I remember when I turned twenty, I cried. Not because I was happy or excited or touched by the love of my family and friends. But because my teens were behind me and I had no more excuse to be irresponsible. The thing is, I never was irresponsible. I didn’t go out, didn’t date, didn’t drink or smoke, I studied hard and worked a part time job. And I was entering university and felt I had to more responsible than ever.
Oh, to be young(er) again. What a thing to worry about at twenty!
I was very sheltered growing up. I wasn’t allowed to sleepovers, I could only go to friends houses’ if my parents knew them and knew them well, or if I had to for a group project for school. Even in high school, I was not allowed out much at all. Being sheltered does you no favours believe me. I can’t change how I was raised. I was lucky enough to be raised by very loving and giving parents. They did what they thought was best for me at the time, and I have no resentment towards them any more for sheltering me so much. But looking back, there are so many things I wish I had known in my twenties.
I wish I had known to be true to myself
I was not my authentic self for many, many years. I didn’t know how to be because I had learned to suppress that true self to be more…what I thought others expected me to be. Responsible. Level headed. Agreeable. As a result, I was narrow minded and boxed myself into a small existence. I knew there was a lot in me that wasn’t being expressed, but over time that part of me became so small that it became voiceless. If I could go back now, I would pursue writing. I’m a naturally creative person, I wish I had known that living authentically was important. That not honouring that need to be creative and demonstrate empathy was really a slow murder of myself. My advice now is, find what you love to do and find a way to honour that so that you can keep loving it, whether it’s art or computer programming. Don’t always go with the obvious or the easy.
I wish I had known worry will destroy you
I also wish I had known I was worrying so much! I had no idea that I was a worrier back then but I was and am. Although, I’ve gotten tons better at it. I have worried so much in my life that it’s made me ill. And what does worrying get us in the end? A lot of anxiety and a whole lot of nothing else. You can’t change the past, know what someone else thinks or feels about you, or know what the future will hold. No matter how much you worry. And what life has taught me is that while I was worrying about what my boss thought about me or something I did, she wasn’t giving it a second thought at all. She wasn’t also at home sitting worrying whether I thought she’d been too harsh or whether my apology was sincere. Worry will ruin your day, destroy your mental health and sabotage your goals in life.
I wish I had known you can’t make other people happy
Thinking back, I made a lot of choices because they made other people happy. And they were choices I could live with because they were practical, or easy or … just not a big deal somehow I guess. But the thing is, making choices that make others happy isn’t necessarily making you happy. If you go to university or study a particular subject to make your parents happy, is that going to serve you well later in life? In a way, I dug myself into a hole with some those choices. I’m not in a career where I can leave if I want and return to later. It’s far too political, I’d be burning my bridges behind me entirely and so I’m in a career that I like, yes, but that has proved taxing to my mental health and doesn’t allow me to be creative in the way I need to be creative. Luckily, there are other aspects to my career that make me happy to continue with it, but I’ve come to believe that if I had made choices that made me happy, I’d be better off now than I am because I’d be less stressed and living more authentically. I have found ways to live authentically, but it meant my thirties were years of crisis. And the thing is too, I made choices to make others happy and reassure them but in the end, they don’t even respect what I do, and so…did I even make them happy? I wish I had known my path would not be what everyone else’s paths seemed to be, for life is certainly not straight forward or textbook case.
I wish I had known I had time
We were all in such a rush when I was twenty. Racing towards goodness knows what in life. All off to university, all choosing our paths, and yet none of us really knowing if those paths were right for us. I was so sure, so sure my path was right for me. But looking back, I wish I had known I had time. Time to discover more about myself, time to study and grow and be creative. I’m not sure how realistic an option it would have been given my family situation at that time, but I wish I had known I could change my mind about my studies. Or that it was okay to take an extra year. Instead, I was worried about money and getting my degree so I could really start living my life. Only to discover once I had my degree in hand that my life wasn’t really my own anyway…it was all about pleasing others and a lot of things I wanted didn’t just appear because I thought they should and would in due time.
Life is a journey…
Life is a journey. It takes you down all sorts of paths you never thought you walk, and some are good and some are for bad…but they teach you. Shape you. Help you gain insight into yourself. The past hurts, but you can learn from it. I can’t change anything, but the truth is I wouldn’t. Growing from who I was, that sheltered little girl and then the scared, narrow minded young woman into who I am today–well, it was a journey worth the tears and heartache. I’m not perfect, but I know myself now and I hope that these more open discussion days we live in help other young people realize that it’s okay to be yourself, to have dreams, to take risks, and nothing in life is really ever secure and stable.
Share your thoughts below. I’d love to discuss. And subscribe for more tidbits of care.