Guitar! Borrow a friend's guitar for a week and give it a shot. If you love it then awesome - you've got a new lifelong hobby/obsession. If you don't, no harm done.

More broadly, it seems like you should try a bunch of stuff and see what grabs you. With very few exceptions, the things I am hugely passionate about now were also instantly exciting to me when I did them the first time (Guitar, programming, skiing, etc). They have taken a tremandous amout of work to develop over the years, but I knew right away that they were worth spending time on. Lifes too short to grind away at hobbies you don't actually like all that much.
posted by jpdoane at 1:45 PM on April 30, 2009

Keep a journal in which you write at least one sentence a day.
posted by Kirn at 2:07 PM on April 30, 2009

Better question: How many things did you start doing as an adult that you DIDN'T regret starting sooner?

On that one? I'm drawing a blank. Maybe getting my PhD at 29. Aside from that, my whole fucking life is a "why didn't I start this sooner" saga.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:08 PM on April 30, 2009

Nope, none.
posted by mullingitover at 6:01 PM on April 30, 2009

I second the "It's better to regret something you did than something you didn't do."

but, more importantly, spending time with family and doing activities with them, especially when they're (Especially older folks) healthy enough to remember, go outside, go to places that are far away.
posted by fizzix at 6:35 PM on April 30, 2009

Playing hockey. I absolutely love it, but was never the athletic type when I was younger. Now I'm in my mid 20's and I play in an adult rec league.
posted by JuiceBoxHero at 7:05 PM on April 30, 2009

I find it curious that in this question, and others like it, there is so much importance attached to doing things when you're young. I feel tremendously liberated to travel by myself, and don't feel so much self-consciousness about, "Gee, who will I go with?" or "What shall I do?" Sure, I wish I had traveled more in my 20s, but I wish I had traveled more period.

And you do not have to be young to excel in sports or to find a love of exercise. In cycling, I am surrounded by men and women who have discovered their inner jock later in life. (Even though I grew up being active, I did not play any team sports other than kids' softball.)

Some things may be inherently easier with a more youthful brain, such as language, but if you are motivated, you can astonish yourself by how much you can learn.

So don't think of it as, what should I do now that I won't be able tp do later, but what I want to do now?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:33 PM on May 1, 2009

Bought a one-room cottage in a certain country I love, whose real estate prices have risen tenfold since.
posted by eritain at 6:47 PM on May 2, 2009

def get rid of the tv. you can get everything from the internet.

also, GUITAR!
posted by saul wright at 3:26 AM on May 6, 2009

Not just exercising like everyone else said here, but being competitive at something physical is something I wished I did when I was younger. I competed a bit on bikes when I was about 15, and I ran in 10k and marathons when I was around 25, but now that I race bikes at age 37, I feel like I'll never know how good I could have been when I was at my physical peak, around age 19-22 or so.

I mean, I can tell after several years of training that I'm pretty good for a 37 year old, but I wish I knew how fast I could have been at age 20 or so, when my body responded best to training, when I could recover well, and when I had so little fat on my body that I could have performed much, much better than I'll ever do now.
posted by mathowie at 11:11 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

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