We've all done something that we regret in life. (Yes you do.) There just seems to be that one mistake in everyone's life that haunts us to this day. Here, people share stories of their biggest mistakes.
_Thank you to everyone who shared their story. If you'd like to see more be sure to click the link at the end of this piece. Comments have been edited for clarity. _
“I’ll tell you a story about my grandmother.
When conscription began in WWII, her husband was called up. He was getting ready to go to the train station, uniform and kit on, but she refused to say goodbye because she was angry with him and the situation. So he left. A few minutes later she realized her mistake and ran to the station after him. You can imagine how busy it was there, but she fought through the crowd. He was already on the train, looking out of the window for her. She saw him, but he never saw her.
That was the last time she saw him. He was tortured to death by the Japanese sometime later. Even though she married again, to the man who became my grandfather, she kept a picture of him on her bedside table until she died.
I think they did manage to exchange at least one letter before he was captured, so I’m sure my grandmother apologized for putting him through that. I think he died working on the Burma Railway. They sent her a picture of his grave which she kept in her jewelry box. My grandpa was in a reserved occupation so was not called up, he had to work with bombed houses making them safe. He had to recover a lot of mangled bodies, including a lot of children, which must have been horrible considering he was still a teenager. He was a great man, I wish I had an ounce of his moral fiber. He taught me to code on my C64 too.”
Leaving A Terrible Relationship
“Not breaking off my last relationship sooner.
It was two and a half years long. I was hit, scratched, and guilt tripped. She made me believe my friends didn’t like me, she would message them from my phone pretending to be me, and I lost my friends.
She blamed everything on me, even her parents’ divorce. She would self-harm with scissors, attempted to overdose on paracetamol twice and blamed it on me. I would be at work and receive a text saying, “I’m not feeling good, I’m going to cut myself or do something bad, you need to come and stop me.” I’d freak out because I couldn’t leave work, but didn’t want her death to be my fault.
She’d drag me into the street at 3:00 a.m. to have an argument so all her neighbors could ‘hear what a terrible person I was.’
I became depressed because I couldn’t understand why I was such a bad person. I had panic attacks daily, I began losing weight, and so I took myself to therapy.
I sat down with her one night and broke up with her because I genuinely believed she deserved someone better than me. A few weeks later, I had a revelation of what had been happening. I deleted her number, changed my number, threw out everything of hers and my life instantly became colorful again.
Before this relationship, I would think ‘I don’t get why people in abusive relationships don’t just leave,’ but now I get it. You don’t know you’re in an abusive relationship until you’re out of it.”
Time With A Best Friend
“When I was in middle school I didn’t walk my dog. She’d get walks from my parents in the mornings, and on the weekends…but every afternoon I got home from school first and I was supposed to take her. She loved walks. She’d scratch at the door and I’d pet her and tell her I’d take her soon, but I was lazy and selfish and always ended up sitting on the couch watching TV. Mom would come home and I’d lie and say I’d walked her hours ago like I was supposed to. I’d feel a little bad but the next day I’d forget and it’d be the same.
I got my act together by sophomore year. Then college came, and I missed her so much I spent as much time with her as I could when I was home. We walked to the park and the beach and we’d run and play. After college, when she got sick and started to lose her vision, I moved home for the summer to give her special eye drops four times a day. Her infection got better but her sight got worse. I had to help her see where the porch steps were, and later lifted her down them when it was just too hard. I tied a bell to her collar and slept on the couch next to her bed so I could hear when she got up at night and take her outside.
And every day, I walked her. We walked together every morning, twice in the afternoon, and again before dinner if it wasn’t too dark. I guided her around cars and through lawns. Sometimes she’d sniff the grass, tail wagging, and sometimes she’d walk so close to me she’d bump her nose into my shin on purpose, making sure I was still right there. When we got home I’d scoop her up and lift her over the stairs, kissing the top of her head and telling her what a good girl she was. And I’d think about all the times I let her down and tell her I was sorry. That I wished she understood me. That I was so sorry, that she was my darling and I loved her, and if I could go back in time to make the choices I should have I’d do it in a heartbeat.
The last time we walked together was on Labor Day. I’d come home again for the weekend, mostly to see her. My parents called the next Saturday to tell me.
I miss her. And I still wish I could’ve loved her as perfectly as she loved me.”
“I believe my life has had two critical junctions where my path could have been drastically changed. So flipping a coin on this one…
The night I committed a major felony.
So the local police department has this little shooting training area on a ridge above town. You can listen to them shoot there a few days a week; it’s open to the town cops and the sheriff departments of the two adjoining counties. I think some of the state troopers use it some too. Nothing special, just a little building made out of concrete blocks with three rooms for classes and such, and an open area with a big dirt bank to catch the bullets.
Well, since I didn’t know what else to do with my life after graduating high school, and I’d turned down the military, naturally I went to college. I honestly didn’t want to go, it just seemed like the thing to do. I literally flipped through the course catalog for the local community college and picked the major that was least unappealing. Criminal justice with a focus on police science.
I got about a year into the program and started thinking, ‘Hey maybe being a deputy or town cop won’t totally suck.’ Now the local police department used to offer concealed carry courses taught at the aforementioned shooting range. A buddy from high school, I was too young to get my permit at the time, wanted to borrow one of mine. I loaned it to him and tagged along… I figured I could get to know the cops teaching the class, network a little bit and maybe get my foot in the door for the future.
So I had a bit of a look around after the class was over with. They had a fair amount of interesting stuff up there. Body armor, training weapons, a rappelling tower (mostly for the town fire department’s use), and climbing gear. That stuff that caught my eye.
A few weeks later, I get the bright idea of going up there and start goofing around. I really don’t want to give out the details, but suffice it to say I broke into that little concrete block building. I caused a few grand in damages in the process of breaking into the building. I also left behind some evidence that wound up making the prosecution a slam-dunk affair.
Five years of felony probation for the damage, they didn’t press the breaking and entering charge. Between the lawyer, I had to hire, and repayment for the damage my $10k savings account was squandered. A year of tuition and books, wasted. Once my probation was over I spent a few thousand more hiring the same lawyer to help me through the process of getting my voting rights, and right to own a semi-restored.
As it turns out I’d actually made a good impression with the police department, and I was almost certain to have had a job offer once I had my degree. A family friend of the state police had also been working behind the scenes to get me a spot at the state police academy, a very difficult thing to win.
So in the course of a single night, I threw everything away. I had to sell my semi collection, wound up with a permanent felony record that will follow me wherever I go and made a fool out of myself.”
A Father’s Trip To The Hospital
“A while ago some friends of mine and I organized a big fancy dinner that everyone was pretty excited for. The morning of the day the dinner was happening, I got a phone call from my dad’s girlfriend saying that he had had a bad seizure and was in the hospital. I jumped on a train to go and see him. At the time we didn’t know what was wrong, and he seemed okay – he was sitting up in his bed and happily talking and laughing with us, so I assumed everything was fine and after sitting with him for a few hours I said I was gonna head home because I was busy that night. My dad seemed kinda bummed that I wasn’t staying but said goodbye.
The next day I got another call from his girlfriend saying they’d done an MRI and instantly rushed him to surgery because they’d seen some kind of growth in his brain and wanted to operate immediately. Apparently, dad’s girlfriend was told that he might not survive the surgery.
The growth turned out to be a cyst. The amazing surgeons successfully removed it and my dad is now pretty much back to normal except for some medication he has to take. But even now, a year and a half later, I can’t stop thinking about how my dad could have died that night and I had chosen to go to some stupid dinner instead of stay with him in hospital.”
Keeping Away From Religious Colleges
“Going to bible college.
Initially, I was going to go to University for Aerospace Engineering, but I wound up going to this tiny private bible college that charged four times more, credits that wouldn’t transfer, and an administration that kicks people out for having intercourse because it’s unholy.
That was a lovely waste of $50,000 and four years of my life.
I will take this opportunity to tell people to stay away from these types of religious colleges regardless of your faith or beliefs.
Leaving is a hugely traumatic and sudden process. It took me several years and being involuntarily committed for a week after multiple suicide attempts to begin getting past it. These places are dangerous in the social pressures they exert and the enormous amount of control they wield in robbing you of your entire support structure in family and friends in order to coerce you to stay.
I am being completely serious when I say barely survived the process. One of my closest friends didn’t.”
Not Seeing Their Grandfather
“Not flying to see my grandfather on his deathbed. It haunts me.
When I was told to call him they said that he couldn’t speak anymore and to just say what I wanted and that he could understand for now.
I pulled some words out of me and told him that I loved him and that as long as live, I will honor him and keep his memory alive. He made some sounds. I heard my grandmother tell him not to try and speak. He forced himself to speak to me using what energy he had to tell me he loved me and was proud of me. That he did that for me when he wasn’t supposed to break my heart.
I will never forget how hard it was for him to say those words. The strangled tears in his throat as he tried with all his heart to say goodbye to me one last time.
I should have been there. I was too afraid. Too ashamed. I know that he would have wanted me there. I know that I was his favorite. I was the only one that followed in his footsteps even remotely. I feel like I failed him when he really needed me, after everything he did for me.”
Spending More Time With Mom
“I didn’t talk to my dad enough. I wouldn’t call him unless I needed something, would only visit him and my mom every three or four months even though I lived close. I just took for granted the idea that he would be alive for a long time. He ended up getting diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on July 1st and passed away on July 27th. It’s been three years but I have been a lot better son to my mom now. I call her every day and talk and go see her at least once a month (I live farther away now). I regret not enjoying my dad when he was alive and I won’t make that mistake with my mom.”
Difficulty With Chemistry
“Trying to get into medical school. I took all these science classes and did fairly well in most of them. Then I got to the chemistry classes and I never got a handle on it. But I kept trying because I don’t know when to quit. This ended up killing my GPA and possibly my chances of ever going to graduate school. I still got my bachelor’s in psychology, which is what I wanted to major in. I was just taking science classes to go to medical school for psychiatry. But now, with a 2.9 GPA, no graduate schools want me and I’m back at home working a $9/hr job because I can’t get hired anywhere else. I don’t know what I’m gonna do and I feel like a total failure. If I had bailed on those chemistry classes instead of taking and trying them over I would stand a chance. Know your limits, kids.
Medical school isn’t realistic at this point because the organic chemistry section is such a huge part and I know enough to know I can’t do it. And I can’t pay the $300 and spend the seven hours doing it over and over until I make it, which I don’t think I ever could. I’m a good student and I’m smart. Chemistry just completely escapes me at a certain point.
I’ve tried doing the ‘use that in your personal statement’ and it doesn’t matter. It’s a pretty dead stop on the application when they see the GPA. It’s below the minimum requirement and the volume of people applying is rising, so why bother with me? Why even read the personal statements and essays?
That being said, I need to retake the classes to raise my GPA. My university had a limit of how many times you could retake a class, which was two. Not sure if this is normal, but it’s how my school did it. So I don’t know if I can take the classes at a community college or elsewhere and have them count. A lot of applications I’ve done thus far have you calculate the GPA with every try at a class, not just the highest.”
Regretting Previous Life Choices
“Honestly, smoking pot as a teenager. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against natural narcotics and still smoke occasionally from time to time, but as a teen, it pretty much sent me down a bad version of what my life could have been.
Long story short, this was back when weed was still seen as something on par with heavier narcotics. Unfortunately, I was caught with it and paraphernalia as an 18-year-old and had the book pretty much thrown at me, and my life suffered some very drastic (in my opinion I’m overreacting) consequences.
Anyway, I’m not saying that I regret anything (even though it kinda sounds like that). I am now married to a great person, have a steady job and am traveling the country, but there will always be that “what could have been” in the back of my head.”
Rethinking Their Degree
“The degree I chose or not putting off university until I had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I only went because it didn’t really occur to me that I didn’t have to. I was academically successful and I wanted a good job (whatever that means). So, I picked a silly degree that I knew I would enjoy, without really thinking.
Now it’s nearly ten years later and I’ve figured out what I actually want to do, but it’s probably too late.
The degree I actually did was amazing for me as a person. I grew up a lot, I met some of my best friends and generally had a wonderful experience. But financially and professionally it was a terrible mistake.
And, I mean, I’ll be okay. I have a job and some hopeful plans for the future. Just every so often I think about what I might have had if only I’d been more thoughtful, and it makes me sad.”
Helping The Church.
“Serving a mission for the Mormon church.
This was two years long, and my personality/social skills are pretty bad, which made it a terrible two years where I didn’t help whatsoever. I did it right after high school, so every girl I liked was married with kids by the time I got back (and I mean every girl) and a lot of my friends were now two years ahead of me in college. It’s an awkward gap in my employment record that I’ve had to explain in job interviews (I had a job in high school). I didn’t even stay in the Mormon church as of a couple years afterward.
So now I have these frustrating memories of trying to help that church grow. Even when I do have a story from the mission that I want to share, I always disguise the setting. I can hardly stand scrolling through my Facebook news feed since half my friends are either missionary or Mormons from back in the day. I never did go to college because I felt too old. I suffer from anxiety and depression. It was the worst two years, and it won’t go away.”
An Abusive Boyfriend
“My first boyfriend when I was 15. Most past relationships, even the ones that didn’t go so well, I don’t regret – they helped me learn and grow, and led me to where I am today. But the psychopath I dated in high school caused nothing but harm. He was 18 and had a lot of psychological issues that he refused to deal with. I’m not judging – I have anxiety, depression, and substance abuse issues, but I’m in therapy and take medication.
He was abusive, mostly emotional, and sometimes physical. He was incredibly controlling and isolated me from friends and family. He would keep me in his room and not let me go to school (So, what’s that called? False imprisonment?). I used to wait until he fell asleep and jump out of his bedroom window so I could walk home. He started taking away my shoes thinking it would stop me from walking home. I was too embarrassed and ashamed to ask for help. My dad was pretty laissez-faire when it came to parenting – not quite negligent, we were fed, housed, and clothed, etc, and he loved us… but that’s another story. Mom had borderline personality disorder so God knows telling her would only make things ten times worse. I acted like everything was fine, but I was miserable. My grades went down, my relationships started to deteriorate. He almost killed the both of us with his car. I eventually got out by agreeing to let him take naked pictures of me (thinking about it still makes me feel sick and I wonder if they’re floating out there somewhere).
About a decade later I get a phone call from some military officials asking me about my relationship with him. There was a point in time when my brother called to police on him (I managed to get home and psychopath came looking for me, screaming at me to come outside – he didn’t realize anyone else was home but me), so they had a record of it on file. Apparently, he had been beating his wife and pulling the same stuff he did with me. I gave a full testimony of what it was like being in a relationship with him. He was dishonorably discharged. Haven’t seen or heard from him in a long time, and I hope I never do.”