Q&A: Youthful Indiscretions Can Cast a Long Shadow

By Rachel Puryear

Recently, I participated in a group discussion. The subject was the kinds of young adult mistakes that make life much more difficult for the long term.

It was a very interesting – and poignant – discussion, and I thought it would make for a great post. Accordingly, I’m sharing answers that were generally agreed on, including by myself.

Please note that this is absolutely not intended to judge anyone who’s made mistakes in life, or choices they regret.

None of us knows what other people’s lives are really like, or what led to certain events and decisions. I do not engage in, or encourage, shaming anyone from some sort of moral high ground.

Rather, this topic is intended to raise awareness about challenges people commonly face, and why better understanding as well as strong early guidance – including getting to know oneself – is important.

Young child at the foot of a long flight of stairs, looking uncertain. By Jukan Tateisi.

Drugs and Addictions

For anyone who struggles with addictions of any kind, life can be quite difficult – and the many challenges tend to persist.

People with addictions also tend to have a lot health challenges over time. They may also have difficulty maintaining employment, and usually suffer professionally.

They are also prone to getting taken advantage of, more than most people realize.

Their personal relationships and family lives will be heavily challenged.

If you’ve ever been to an Alcoholics Anonymous (or related) meeting, listening to the stories of attendees can be quite eye-opening.

Addiction problems can also put a person at risk of criminal activity. Having a record creates all sorts of lifelong problems, including great difficulty getting jobs.

Addictions can lead to many other legal and financial problems, as well.

Not all addictions involve drugs and alcohol, though.

Some addictions create less obvious problems, and are more socially accepted than others – maybe even admired. One example is workaholism.

People die early from workaholism, too. Or even if they don’t, they sure miss out on a lot in life.

Having Children with Unreliable Partners

I used to work in a family law firm (divorce and child custody).

If people get married, and it doesn’t work out, they can get divorced. It’s expensive, and heartbreaking – but the legal relationship can be dissolved going forward.

Once you have a child with someone else, though, you’re tied to that person for life. That’s true whether you’re still married/partnered to that person, or not.

For people who have children with someone else who’s unreliable in helping to provide for or competently help care for them, it can feel like having an extra child rather than a co-parent.

Raising children is difficult, expensive, and all-consuming under the best of circumstances. When a co-parent is more of a hindrance than a help, though, that makes life incredibly hard for the other parent.

Toxic and Abusive Relationships – of All Kinds

There are plenty of obvious ways this makes life much harder. There are also subtle ways, too.

Being in any kind of relationship with a bully, a user, a narcissist, and so forth means getting treated badly. But the damage goes even deeper than that.

Even if you get away from such a person, there can still be a lot of lasting damage. To your psyche, maybe to your body, to your finances, to your other important relationships, to many aspects of your life.

Toxic and abusive relationships can also easily influence people to make all the other mistakes on this list, too.

Rarely do toxic and abusive people seem awful from the start. Often times, they seem wonderful at first, and then only reveal their true selves once they have trapped someone (which happens in various ways).

Excessive Debt

Taking on too much debt can create large financial hardships, as well as opportunity costs.

Debt can force people to stay at jobs they hate, work longer hours, and keep them from making positive career changes.

Sometimes debt is unavoidable – such as medical debt, or debt incurred for necessaries during periods of unemployment with no income.

Other times, people might think they’re doing something good for themselves, but it doesn’t work out that way – often, they’ve listened to conventional wisdom that turned out to be bad advice.

Taking out too much in student loans has veered many young people off the path to success they were hoping to build, and into a long and indefinite future of crushing, non-dischargeable debt.

Degrees must pay for themselves. A realistic starting salary should pay off any student loans within a few years of graduation, and there must be strong demand for new graduates in the field for a degree.

Nowadays, there are much less expensive options online.

Heck, traveling the world is its own education, and a lot more fun.

There are also increasing numbers of jobs you can do without a degree, and that will enable you to work remotely and travel.


Credit card debt is also one people get sucked into, and don’t realize how financially damaging it is until they’re in too deep. They look at the minimum payments, and think they can afford the debt – without realizing how quickly the interest balloons their balance.

You can discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy – but there’s a heavy price to pay. Credit will be wrecked for several years; making it difficult to rent apartments, get certain jobs or licenses, or buy a home and build equity.

Getting Stuck in the Wrong Career

Many people choose careers based upon what family and community members want them to do – especially if their family is putting them through college.

However, you – not them – will be the one to live with your career choice for possibly decades.

Career dissatisfaction can take a huge toll on a person’s mental and physical health, as well as their social life and family relationships.

When you hate your career, it may very well end up not making you the kind of money you hoped, anyway. Health care bills from work-related stress and illnesses will add up, too.

The wrong career can also come at the opportunity cost of doing your own choice of a career instead, which you could love.

People can switch careers. That’s often a long an expensive process – but nonetheless, well worth it.


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to giving guidance to young people in our lives, to help them avoid our own early mistakes.

Got a question you want answered through this blog? Submit your question to me here – and if you don’t already, please request to subscribe to the Free Range Life newsletter while you’re there!

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