Mary asks: Hey, what do you regret not doing during your teenage years????
Hi Mary –
What a great question! Though I’m not sure which years you’re referring to with me. If you mean mean the time in my life between the literal ages of twelve to twenty-one, almost any dog in the world would tell you that its regret about that period was not living longer! But if you mean my teenage “dog years,” that would basically be the time I spent at the age of two (fourteen to twenty-one in dog years). So what do I regret not doing then?
It’s not that there weren’t opportunities I had and didn’t take during that energetic active year — it’s just that we dogs don’t think that way. We don’t regret much, really. Occasionally we’ll regret something we did (I accidentally bit one of Handsome’s friends once while playing tug-of-war; I saw and heard her pain when she pulled her hand back, and just felt awful about it), but we just don’t have the brains and imaginations to regret things we didn’t do.
So I have to turn to humans. A few common answers I hear to this question from people are:
“I regret spending too much time partying and not enough time studying.”
“I regret not asking out that girl I had that crush on.”
“I regret that first cigarette.”
“I regret being too afraid to kiss that boy.”
“I regret that I didn’t say ‘no’ more often.”
“I regret not having worked out and built myself up.”
“I regret never doing yoga.”
“I regret eating too much and not dieting.”
“I regret studying all the time and not going to enough parties.”
Did you notice something funny about these? Some of them are the complete opposite of some others!
What I think they have in common though, Mary, is that every one of these people regrets Not Being More True To Themselves. The first person didn’t study as much as would have helped them feel good about themselves. The last one didn’t dare to go out and be social, and instead hid in academics. Some wish they’d been more romantically daring; others wish they’d held off on the romance more. But every one of them looks back at their teen years and regrets that they didn’t do what they really needed to at the time.
You see, the tough part is that adolescence (the teen years) is a time of experimentation and self-discovery. When people are older, they look back and say “I should have done such-and-such instead of what I did,” but most teens are doing exactly what they feel they can and must at the time. The BEST thing to accomplish in your teenage years is to find out who you are.
Because you know what? If you do, then there’s not so much to regret! Because you’ll find yourself, maybe at 18 or so, catching up on all the things you haven’t done in the last few years. Socializing, studying, working out, making out, whatever it is! But until you find out who you are, you’ll just spend those years doing what someone else thinks you ought to do. And that, truly, is what you’ll find yourself regretting as long as you do it.
Do you know that song that says “You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you?” Well it’s almost right – but the truth is, you can’t. The kicks don’t really kick till they’re your own.
And once you are truly able to do things because you want to do them… then you can have a life as fun as mine! And have virtually no regrets at all.