5 Things I Regret Wasting Time On In My Early 20s


When I was younger, there seemed to be so much time. Weekends lasted forever, summer break was an eternity, and I was up for anything to fill all that time. Just ask my parents what our phone bill was when I went through the middle school right of passage that is three-way calls and spending hours catching up with the people you just saw at school. In high school, my best friend and I would get off school and walk to the downtown library most days to pick up fantasy novels we’d devour in a hurry. We’d walk to CVS and buy hair dye and sneak back into the gym locker rooms to give one another a new look.

These days, I’m amazed at the things I wasted my time on. I think back on college and how I would sleep in, get wasted, watch “Dawson’s Creek,” spend hours chatting to my boyfriend online, keep up with slews of blogs—so many it makes my dalliances on Facebook and RSS feeds and Wikipedia now seem like a wink—not that it was a total waste spending time with my thoughts and reading books and listening to music because these are all things I wish I had more time for now.

Heaven is a place where you can drink all the champagne you want and never get drunk and eat all the cheese you want and never gain weight, and everything is Patti Smith and 10,000 Maniacs and Tennyson and Szymborska and brunches in bed with girlfriends and sunshine and cat cuddles. But here are five things I do wish I’d spent less time on:

1. Watching boys play video games.

I don’t care what Lana del Rey has to sing about it, I am very confused why the many boys who played video games in my presence found it so gratifying. If I could get the time I spent watching boys play video games back and apply it to something else, I could have read all the novels of Marcel Proust, which might have helped me reflect on memory and the nature of reality—useful when considering save points and the accuracy of digital renderings.

2. Worrying about my weight.

If you go back to 2008 in my Facebook photos, yeah, my jaw is a lot more angular; my stomach is a lot flatter. That doesn’t matter. I remember how I felt about my body when I was thinner and realize I have nothing to worry about. Whatever size I was then didn’t make me happier. It definitely didn’t make me more loved or more confident. I am the most together mentally and emotionally right now than I ever have been, and I’m at my all-time highest weight. I’m the one who decides what I’m worth, not the number on the waistband of my pants or how I pose in photos. End of story.

3. Eating fast food.

There was a time in my life when I found the mere idea of a “volcano taco” both amusing and satisfying. I was excited to discover from experience that a Hardee’s biscuit and a Dr. Pepper were the correct antidote to a night of chugging Southern Comfort in a hot tub. I wish I had studied chemistry in college, if only so I could understand the molecular alchemy that makes a nice frozen pizza pair perfectly with bottom-shelf blended wine. However, I did not major in chemistry, so these research projects were actually not very useful.

4. Trying to dress like other women.

Whether it was cheap earrings from Claire’s or expensive dresses from Anthropologie, dressing like other women never swayed a guy I was interested in. If anything, it only served to remind them of the woman they were actually hung up on. In the meantime, I wasted a lot of money and wore some unflattering things, and no one cared except me. Please. The amount of time I have spent on clothing websites could probably add up to reading all of Charles Dickens’ novels, and then I could have revisited some useful lessons about what happens to people who go into ill-advised debt.

5. Trying to be super-sexy.

Strangely enough, agreeing to engage in adventurous acts and doing my best to re-enact Tila Tequila’s MySpace shots did very little for getting men to respect me or develop genuine feelings for me. Even the best guys I dated, who saw themselves as feminists and white knights, tended to objectify me rather than take an interest in what I think. God gave me certain gifts. We all got some in our birthday party favors. But late-20s Meghan knows she doesn’t have to turn on the red light. Next time I’m reading a book at a coffee shop and a guy asks me about it, that’s when I’ll perk up. My brain and my beliefs are the sexiest things about me, and next time I stay up all night with a man, I want it to be playing each other our favorite songs and having a good conversation.

I’ve wasted a lot of time in my 20s on the wrong guys, the wrong friends and farting around on the Internet. I’ve also spent a lot of time building my career, networking and learning who I am. Somewhere in between, there have been some pleasant bottles of wine. Out of all of that, the most important lesson you can ever learn, as Toulouse-Lautrec said in “Moulin Rouge,” “is just to love and be loved in return.” That doesn’t mean chasing the wrong people, but it does mean making time for the ones who care. It means opening your heart to people without an agenda and accepting the ones who do the same for you. No matter what your career and interests, nothing matters more than the real love in your life and nurturing relationships with the people who feed your soul. TC Mark

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