It was 10 years ago. I was fresh out of college with a Mass Communication Degree, a 3.25 GPA and a hot-off-the Epson resume, ready to take on the world. However, I soon found myself in the Twilight Zone. Instead of producing television shows, or writing a magazine column, I was getting up every day, intensely applying for jobs that I didn’t really want. I found myself in interviews pretending to be excited about mediocre tasks I’d never dreamt of doing, the day I went off to college.
Whatever pays the bills, I’d think to myself, as I drove off in my discontinued Charcoal Chrysler, Cirrus. And yet, somehow it seemed wrong, as if there was something I was missing. Yet, this is what my teachers and parents had taught me to do. Do what seemed like the sure thing and climb the corporate latter. Writing sure as hell wasn’t a sure thing. So I’d take what I could get, which was being an Academic Advisor at an Online University. At the very least online education was a rapidly growing industry. I could make it into a career. All I had to do was stick it out and it would all pay off in the end.
The problem was, that wasn’t true. I was miserable at my job. My manager didn’t like me and creativity was not encouraged. I found myself unable to get into the day-to-day politics and brown-nosing that underlies most corporate workplaces. I just couldn’t buy in. Had I truly gone to school all those years, only to wind up sitting at a desk each day in a claustrophobic cubicle? Yet, that’s the story I lived for years.
Finally, I married my high school sweetheart, we had a couple of kids, and I began living for my little ones. This is what it means to be a woman, is what I told myself.
Things didn’t really begin to change until my husband and I started our own business. I still didn’t really like it, but it was a taste of real freedom. A few years after that, I made a new commitment. Through lots of reading and self-reflection, I’d finally realized a few things. I understood now that life wasn’t a path that your elders laid out before you, and that no one else, not even your parents, could give you the map to your desires. The problem is, despite their best intentions, they didn’t teach us the most important lesson: to truly think for yourself and be guided by your own inner compass. The problem is we tune out on our intuition to focus on what the world says. It’s in that distraction and well-meaning advice that we lose who we really are. And with it goes the joy of everything that makes life worth living.
Here’s what I would have told myself 10 years ago, had I known then, what I know now…
1. That Bachelor’s Degree won’t get you far, but a go-getter mindset can take you anywhere.
2. You should really start reading some non-fiction. Try Rich Dad, Poor Dad to start with.
3. Stop trying to do everything perfect and focus on what makes you happy.
4. Perhaps you should only take success advice, from people that have actually been successful.
5. Go there, be that, do it all and then some, before you have a family.
6. Figure out what you want, because you think you do, but you don’t.
7. If you decide to go to Grad School, for Heaven’s sake, no more student loans!
8. You don’t have to work at a job you hate. That’s not what life is about.
9. One day you will have to exercise, and no one will ever call you skinny again. By the way, that’s not a compliment.
10. Embrace your individuality. Everyone won’t always get it, and some won’t even like you. Still, do what you want to do anyway.
I see now that my confusion during my 20’s was because I was living according to expectations that had been set for me by my parents, peers and society. I had never committed to my own. When you don’t feel genuine in the person you’re being, the natural result is discontent.
Now I don’t want my kids to ignore all my advice and never consider sound wisdom. But I hope I can teach my children to choose for themselves, instead of relying on anyone to choose for them. I want them to look at the world and see possibilities, instead of stern limitations. I want them to be creators.
I believe every one of us has things we wish we’d done quite differently. Now that I have children, I know I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant that I couldn’t have them. However, it’s interesting to think about what life would have been like, had I set aside my notions, and just allowed myself to live. I am thankful however, that I understand these things now, and I know just who I am and what I’m capable of doing. And if no one else understands it, that’s all right with me. I’m confident enough to do what the hell I want anyway.
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