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Here’s my quarterlife crisis: 28 regrets for 28 years

By Abi Herman

21.05.21

Could celebrating our regrets be the answer to coming through the quarterlife crisis? Abi Herman investigates.

The fabulous, French, sixties chanteuse Edith Piaf famously sang about not having any regrets in her life; setting fire to memories; sweeping away loves; regretting absolutely nothing, but a recent study found that an astonishing four in ten Brits regret the way they have lived their lives so far. When you’re in your quarterlife crisis - feeling trapped between adulthood and childhood and potentially despondent about where your life is heading - these doubts can feel louder than normal. 

 

I’m approaching the end of my quarterlife years and, like many this past year without much to keep us occupied, I’ve spent a lot of time in my head. I’ve been revisiting the past, reminiscing about halcyon days when we were allowed to venture outside and making memories with our nearest and dearest, laughing, loving and living. 

 

Lockdown has made me realise how much I miss from normal life, but it’s also made me realise how much I regret. 

 

I’m not intentionally being a pessimist here; although admittedly I can be a negative Nelly from time to time. As my thirties draw ever closer and my quarterlife crisis should, in theory, be coming to an end (please god), I’ve decided I need to face these regrets head on. During lockdown, I’ve forced myself to do something uncomfortable: to make peace with the ‘misses’ of my first twenty-something years and see what I can learn from them. We can only put this off for so long. As the iconic essayist Joan Didion wrote way back in the sixties, “however long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves”.

 

What I learnt from facing the regrets of my young life was unexpected. 

 

Rather than falling into a spiral of self-hatred, this process made me realise that it is actually fine to have regrets. In fact, it is not only fine, but an inevitable part of the rite of passage that is the quarterlife crisis. So, to help you on your own journey through quarterlife, I thought I’d list out my 28 biggest regrets.

 

One regret for every joyous, failure-filled, turbulent year I’ve been alive.

 

  1. HAIRCUTS. From blunt bobs at three years old, to the emo fringes, clip-in hair extensions and high quiffs of my teenage years - they were all bad choices.

  2. Spending far too much time and money in Claire’s Accessories.

  3. All the stress and aggravation I have caused my parents (and still do, sometimes).

  4. Quitting the piano lessons, and ballet lessons and flute lessons and tennis lessons etc.

  5. Not writing back to penpals I met on exotic holidays; so many friends across the world and cheaper holidaying options lost! 

  6. Slacking, not studying - I didn’t work as hard as I could have at school and didn’t really revise properly for exams (staring up at my poster of Leo in The Beach didn’t help me answer essay questions on WW2), therefore I did not meet my full potential (probably the most heard comment from teachers!).

  7. Being a very generous drunk.

  8. Checking my bank balance after a drunken night out.

  9. Believing that sex = love; it doesn’t. 

  10. Staying put - there’s so much of the world I haven’t explored, but would have loved to.

  11. All the dick pics. (And all the awkward tit pics that followed them)

  12. Failing to learn how to cook; my diet during my early 20s consisted of mainly Super Noodles or Dominos takeout.

  13. Dropping the “L” bomb too soon; just because that guy at the bar bought you a drink doesn’t mean you’re going to get married.

  14. The hours I’ve wasted watching reality TV, especially Love Island.

  15. Cheap fake tan; I was an expert at turning my knuckles orange, and armpits green whilst my shins stayed very white.

  16. Not spending enough time with grandparents; when you are younger you really take them for granted and you miss them like a hole in your side when they are gone.

  17. Piercings - enough said.

  18. Not applying to go on Love Island.

  19. All the TopShop bodycon dresses; I’m annoyed nobody told me to stop wearing those.

  20. Prosecco - my bank account and my teeth would be a whole lot healthier had I never taken that first sip.

  21. Many a mother-daughter shopping trip that has turned into a row (just because I didn’t purchase what she thought I looked beautiful in!).

  22. Being over-sensitive.

  23. Watching my first episode of Parks and Recreation at the age of 27 - where have I been?!

  24. Deleting old photographs.

  25. Not investing in / understanding Bitcoin.

  26. Still not being able to walk in high heels.

  27. Becoming a teacher and not exploring other career options beforehand - teaching is not always as rewarding as the tear-jerking, Dead Poets Society-reminiscent TV ads make out; those suckers are lying and going abroad is SO expensive!

  28. Wishing my life away; I remember when I was 10, I was wishing I was 18, and when I was 18 I was wishing I was 21 etc. In a few hours I will be 28 and now I’m wishing I could wind back a decade! You only get one life, so live each day as best you can!

 

And that brings me to my final regret - not listing out my life regrets sooner. The further down the list I got, the clearer and calmer I began to feel about my life. There’s something about accepting your failures, the things you got wrong and the opportunities you missed that makes you not only appreciate everything you got right, but determined not to make the same mistakes in the next quarter of your life. Why not have a go and make your own list? And a regret for every year of your life is a nice, round way to start, don’t you think?

Image by anonymous Pinterest artist.