And they're not holding back.
Regret is something I know rather well, as I have many of them. I don't dwell on them, but they're always there.
What do I regret? I regret not doing more sports in school; I regret not going over to the popular girl's house in 7th grade; I regret not taking more challenging classes in school; and I regret choosing the easy way over the way that would've brought lasting returns.
I regret listening to bad advisors, for loving the wrong man and taking too long to love the right one. I regret thinking I was impervious to disease and age, and I regret taking way too long before discovering that I need to take care of myself.
I must live with my regret because it's a part of me; a feeling made up of equal parts memory and personal annoyance.
YourTango readers were anonymously asked about their biggest life regrets.
One woman said, "Regrets are a privilege, in a way. They say, it wasn't what I thought or what I think I want now, but I still, in there, had a choice and I still somehow am here. It's not that I don't believe in regrets but I think they're a series of should-haves, wish-I'ds, what-if's butterfly effects and alternate realities.
So it gets to the point where I think the biggest regret becomes the regretting itself. And that this all happens amid questioning whether we have free will or predestination, or some kind of melting swirl cone makes it even more void.
Maybe I wish I had two of me, and two sets of memories and two concurrent lives in parallel timelines that each can access. But then I'd probably wish for four me's and four memories and four lives."
This is what the readers say they regret most:
"I wanted to have kids. I was raised to think you needed a husband for that. So, I found one and ignored all of his faults."
"Staying with a bipolar assh*le for 4 years."
2. Making decisions based on a man.
"I'd probably say declining a job for man, especially since it didn't work out."
3. Not putting oneself out there.
"Letting fear hold me back. The best things in my life have come from insane impulse."
"Not taking enough risks or acting on chances."
4. Caring too much about the judgment of others.
"Wasting time worrying about what other people think of me."
5. Getting a perm.
"When I was super young, the only thing I wanted in the whole world was a perm like my mom's. I've never made a worse choice."
"Breastfeeding my daughter was probably the biggest mistake of my life."
7. Keeping silent about abuse.
"Waiting to tell someone I was physically and sexually abused."
8. Not taking injury and health issues seriously.
"In high school I was a pretty good cross-country runner, but my junior year I kept my ankle injury a secret from my coach and family, and wound up in physical therapy for several months, too dismayed by the setback to continue running my senior year. Most likely I would've gone to college on an athletic scholarship if I had addressed the injury properly. I always say it's my one regret."
9. Holding back from taking action.
"Not going to Cuba when I lived in Mexico and could've just gone on the sly back in the '90s."
"Things I talked myself out of doing. My restraint is my greatest hyperbole."
10. Career choice.
"I do often think about my career choice(s) as being somewhat regretable."
"Being a lit major."
11. Not being happy with oneself.
"Stop trying so hard, and to just be me. Wish I did that a long time ago."
12. Focusing too much on body image.
"Throwing tons of time and energy into dieting instead of working on my novel."
13. Making rash decisions.
"Buying a house I didn't love just because I wanted out of an apartment."
14. Having an abortion.
"My biggest regret has been getting an abortion. I'm pro-choice and still am, but would never do it again. I don't think enough is written about how painful and sad and scary it really is once you finally get in there. And especially since I love kids, it's hard not to think that I could've had one right now if things were different. I'm happy where my life is and know I wouldn't be where I am if I were a young mother, but the emptiness that my abortion created will be with me forever."
15. Dropping out of school and/or making a poor choice in schools.
"I could've gone to an Ivy League school, potentially on scholarship. But I wanted to go to a state school because I was more interested in sororities and football games and parties. Turns out I hated sorority life and I never went to parties. So, I gained nothing, and gave up who-knows-what amazing opportunities, experiences and connections. I don't like regret, and I don't regret much, but this is a big one for me. It was the stupidest choice I ever made. Seventeen year olds shouldn't be allowed to make decisions of such import."
16. Listening to other people rather than trusting your instincts.
"Letting my college advisor talk me out of pre med."
17. Trying too hard.
"Definitely not any of my style choices, amiright?"
18. Letting money divert you.
"Starting my business in NYC and letting money and success divert me, for 10+ years, from my lifelong career love. (Epilogue: I'm back in it, but trying to catch up has been a challenge to say the least."
19. Holding on to grudges.
"I used to hang on to a grudge as if it was a badge of honor. I didn't realize that all the negativity was only hurting me."
20. Not believing in love.
"Not believing that real love was a thing."
21. Not doing the right thing.
"One isn't going after the teacher my son had who was scapegoating and bullying the one black girl in his class. I'll always feel horrible that I didn't try to get her fired."
22. Being a terrible teen.
"When I was a teen, I was out shopping with my young cousin whose mother had died a few months earlier. We found a single forest green scrunchy on sale — yes a scrunchy; I'm old — and we both wanted it. Somehow, I ended up with it, but why on earth I didn't just give it to her, when she had already lost so much, is beyond me.
One woman summed it up in the best way possible:
"Regrets are hard. I definitely made mistakes that made my life harder but those choices built my life, both the challenges and the blessings. So, I have to Back to the Future it and keep with my decisions, or else risk losing the fantastic that's in my life."