Whenever I speak to someone older than myself and they find out how old I am, no matter how much older they are, they wish they could go back in time to when they were my age. Every time I hear this, it makes me think of the countless times I’ve heard people say “I wish I could go back to when I was in school” or “I wish I could be a teen again”.
Of course, being an adult now I can understand that there were less responsibilities, more freedom and you were always around friends and people you knew as a teenager. Everyone seems to want to relive their teenage years after they’ve grown up, however, there’s always a “but”. Our teenage years are the best of our lives I’m always told, but when we are that young we are still growing, making mistakes and learning about ourselves and who we are. So if you could relive your teens, what would you do differently?
I thought, since I’m a man, let me ask what other men regret to see if I agree with any of my peers. Reddit was the site that I decided to pose the question. Reddit is a social news and discussion website. Depending on what part of the website you are on, you may find the silly videos you regularly see on Facebook or discussions about serious topics. The subreddit (subcategory) that I chose was AskMen, which has over 730,000 subscribers.
I asked, “What do you regret most about your teen years?”. A question that cuts straight to the point. Over the course of two days, the question was answered 82 times by redditors (users of the site). I wasn’t surprised by the response given that the users can use screen names and don’t need to provide a profile picture. This allows people to speak honestly without their personal image or character being judged, just their profile. What happens as a result is people feel they can speak freely and can add their input without feeling self-conscious. And so, some of the answers were very deep and in some cases, painfully truthful.
You don’t have to scroll through 82 comments because I’ve already done the hard work of categorising each comment and highlighting some that capture the essence of what many people are saying. To reiterate, the subreddit in which this question was asked is AskMen, so answers are more than likely all from male respondents. Although I have no full-proof evidence that they are men, you may be able to tell that some are male solely based on the language they used.
The amount of time wasted was one of the most frequent responses. In fact, the comment that received the most up-votes (Reddit’s equivalent of likes) was about wasted time, “All that wasted time! Like seriously I could have acquired proficiency in a lot of things by now”.
For the most part, the comments weren’t focused on what they actually did during the wasted time or specifically say some things were a waste, but concentrated more so on how they could have used that time, for example, “to better myself and develop hobbies and skills”. The majority of adults work full-time or have jobs that require a significant amount of travel and so when work is done for the day, there isn’t a whole lot of time, or motivation for that matter, to try and better yourself at something.
Teenagers may have similarly long days in school but have much more energy left once they are set free. It’s that time, after school has finished, that men thinking back wish they had used to join a club, take up a hobby or do some sort of extra-curricular activity.
The most up-voted comment may not have been about women, but when you ask men what they regret about their teens, women will inevitably be one of the hottest topics. There was quite a mixture of experiences with women among the comments.
For example, a number of men wished they had simply put themselves out there more when they were younger to gain experience, but fell short due to shyness or a lack of communication skills. Some respondents were looking inward to say what they would change about themselves, “I was extremely shy in high school and college. Didn’t approach women nearly enough”, whereas others simply pointed out that they missed some opportunities, “I regret not fucking whoever would have me to gain invaluable experience”.
The most up-voted female-related comment is a situation a lot of men would like to have avoided in their teens. Maybe to get that experience they were talking about. This comment was someone who regrets “hopelessly chasing women who were way out of my league, and turning down the women who I should have been a lot kinder and more open to”.
The last part of that comment is about being more open to women who were either attracted to or simply interested in the person who wrote the comment. A lot of guys turn down the opportunity to get to know a girl if she doesn’t find him attractive, but one regret that popped up quite a bit was “not forming relationships with women”. There is a lot that can be learned from seeing another side’s perspective, especially when the two sides are male and female. I think a lot of men wish they had more variety in their friendship groups to broaden the opinions and topics spoken about.
Based on what I’ve heard about other peoples’ experiences, I think I can say that it is not the easiest thing to announce to the world that you are homosexual, particularly in a single gender school set-up. I do feel as though now there is a greater acceptance among individuals growing up that people are different in many ways and its okay. It is still very difficult I imagine, due to the fact that in many households being straight is still very much so seen as the norm and anything other than that means you are different. Not something a lot of teenagers trying to ‘fit in’ want to be.
That being said, for adults now it was probably a bit more daunting being a homosexual teenager in a world where no country had yet legalised same-sex marriage and as recently as five years ago, a lot of people might have been more closed-minded. The homosexual men that responded to this post were very open about how they wished they had shown their true selves earlier in their lives.
The reason for their regret is down to losing out on time that could have been used mixing it up with other homosexual men, “I regret staying closeted till I was 19 and wasting 3-4 years not meeting guys”. The comments emphasised that it was fear that held them back, “staying in the closet out of fear. I should have put my fabulous self out there sooner”. This comment captures what a lot of other comments mentioned in a nice and humorous manner.
Unfortunately for one poor soul, the fear that prevented him from opening up about himself at school hasn’t gone away and he is still dealing with that fear several years later. The closet door must have been tightly shut back then considering he said there was a “gay straight alliance club” at his school and yet he couldn’t reveal his true feelings. Certain things are harder to overcome for some people and this man seems to have really struggled with it as he is “now 30 and still in the closet and depressed”.
Hiding something like your sexuality may lead to mental issues like anxiety and depression, in fact, there are an endless number of reasons why men doubt themselves or begin to struggle mentally and its not addressing those issues as teenagers that they regret.
One respondent said they regretted, “being so sad and insecure about my self image both physically and mentally when, for the most part, it was all in my head. I missed out on a lot of friendships and relationships because of my body dysmorphia, GAD and ADHD”. Not participating in activities, not making more friends, not being as outgoing can all be attributed to low self-esteem.
Confidence is one of the key features of teenagers that appear to be living a happy life. The reality is that everyone has their own issues, embarrassing stories, things they don’t like about themselves, but people that can’t get over their own self-criticism are lost to low self-esteem. Later on in this article there are quotes from guys that wished they had participated in sports but maybe part of the reason they didn’t is down to a lack of confidence in themselves.
One redditor summed up the feelings of many by saying he didn’t like “being a coward that was too afraid to do the things I wanted, from dating to trying new challenges. I have changed many of these mistakes, yet I wish I had done it way sooner”.
Others were still harshly criticising their former selves, for example, “being an antisocial, suicidal little shit”, whereas some seemed to be only slightly regretful, “being too conservative and not having the best time I could”. The general view among the comments was that not having confidence was something that affected men in their teens, particularly in the latter years of high school. If they could go back they would seek help, like one man who wished he had “been treated for depression my senior year of high school” or even sooner.
Growing up we all want to have different occupations. Some people want to be actors, footballers and firemen while others are more attracted to becoming lawyers, doctors and physiotherapists. Those who went on to achieve their dream jobs more than likely studied well from an early age and took school seriously throughout. Those who fell short either realised too late that they needed to put more effort into their schoolwork or never thought those goals were achievable from the get-go.
According to the response to my question, men regret not putting more effort into their education, “I had the mentality of ‘I’ll make it through somehow’, I could have done so much better if I just started doing my work and trying harder in high school”.
Some rue the opportunity they passed up in school to pave the way for a successful career with better financial opportunities, “I should have done more work, more research. I would have way more money by now”, whereas others who are now in the working world fear their education may one day let them down, “I didn’t pay attention in math class for years. Now, I really have no math knowledge which is scary at times as a programmer”.
One commenter regretted how their education went but unlike the others, for reasons outside of his control. “I wish I went to a better high school that could’ve helped me better understand and cope with my learning disabilities, a school where I wasn’t excluded by my peers for having them and for being a different race to the majority of people.” I’m sure all readers can agree that for this man, it isn’t his fault that he may not have achieved the grades he might have.
From the comment it appears as though the school he attended didn’t have the resources or the staff to properly help this man when he had learning difficulties greater than the rest of his classmates. What is unfortunate is the problem he had made him an easy target for bullying and exclusion which is never nice to hear or see. One would hope that the school he attended has since become more capable of dealing with teenagers with learning disabilities and the current students of the school are more mature.
The final topic that was mentioned in the 82 responses (other than one man who wished he never sported a goatee) is exercise and health. Men who didn’t take part in sports wished they had, or at least exercised a little more and others would have liked to not taken up certain bad habits.
Simply, “not getting serious with any sport” and “not working out” were mentioned a couple of times. One guy actually gave a reason saying “partying seemed way more fun at the time”. Exercising and going out with friends are both important parts of growing up and enjoying our youth but they are never going to perfectly align and allow us to take part in both consistently. Sometimes you have to choose between one or the other so if you don’t accept that, regret is almost guaranteed.
Now, those bad habits that I mentioned. There were some men that said they should never have started smoking cigarettes due to the health implications and the amount of money spent on purchasing them. Smoking weed was also mentioned a few times as something men wish they had stayed away from, “it was such a waste to spend so much time and money on smoking weed, also cigarettes”. To be fair, the person who made this comment also went on to say that they had given up smoking weed three years ago and is in the process of trying to stop smoking cigarettes although, that is quite a bit more difficult to do.
Everyone is going to regret something about their teenage years. There is normally no period in your life where you don’t regret something unless you are very lucky or deluded. Some people regret everything or wish those years never happened so if you are not one of those people, consider yourself at least a little lucky.
What men regret most is wasting time in their teens doing nothing that mattered instead of working on their skills, hobbies or schoolwork as well as not being more confident when it comes to women and dating. It is also apparent that some men go through a lot mentally in their teens. Confidence may be in abundance on the outside, but inside, male teens may be going through various self-esteem or other mental issues that they are not yet brave enough to face. It’s particularly difficult for homosexual teens to come out according to the men in the comments although, all of them wished they had addressed it earlier.
As I previously said I have been told on numerous occasions, your teens are the best of your life so don’t waste them. I usually think this refers to going out and making friends all of the time but now I realise that not wasting my years of education is very important and something other men wished they had realised earlier too. And finally, smoking cigarettes or weed might seem like the ‘cool’ thing to do as a teenager, but as you can see from the quotes above, men felt like they were just a waste of time and money.