Hindsight is a lovely thing. But it is also a painful thing. Sometimes, we look back and realise how far we’ve come, how many lessons we’ve learned along the way….While hindsight can sometimes fill us with regret, it can also be a huge motivator to do things differently moving forward. In many ways, hindsight is one of the most wonderful teachers ever. Looking back at all the years, at all the moments of laughter and tears, joys and heartache, here are some of the things I wish I knew back when I was in my twenties:
1) You can never please everyone
For many many years, I worked hard at being ‘nice’. I wanted to be loved and appreciated by everyone. I prided myself on the fact that I had very few (if any) enemies. But it was not all a bed of roses. Over time, a friend or two betrayed me….Some openly criticised my decisions while others gossiped behind my back. When I chose to step out of the corporate word while I was having my babies, many told me I would regret my decision some day. And yet, these same people criticised me when I decided, many years later, to start working full-time. It struck me then….no matter what I do, no matter which path I take, no matter which option I choose, there will always be someone who will think it was the wrong move.
2) Crying doesn’t mean you’re weak
When I was in my twenties, I used to think tears were a sign of weakness. Surely only babies and cowards cry. But as I grew older, I realised that crying has therapeutic value and is good for the soul. Now, if I’m overwhelmed, exhausted and feeling hopeless, I give myself permission to have the occasional weep. The tears cleanse my heart and soul and once I’ve wiped away the last tear, I feel rejuvenated and once again ready to take on the world.
3) It’s the quality of friends that matter, NOT the quantity
After migrating to Australia over 20 years ago, I spent a lot of time initially making friends with anyone and everyone. I felt an instant sense of bonding if I bumped into someone who came from the same country as I did. As a new migrant, determined to build my network, I socialised relentlessly. Weekend potluck dinners….picnics in the park….friday girls’ nights out….As the years passed, I realised that I didn’t have anything really in common with many of my so called ‘friends’. Now I have a small and intimate group of friends whom I like to call my 2 am friends. Meaning they’re so staunchly loyal that I can call them up in the middle of the night if I have a problem and know that they will listen patiently.
4) There is no substitute for hard work
Today, this slogan is what I tell my children all the time. But I wish I believed it when I was younger. For many many years, I dreamt of writing a novel some day, but I had so many excuses lined up for why I couldn’t. I was too busy. I was too tired. There weren’t enough hours in the day. One excuse after another. One fine day I woke up and told myself: ‘Enough excuses! I’m going to write that novel. I don’t know how….I don’t know when…all I know is I’ll just have to figure it all out.’ After making that decision, I spent the next one year writing with feverish determination. There were many sacrifices. I declined dinner invites from friends…I set my alarm for 3 am most mornings as I had to leave for work at 8am…And that was how my book ‘Diary of an Immigrant Bride’ was born.
5) Your inner critic is sometimes your worst enemy
I let go of many opportunities in my younger years because I caved in and listened to my inner voice telling me I could never do it. ‘Don’t do it, you’ll fail’ that voice would tell me. ‘Or don’t do it, you’ll make a fool of yourself’ And so I gave it much more power over me than it deserved. I stopped in my tracks whenever that inner critic told me to stop. But as the years rolled by and I realised I wasn’t getting any younger, it was time to stand up to that inner bully. Now, whenever my inner critic pipes up, I tell it to be quiet. It doesn’t mean I’m less scared before taking on a new challenge. Most times, I’m terrified of pursuing a new passion or project. But I ask myself, if not now, then when? Time and tide wait for no one.
Over the years, I’ve made many mistakes. Foolish decisions. Missed opportunities. But I tell myself every now and then to pause, reflect and learn from them. As they say, your best teacher is your last mistake.