I wasted my youth 

Fear and anxiety made me miss out on dating, clubs, travel… How can I catch up?

From meetups to solo travel, our elder has a bunch of strategies for getting the most out of life.


Dear EWC

Hi, hope you’re doing well! Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. Basically, I’m wondering how do you move past feeling like you missed out on your youth? I’m going to be 31 years old in a month and all I can think about is how much of my childhood/youth I’ve wasted. I was too afraid to date, too afraid to go to clubs, too afraid to travel, too afraid of everything. My anxiety would spike and I’d talk myself out of trying literally anything and because of my depression, I’d just convince myself it was never meant to be anyway and just stay at home, miserable in bed. It feels like I literally blinked and woke up in my thirties. And now, everyone around me is settling down with their families and I don’t want to do that yet because I never experienced being young. I still want to date and party and travel but I don’t know where to start and it’s embarrassing because everyone already has done that and it feels like it’s just me struggling to get out there. I just feel like I’ve wasted so much time. I don’t know. Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading this far.


Pete replies

Thank you for writing and for giving us the opportunity to help you with your issue.

I believe that most of us have some regrets about having missed out on some activities and perhaps some aspects of our lives. I believe this is part of human nature. We all do different things and sometimes we wish we had done other things. In any event, we all know that we cannot ‘turn back the clock,’ but we can focus on the here-and-now and on our future.

In my youth I did some dating; went to some parties; and did some traveling. Some of these activities were good, but the fact that I did them does me little or no good now. Just some good and some not so good memories. In the not-too-distant past, I discovered that happiness and a sense of wellbeing is not gained from parties, celebrations, and fun and games. Society has given us a mindset that parties are the pinnacle of fun and happiness, but this is not always the case. Travel is nice, but it is not necessarily a major ingredient of a fulfilling life. My past travels are an OK memory, but not anything that affects my mood today. In any event, you can likely still go to parties if you want and if your friends are hosting parties. And you can still travel if you think you will enjoy it. 

It is good to travel with a friend or a relative, but if this is not practical, you might look into one of those tour companies online. It has been my experience that they make every effort to encourage every person on the tour to get to know every other person. I went alone on a 13-day tour to Italy a few years ago and I was not lonely for a moment except on my way to and from the airport. If loneliness is one of your problems, I would suggest an organization called Meetup. This is a national organization in which people form independent groups, usually based on a specific common interest. If you go on the Internet and search for “Meetups near me”, they will provide a list of groups, each with a name so that you can tell their purpose. Examples might be “Folks for fitness”  “Archery – fun for all”  “Let’s read books”  “Cyberlearning club”  I joined one of these meetup groups entitled simply, “Let’s go out to dinner.”  We had a group of about 20-30 people of all ages who went out weekly, to different restaurants, for dinner. Though this Meetup did not provide me with any permanent good friends, I enjoyed our weekly dinner meetings and the varied chit-chat at each. Unfortunately, this group disbanded when Covid peaked and it never resumed.

Another strategy I used toward improving my life was trying new things. I am retired and now do a whole lot of volunteer work for various agencies and causes. Though not much of it is fun, I get immense satisfaction by helping others.

A couple of years ago, at an advanced age, I decided to audition for a play at the community theater. I had never been any part of a play and was never even interested in theater. My first few auditions failed, but I finally got a minor part in a play. This turned out to be a great experience. I enjoyed every minute of rehearsals and enjoyed camaraderie with the director, the other actors, the stage hands, etc.  As fate would have it, through this experience, I was invited by two other theater groups to audition and got significant parts in two other plays the same year.

So, once again, my advice is to not focus on the past but on the present and the future. The past does not matter at all. At 31, you have a lot of living ahead of you and you have every reason to make it the best you can. Try to develop a positive attitude toward life and keep in mind that nobody in life is perfect; that we all should do our best for our own wellbeing

One more thing I would like to mention. You alluded to depression in your letter. There is a major difference between depression and unhappiness. Clinical depression is a disease, and if you think you are depressed, I would strongly suggest you consult with a psychiatrist or other mental health professional. Many people who appear to have everything going well suffer from clinical depression and sometimes do not even know why. 

I hope that this letter will help you in resolving your issue, and would love to hear from you again to know how you are doing.

Article #: 493778

Category: Self-Improvement

One Comment

  1. Pete, your reply is beautifully written and uplifting.

    As a 37 year old who often regrets wasted youth – I really enjoyed your message

    Better late than never.

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