What Writing About Regret Showed Me

It seems to evoke strong emotions in readers and bring subtle fears to the surface.

Gracia Kleijnen
Mar 1 · 3 min read
Blond, pale-skinned female wearing hat and camouflage blouse with stripy shirt underneath holding a yellow flower, standing outside in a forest and field with flowers faded in the background.
Blond, pale-skinned female wearing hat and camouflage blouse with stripy shirt underneath holding a yellow flower, standing outside in a forest and field with flowers faded in the background.
Photo by Alasdair Braxton from Pexels

The article being received so well really got me thinking. Of course, getting it published in a larger publication helps to get exposure. It increases the chances of getting your writing read in the first place, especially if you haven’t built up a substantial audience of your own yet.

Your 20s are seen as a defining decade. The decade where you build a foundation of your life and where you make important decisions that affect you years thereafter. What (and if) to study, where, how to strategically map out those first few jobs that bump your career into prosperity, success, and status — if a career is something you want.

We want this decade to be perfectly defined so that we’ll later have a perfect, shiny story to tell. But life is whimsical, not perfect. Each of us gets crap to deal with that might throw us off course, or into a completely different direction than we thought we’d end up going in.

Decisions made by past-you are irreversible. Whether you like what happened or not, the past cannot be undone. I think that is what gives regret such a sour aftertaste. People fear it like tooth decay. I hear you thinking while reading those articles about regret, “yeah, that won’t happen to me because I’m going to be cautious and responsible with my life”.

It strokes our egos to brag about the big wins. To have the humbled peasants bow down at our feet, cheer our names in unity, and look up at us in awe. Writing about failures takes some courage. It’s admitting you’re not perfect. Admitting you’re less successful than you’d like others to see you. It’s choosing to skip the polished showreel we hope makes strangers on the internet sick with envy.

It’s never too late to change course. You can offset what you did to yourself in earlier years. For example, if you are a nicotine addict who has now finally decided to kick this bad habit, you can start by reducing your daily cigarette intake, and eventually replace your ciggies with nicotine plasters. You could start tracking in a notebook where and when you most want to grab a cigarette to bring awareness to your triggers to avoid them. Instead of holding a cigarette, you could always put an object in your “smoking hand”, so it won’t feel as though “something is missing”. There probably is some damage done, financially for sure (this habit has a price tag), but that doesn’t mean you should make it worse, or not try to get rid of it because you already failed at quitting so many times in the past. The future holds prospects for a different outcome.

Regret can hurt. Reading about other people’s regrets is a hard prompt to stop putting your own plans on hold.

It’s why I will keep reading about other people’s experiences in that regard. To nudge me to get back to work, build out a life I can be proud of, and ultimately, prevent the sour feeling of not having done as much as I could and wanted.

Get to know me by reading my bio, or sign up for my newsletter to stay in touch.

Curious

Find out what others have already figured out. Follow our publication to join our community.

Sign up for Curious Hits

By Curious

Find out what others have already figured out. Subscribe to receive top 10 most read stories of Curious — delivered straight into your inbox, once a week. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Gracia Kleijnen

Written by

Writing my way to progress. Topics: personal growth, life lessons, tooling & (failed) ventures.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Gracia Kleijnen

Written by

Writing my way to progress. Topics: personal growth, life lessons, tooling & (failed) ventures.

Curious

Curious

A community of people who are curious to find out what others have already figured out // Curious is a new personal growth publication by The Startup (https://medium.com/swlh).

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store