What's the biggest mistake you've made in your life?
February 27, 2010 12:22 PM   Subscribe

What's the biggest mistake you've made in your life? What did you learn from the experience?

Hi all, just a bit of background to set up the discussion. I'm 28, single, unemployed and feeling very bleak about my prospects for the future. The latter three conditions can be directly traced to what in hindsight were some very poor decisions on my part. I'm not really looking for advice on my own situation, so I've left the specifics of my own mistakes out of this discussion for now, although once the thread gets going I'll be certain to include my own story. I'm just curious to hear some other perspectives on mistakes people have made and what, if anything, they've learned from the experience.
posted by farce majeure to Grab Bag (11 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: I'm sorry things are rough and hope it improves for you. That said, a question about general anecdotes without some specific problem to be solved is pretty much chatfilter and doesn't work for AskMe. -- cortex

Such an interesting question.

Biggest mistake? Not listening to that little voice. Example? I hated the way my ex-husband kissed (trust me, it was disgusting) and letting him convince me that I was frigid and non-responsive. I should have dumped him then and not wasted 17 years thinking all along it was me.
posted by dzaz at 12:26 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thinking that moving would make me feel better.
posted by chrillsicka at 12:35 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't regret trying that first cigarette at age 14. But goddamn do I regret the thousands of cigarettes I tried next. Hardest habit to break and I still, 13 years after quitting, have delicious dreams about lighting up.
posted by applemeat at 12:38 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, my answer may be different in a few years, but for now...
Using up three years of my life, spending many dollars, and almost ending my marriage in order to acquire a PhD in Art History.
What I learned:
1) A great deal about Georges Bataille, Tibetan Buddhism, religious history, Surrealism, early twentieth century European intellectual history, and intercultural comparative philosophy.
2) That I have almost no capacity for self discipline when it comes to writing for publication.
3) That without (2), (1) is pretty worthless.
4) Academics and their institutions do not care about me, and will only show interest in me or in my work to the extent that it will benefit them in some way.
5) The possibilities for procrastination offered by the internet are literally endless, and it's vital to find some way to resist this.
6) Staying close to those you love and going for long walks is a lot more likely to make you happy than pursuing academic immortality.
posted by crazylegs at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

Getting married.
posted by dfriedman at 12:40 PM on February 27, 2010

Biggest mistake? Not listening to that little voice.

This, this, this. And it's not just love. It's that time at work you thought you should probably re-check your numbers, but didn't because you had other things to do and someone else would catch any problems. It's that time you thought you should email a friend because you hadn't talked for a while, and then you didn't, and you still didn't, and you lost touch. It's all those times you thought, hey, maybe I should be eating more veggies; or hey, maybe I should try and learn to use the free weights at the gym; or hey, maybe I should spend today going to the park or the art museum instead of sitting on the couch, and you didn't, because you figured you could do it next meal or next workout or next weekend.

It's not the voice that tells you you suck in every possible way, and it's not the voice that tells you you're right and everyone who disagrees is wrong.

It's that little "check engine" light inside your head that says hey, wait a second, are you sure about that? and you should listen to it.
posted by sallybrown at 12:44 PM on February 27, 2010 [17 favorites]

Started drinking, as self-medication. Things have quickly gone downhill from there. I'm 35, and have been told I have the body of a 60-70 year old, with a life expectancy of 10 years.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:47 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I can only confirm what others have said. On the first year I entered my graduate studies in Neuroscience, I didn't pay attention to the voices/feelings (internal and external) saying "You don't belong here". Now, three years into this mess without a degree, I am unhealthy physically, mentally, and financially, and wish like hell that I'd just dropped out my first year, when I felt it. I consider sticking with this program to be the single biggest mistake I've ever made, and I deeply regret getting involved.
posted by fake at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not taking enough risks until I got so desperate I started taking the wrong ones.

Make choices, don't let the choices get made for you.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:52 PM on February 27, 2010 [5 favorites]

Biggest mistake? Not listening to that little voice.

Again this. Not trusting your intuition, and forgetting how to figure out what you really want and not what you should want.

My biggest mistake - spending far too much of my life aiming for the things I was supposed to want and trying to be the person I was supposed to be. Once I relearned how to hear that little voice and listening to what it said, my decisions were stronger and better suited to who I really am.

My life isn't perfect, but it's what I want, and for that reason, I'm happy.
posted by scrute at 12:56 PM on February 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'll second smoking - I enjoy it but I wish I would have never started.

During my first year in college I made a myriad of mistakes that have only slowly worked themselves out. I got involved with the wrong group of people and made some very poor choices. I'd be hesitant to say anymore than that but I think you can get the idea.
posted by deacon_blues at 12:58 PM on February 27, 2010

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