Older Adults Opened Up About Things They "Took For Granted" In Their 20s And 30s, And It Hits Hard

Last month, we wrote a post where older adults from the BuzzFeed Community shared things they "took for granted" in their 20s and 30s. In the comments, even more readers shared their own responses. Here's what they had to say:

1."I assumed my immediate family would always be there. Within three years I lost my beloved Nana and both of my parents. As a cruel coda, my very much alive sister has completely cut me off. Sometimes I feel like the last person on earth. I came from a family with lots of loving aunts, uncles, and second cousins on my mother’s side. Now, they’re all gone."

"It’s a shock to the system to realize that you, yourself, ARE those family members now. It’s very hard to put yourself in the position of a 'matriarch,' etc. because in my mind, I’m still the child of the family. Lots of psychology there!"


older woman looking out the window
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2."My family’s health. Most of them are still here, thank goodness, but I can definitely see how the age is starting to creep in and trips to a doctor and hospital stays are becoming a common fixture."


woman in a hospital bed while her husband sits with her
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3."I took my beautiful, youthful skin for granted. I cannot believe I used to put BABY OIL on and lay in the sun! Wear sunblock!!!"


woman tanning by the pool by a kid across the pool aim a water gun at her
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4."I love being 36 and am more comfortable with myself than I've ever been, but I will say that my vanity is noticing the wrinkles starting to creep in, and I have to remind myself every day to appreciate my face and body the way they are now because they're only going to keep aging. (Nothing is wrong with wrinkles; it's just hard to ignore the voice in my head telling me I'll stop being desirable as a woman as soon as I look 'old')."

"I will also say that I have zero regrets about my decision to not have children because every day I wake up grateful that I am emotionally and financially responsible only for myself and that my free time is my own. It's bliss."


woman looking in the mirror
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5."Things I took for granted: 1) FREEDOM. I feel so bogged down with people I have to take care of. My son, all the pets, all the bills, food for the family... 2) Also, money. I knew I would make more as I advanced in my career, and I have. I just didn't know that inflation would jump so high that it's devoured that increase and more."


man at his desk on the phone and looking at a paper
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6."Teeth! I had braces, and my teeth were perfect. I had (have) a fear of the dentist, so I used the fact that I had one perfect checkup after a long time; I told myself I didn't need to go (for a long time). I also used to open things with my teeth. All of a sudden, they started just coming apart. I'm about to start major, expensive work to fix everything, and it sucks!"

"I was so cute with my pearly whites. Now, I can hardly look in the mirror."


person at the dentist
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7."I always thought that someday, I would have my sh*t together. I'm 36 next month, and I categorically do NOT have my sh*t together at all. But on the other hand, I also know now that nobody really has their sh*t together — we're all just doing the best we can."


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8."Two things I realized even as I entered into my late 20s and think about now, long past my late 20s: 1) I wasted a lot of my youth thinking I was better and smarter than the people around me and that someday, I'd find my crowd. I have few friends from HS and no friends from college, mostly because I went to a state school instead of NYU as I dreamed for financial reasons. But now, I realize that a lot of people do have long friendships dating back to HS and college and that many of the people I thought I was better than back then were actually cool as hell, and I missed my chance to get to know them."

"2) I always felt like, at some point, my 'real' life would begin and that everything I was doing was just provisional...until I realized that all of this provisional stuff was just my real life — that there was no true beginning or ending and that change is constant. This is still hard for me to process even on a day-to-day basis."


people sitting in a meeting
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9."I regret I wasted time fretting about the way my body looked instead of reveling in the sheer joy of how well my body worked. I’m glad I danced, climbed mountains, and canoed rivers then because I can’t do it now. Today, you are as young as you will ever be again, and age is not just a number. It’s aching joints and bad balance and less stamina."


person with his back to a cave entrance
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10."I regret putting up with toxic behavior from relatives 'because they are family.' I wish that I'd set my boundaries and been done with that much earlier. Nobody should put up with bad behavior."

—61, Arizona

one person with their head in their hand while another reaches over to comfort
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11."I took time for granted. Time to travel, time to try new things. Just time. Do wild stuff while you're young."

—44, Illinois

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12."Always having money. I wish I'd started putting money aside for my retirement earlier."

—56, Canada

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13."I regret listening to what OTHER people thought I should do. Now, I find that I have lost who I am and never listened to that spirit that I was."


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14."I took for granted eating and drinking anything I wanted and never working out and fitting into all my clothes. Also, having adequate sleep and the ability to heal instantly from the smallest bump or sprain."

—55, California

person massaging their shoulder
Aj_watt / Getty Images

15."I took joint and spine health for granted. The body is an amazing machine, but some parts of it just wear out and are never the same. I wish I had kept up with the core exercises throughout my 20s and early 30s instead of letting the muscles go while I worked a desk for 10 years, ending up with a herniated disc. I’m keeping a strong core now, and it’s done wonders (much more than the doctors could do) but there’s pain and limitations that will always be there now."

"As to the positive, I think back on my younger self and cringe thinking about what a fool I could be. I’m grateful for the increasing knowledge and wisdom that can come with age if you keep an open mind. I also don’t miss being poor. So, there are pros and cons. What’s the saying? Youth is wasted on the young? Lol."


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16."Growing up in the 1960s, we knew we would eventually grow up, but never grow old. We thought the fun decade would go on forever. Now, I am old, and my friends are dying from not taking care of themselves. I sort of took care of myself and am not doing too badly. I just don't want to be alone, and the old friends are all gone."


people running into the ocean
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17."That life happens, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the great. You may not have received the promotion you hoped for, or were hired for the job you dreamed about, or went on a date with your crush. But with faith, luck, and determination you will be in a job you are good at with a good team of coworkers and get to go home at the end of the day to your loved ones."

"Also, we used to give each other big gifts, now we do experiences. I can't remember what we've given each other over the years, but I remember all the trips we've been on and concerts we have been to since we made the switch."

—41, USA

kid feeding their dad strawberries
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18."My parents being that steady presence in my life that I could count on to always be there."


"My parents. I miss them every day, and I wish I could have them around for my kids. They’re not here to watch their only grandkids grow up, and I get sad about all they are missing. They were great parents, but they were awesome grandparents!"


two people laughing in a hammock
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And finally...

19."The independence and freedom that comes with being fully able-bodied. Due to progressive blindness, I’ve had to give up a lot over the last decade. I miss driving, walking my dog (not a guide dog), going shopping by myself on a whim, being able to recognize people without them telling me who they are, being able to go someplace new by myself and just roaming comfortably. Hell, I even kind of miss my corporate management job sometimes."

"Some things that happen to you in life just happen, and you will have zero control, so all I will say is enjoy all the little things because you just never know what might happen tomorrow."


person on a bench looking out onto a lake
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Older adults, what are some other things you "took for granted" in your 20s and 30s? Let us know in the comments below.

Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.