Guidance for my younger self
Because my family immigrated when I was young, I have felt I missed important mentoring that would have helped me in my academic life. My parents were brave, and did the best they could, but while they were working hard at surviving, they had little time to figure out a whole new educational system and what hoops I needed to jump to get places.
More than that, because I was not a fluent English speaker, I feel I missed out on the mentoring that might have been there more broadly for life in general. I think young people need adults other than their parents to give them advise when young. As a parent I am so close to my children, sometimes it is hard to see the wood for the trees. And I am so emotionally invested, it is hard to step back at times to think clearly about the situation. Moreover, honestly, like all teens, at times my kids just don’t want to listen to me, despite my great wisdom and eloquent reasoning… such is life.
This is where I think other kind adults are important. To listen to my kids in a way I cannot. To give them ideas and guidance when I cannot or when kids want to listen to others.
With this in mind I thought about some of the advice I would give my younger self looking back at what I have learned in life. Here is what came to mind tonight.
1. I have never regretted being kind to someone. I have deeply regretted unkind words I have said. I love remembering when I made someone happy by a kind word or action. I shrink and hide when I remember the hurt in the eyes of someone I love because of sharp, thoughtless, or unkind words. Just pause before you speak. You can’t take words back. Make them kind.
2. I regret complaining at work. It was never useful. It did not build up teams and it created distrust. Don’t be a complainer, be a solution maker. Be a good-point seeker. Be a positive-aspect-finder.
3. BUT the last point does not mean be a rug people can walk on. Speak up for yourself. Know what you need, know what you can do, and speak up if you feel uncomfortable, or under-appreciated. Speak kindly but speak clearly.
4. Take up space. Don’t try to shrink. Don’t worry about what others think about you – they are usually not thinking about you, they are thinking about what others are thinking about you. Step into who you are and use it to pull others up. Most people are desperate for a word of affirmation and will blossom into beautiful friends with kindness.
5. When people show you who they are – believe them. This comes via Dr Maya Angelou. Your job is to grow into the best version of yourself. Your job is to be kind to others. Your job is NOT to change others.
6. Keep learning. Find new things to love, try new books, join new classes. It is a bit scary, and it is very exciting. You will feel brave, courageous, you will be proud of yourself, and you will have more empathy for others learning what you have mastered.
7. Remember each phase of life is fleeting. Enjoy it and don’t worry about what will come of long for what was. Looking back or waiting for tomorrow you will miss today. Make memories, not plans or regrets.