I’m working on a new book: a YA mystery. In the course of getting back into the head of my angst-ridden sixteen-year old character, I asked a question on my Facebook page: “What is one mistake you made as a teen that you regret?” Here are the top twenty regrets from the teen years that readers reported.
The mother lode of pain opened up by that question set me back, and the poignancy of the answers made me realize I’d accidentally tapped into some incredible wisdom that was worth sharing. If even one teen would do something differently because of this post, it would be a great gift to everyone who shared.
Top Twenty Teen Regrets
- Taking up smoking. Apparently “early experimentation” ended up taking on a life of its own for many, one that had big consequences later on.
- Didn’t value or trust myself, too insecure or lacked confidence. “I wish I’d believed in myself” “I didn’t value myself” “I wish I’d had more confidence to know what was right for me” was said over and over.
- Disrespectful and/or unappreciative of parents. “Having to have the last word and not listening to their wisdom.”
- Being too uptight/serious. “I wish I’d taken more risks. I was worried all the time and missed out on fun.”
- Not getting help for a bad home situation. “I wish I’d told someone what was happening at home and gotten help—what a difference that might have made!”
- Others opinions over my own. “I cared too much about others’ opinions. I wanted to be popular.”
- Stealing and shoplifting. “This was so “not me” and yet I did it. I still feel bad about it.”
- Pressured into early sex. “I gave my virginity to a girl who didn’t even deserve to be with me.”
- Giving up on my dreams. “I let parents (and others) discourage me from what I wanted to try.” “It took years to get back on track with my dreams.”
- Not reporting sexual abuse or rape. “I didn’t get help until much later and it seriously messed me up.”
- Not going to prom. “I was too shy and I wish I’d just gone.”
- Being a goody-two-shoes. “I wish I’d been a little bit promiscuous! I never had any fun.”
- Not taking post-high school education seriously or realistically. “I wish I’d gone to college instead of 1) getting married 2) having an unplanned baby 3) going to the military 4) taking a “year off” to work 5) going to a school unrealistically far away/different from home with no support
- Being lazy with schoolwork. “It would have made things easier later if I’d applied myself.”
- Thinking I had forever to be with people who matter: “On one visit my grandfather invited me to go pick strawberries in their field and I declined, too “busy” being a selfish teen. He died the next week. I’ve always had tremendous guilt over that. I know he knew I loved him, but that decision has stayed with me til this day.” “I didn’t get along with my mom, and now she’s dead and I can’t go back.”
- Quitting sports. “I was a natural sprinter. Running was easy and I loved it. I feel like I wasted that potential.”
- Choosing sports for the wrong reasons. “I wish I’d stayed with scouting, art, and people who were more my speed.”
- Hurting others, bullying. “I wasn’t nice to a lot of people.”
- Choosing a guy/gal over self, thinking that was the only chance at love I’d get. “I got married too young, and wore a dress I didn’t like.”
- Not practicing safe sex. “I was young to be a mom and never really got to be a kid.”
I wish, as is always said, I'd known then what I know now. I hope this post helps even one teen to trust their own inner compass. Is there anything I didn't hit on that you regret from your teen years? Anything that encouraged you from this post?