I was on the phone with a dear friend yesterday; she and I are the same age, and our lives have paralleled each other’s in so many ways, many of which have served each of us as challenging and tough life lessons.
“Don’t you wish you could go back and start all over knowing what you now know?” She asked me.
I paused to consider the question.
“No, I would not go back,” I replied. And I mean that.
I am so grateful to be where I am now. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. I admit that there are some that I wouldn’t want to repeat again because of the pain or the heartache. But, that’s not to say that I didn’t learn anything from them. I did. We all do. That’s where the lessons live.
The old adage – hindsight is 20/20 – rings so true when reflecting on what we could or should have done. However, one of the most important lessons I have learned is to take the good, the bad and the ugly – and just learn from it. Because when we learn, we know better; when we know better, we do better.
With that said, I considered the question long after we hung up the phone; I started to think about not necessarily going back and starting over, but, more so, what I would say to my younger self, knowing what I know now.
Here’s what I would tell her.
It’s going to be okay. No matter how bad it gets, it is going to be okay; because you are so much more than you know. You are smarter, stronger, and wiser than you realize. Trust yourself, because, kiddo, you’ve so got this.
Solitude is a gift. From a very early age, I was quite the tomboy who relished any opportunity to spend my days barefoot in the creek, watching tadpoles, hopping rocks. I did much of that alone. Looking back, I realize that I knew from a very early age that nature was the place where my soul recharged and rebooted; I grounded myself in Mother Earth. I still feel that way. I would tell my younger self to spend more time outside, alone, grounding. Being able to be alone with yourself is a gift.
Stop trying to fit it. From as early as kindergarten, I noticed that I was different. As we grew up, I realized that I wasn’t as into things – like hair and looks and mean queen bee, girl gangs – as the rest of the girls. They were all about belonging and being cool; they all wanted to dominate their pack. I was never cool; the harder I tried, the more awkward I was and the less I fit in. Stop trying so damn hard to fit in. Stand out. You are uniquely you and this is a gift kiddo, so embrace it. Standing out is where greatness begins.
Embrace being a leader. I was always a natural leader born with a kind heart. I gravitated toward leadership roles; I was inclusive. Keep seeking opportunities to lead more inclusively; keep bringing people together.
Sing out-loud and off-key; dance more. I love music and dancing, but I promise you, I cannot dance. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. Sing out-loud and off-key- dance more. Find joy every time you sing Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly. Laughing at yourself is a gift of authenticity that you give to others.
You are right-handed in sports and left-handed for writing. This is a funny one, right? It’s actually a lesson in never giving up; it’s a lesson in resilience; it’s a lesson in perseverance. Because I was rightie being coached as a leftie; and when you’re always being coached as leftie – because I wrote like a leftie – I would quit. Don’t quit; just switch hands. In hindsight, perhaps cross-country should have been my thing.
Dream big. When I dreamed big, I set my sights on what I wanted, and I hit the mark. Not every time, but most of the time. And then – I’d try again. Do more of this. Strength and courage comes from failing and doing it again.
Be more confident; be more love. Because even though you do not know it, you are going to accomplish so many amazing things one day. Love more, laugh more, and be kind more no matter what this world throws at you. You are more than enough. You always have been; you always will be.
And, that’s my not so sexy truth.