The 10 biggest mistakes of your life

Avoid having regrets when the hammer falls.

I’ve made plenty of questionable decisions in my life...

  • I drank 10 Irish car bombs in a backpacker’s hostel in Killarney.
  • I slept on a park bench in Berlin in the middle of winter.
  • I wore a silk skirt in the middle of summer and lived to tell the tale of sweaty butt cheeks on vinyl bus seats.
  • I dated an alcoholic.
  • I gave birth without drug relief.
  • I thought, for a very long time, that ugg boots were acceptable out-of-the-house footwear (OK, I still do…).
  • I broke a guy’s nose in a pub. (He deserved it).

But none of those things would make it onto the list of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in my life. In fact, some of them led to or were the result of some of the best times in my life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ageing lately. Maybe it’s because my son is growing up and about to start school. Maybe it’s because my Dad — the family stallion — recently had a hip replacement. Maybe it’s because my crow’s feet seem to be getting longer and deeper by the day (see below), and the ‘mummy tummy’ I’m sporting is getting harder and harder to keep at bay. We’re all getting older — there’s no way to avoid it… well, there is, but that’s the very point, right?

Whatever the reason for my ponderings, it’s made me consider all the things I want to do in my life, and all the regrets I want to avoid later on. And I think a lot of these things are universal — but tend only to occur to us as we age and the path behind starts to appear almost as long as the road ahead…

1. Prioritising work over family

When I die I hope to see all of my ex-colleagues around my grave sobbing uncontrollably about how much they’re going to miss seeing me in the work kitchen asking, “So how was your weekend?” Monday to Wednesday morning, and then, “Any plans for the weekend?” Wednesday midday through to Friday. At work, you’re replaceable — sorry, but it’s true. Even if you’re the owner or the CEO (hi Steve Jobs). At home — to your family and your loved ones — you are the very definition of irreplaceable. Put the time and effort in where it really matters.

2. Not committing to an exercise regime

As I approach my mid-thirties I’m beginning to really appreciate my strength and fitness. Being fit and strong means I can keep up with my five-year-old son when we’re running around outside and going on adventures (even despite a little bladder weakness at Trampoline World…). But I also notice the little niggles, aches and pains when I don’t look after my body properly. So get off the couch and do lunges to and from the fridge — you can thank me later.

3. Eating poorly

You are what you eat. Last decade that would have made me about 80% carbohydrate and 17% vodka and soda. (I left a 3% flex zone for animal/vegetable/mineral — because balance). But seriously, if I don't eat well these days, I feel it both immediately and the following day. Gone are the days when I could chow down on a packet of burger rings and a carton of chocolate milk for “dinner” and still slide into those size 10 jeans. Now I actually get joy out of eating well and fuelling my body with the good stuff. Adulting has well and truly arrived and the punishment of not adhering is an uncomfortable bout of indigestion and swollen ankles. Sexy.

4. Neglecting your friendships

Friendships and relationships take work. Yeah, they’re fun and all that, but you have to invest time and effort in the people around you if you expect the relationship to go the distance. They’re kind of like those really sturdy ferns we keep in the corner of the lounge room. One day they’re absolutely thriving and you’re patting yourself on the back at how green your little thumb is. Nek Minute, dead fern…

5. Living in the past

Ring ring… “Hello?” It’s the past calling, and it has nothing new to say.

Sure, we all need to learn from our mistakes and missteps — otherwise, we’ll just keep repeating the same old patterns over and over again. But add that lesson to your wisdom wagon, giddy-up and roll on down the road.

6. Living in the future

Also known as generalised anxiety. Anxiety is the new black — everyone has it and it’s become almost stylish to suffer from this sometimes debilitating form of worry. Planning is great — grown-ups plan all the time. Plan what you’re going to have for dinner. Plan a summer holiday. Plan your spray tan and exfoliate two days out. Or get really grown up and plan for your future with a super account. But try not to plan for every little thing that might go wrong. You’ll waste your life frozen in a quagmire of fear.

7. Living anywhere but the here and now

Living in the moment, being present, something something, blah blah blah. There’s a whole self-help publishing industry build from this premise, so I’m not going to harp on about it. Only to quote this cracker: “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift — that’s why they call it the present.”

That is all — oh, and this funny and apt meme…

8. Not telling the people you love that you, well, love them

Those three little words. Don’t waste another second — pick up the phone and tell them now. And keep telling them.

9. Never doing the ‘one thing’

We all have ‘one thing’ we’ve always dreamed of doing. But why do we wait for ‘someday’ to do it? For me, it’s marrying Bon Jovi. But that’s unlikely given he’s already hitched and is sadly no longer sporting that late 90s faux-mullet. So I’ve skipped to the second item on my bucket list — learn to play one decent song on guitar. I am working on it, however I remain very terrible on the instrument so I may revert to item #1: Bon Jovi, sans mullet.

10. Thinking you’ll have tomorrow to do it

That’s also what that guy who died yesterday thought…

Chronic over-sharer. Graphic language lover. Aspiring coffee addict. Highly functioning single person. Mum. Animal enthusiast. Don’t like much music post 1989.

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