The 5 Things We Did In Our 20s That We Regret In Midlife

Hindsight is always 20/20.
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As old blue eyes sang in “My Way,” “Regrets, I’ve had a few...” Actually, we’re not so sure that we’ve had all that many. When the Huff/Post50 team began jawing about things we did in our 20s that we regret now, it became more of a laughfest of “OMG! Do you believe we did that??”

The truth of it is, we here at Huff/Post50 kind of live by the credo that regrets are a waste of time. You did it, you survived it, now move on. But here are a few things that yeah, we suppose we might have, could have, should have maybe skipped in our salad years.

1. Listened to music so loud that we damaged our hearing.

Back in the day, nobody walked around with headphones or plugs in their ears. No, we just turned up the volume until the windows rattled and the neighbor below banged on her ceiling with a broom handle.

Approximately one in three people in the United States between 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing, according to the National Institute on Deafness. Generally speaking, hearing loss is age-related. But yes, factors that can influence its severity and progression include exposure to loud noises on a regular basis.

Hearing problems among baby boomers are higher than were ever reported for previous generations, according to Healthy Aging for Women.

2. Never wore a seat belt.

Before anyone wags a finger in our face, we plead innocent by reason of ignorance. That’s right. Nobody was telling us we had to; cars weren’t even federally mandated to have seat belts until 1968 and it took states even longer to require that everyone use them. In New Hampshire ― the “live free or die” state ― adults over age 18 still don’t have to wear them.

Yes, we now know that seat belts save lives. Wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passengers by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent, says the Centers for Disease Control. Maybe the New Hampshire motto should be “live free and die?”

3. Drove drunk.

Driving drunk used to be funny, with the occasional prom night death crash punctuating the idea that maybe it wasn’t. By and large, getting wasted was considered cool. Driving home while under the influence was something you boasted about. And waking up in the morning and finding your car parked on the lawn or on top of the now-busted fire hydrant was the stuff legends were made of.

Until it wasn’t.

Driving drunk wasn’t just for frat boys. We carried the behavior into our young adult years. Then in 1980, along came Mothers Against Drunk Driving ― aka MADD ― and everyone knew what happens when mommas get mad. So we listened. Since MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving was launched in 2006, there has been an almost 27 percent decrease in drunk driving fatalities.

Driving under the influence is one of the things we regret. We feel lucky we lived to tell about it. And now it is with embarrassment, not boastfulness, that we talk about it to our kids.

4. Hitchhiked through Europe for a year with only a backpack.

No, not a whit of regret about this one. But we are including it as one of the things that regrettably, nobody today should probably do. Chalk this one up to the world changing. The idea of our college kids hitchhiking anywhere in the world today would send us grabbing for a Xanax.

When we traveled in the 1970s, we went off on quests to find ourselves. Hitchhiking and staying in youth hostels were the portals for meeting the most interesting people. And it felt safe, even for young women traveling alone.

This was all before terrorists and bombs and crazy lunatics. We were life travelers, not the tourists who take photos in front of the Eiffel Tower and check France off their bucket list.

File this one under “Do what I say, not what I did.”

5. The backpack part.

One of our greatest anchors are our possessions. We have too much stuff. Living out of just a backpack for a year was a valuable life lesson on differentiating between our true needs and our wants. What we regret is that the lesson didn’t stick. We spent the ensuing decades buying newer and newer cars and bigger and bigger houses and more pairs of black pants than anyone could ever wear in a lifetime.

And as a result of not remembering that lesson of how less can be more, we morphed into a generation of spenders, not savers. And at the moment, we are people who worry about being able to afford to retire.

And that, absolutely, is regrettable.

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