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Can’t get over your biggest life regrets? A millennial therapist’s open letter to 30-somethings


As millennials begin to turn 40 in 2021, CNBC Make It has launched Middle-Aged Millennials, a series exploring how the oldest members of this generation have grown into adulthood amid the backdrop of the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic, student loans, stagnant wages and rising costs of living.

So you’re approaching 40. The realization that we’re getting older isn’t an easy pill to swallow. I’ve been a millennial therapist for nearly a decade, and the biggest theme I’ve seen emerge in the past few years among middle-aged millennials is the struggle to move forward from their biggest regrets in life.

“I married the wrong person.”

“I wish I tried to have kids earlier.”

“Wait, why did I have kids again?”

“I shouldn’t have attended such an expensive college.”

“I should have saved more money.”

“I wish I said ‘I love you’ when I had the chance.”

“I chose the wrong career.”

“I should have advocated for myself.”

“If I networked more in my 20s, I’d have a higher-paying job by now.”

“Why did we spend so much money on a wedding?”

“I wish I traveled more.”

So. Many. Regrets.

Of course, this isn’t all millennials. According to a recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CNBC Make It, 78% of older millennials believe they’ve lived up to their potential and are satisfied with how their lives are going. But the rest, especially those who earn less, are not. The survey polled 1,000 U.S. adults ages 33 to 40 during March about a variety of topics — including their health, finances, families and future ambitions.

If you’re a millennial who has learned to embrace aging, congratulations! Keep doing what you’re doing. But to the ones who, on most days, wake up filled with regret and dissatisfaction, who mourn over the paths they wish they had taken, here’s an open letter from a millennial therapist. I hope it will help you find ways to cope, change your mindset and stop being so hard on yourself:

Tess Brigham is a San Francisco-based psychotherapist. She has nearly 10 years of experience in the field and primarily works with millennials and millennial parents.

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CNBC Make It will be publishing more stories in the Middle-Aged Millennials series around employment, retirement and family. If you’re an older millennial (ages 33 to 40), share your story with us for a chance to be featured in a future installment.