2 Things I Wish I Knew When I was Younger

2 Things I Wish I Knew When I was Younger

When we’re young, everyone tells us that adult life is hard. But I recall as a teenager brushing those sage words aside, reassuring myself that things would all work out even though I didn’t know exactly how.

Spoiler – things definitely didn’t work out the way I thought they would.

But for all that adulting has turned out a lot harder than I ever expected it to be, I do think I have managed to stay on the course I originally set for myself. I haven’t hit any best seller lists. I don’t spend my afternoons sipping cocktails by the side of my personal pool. My house isn’t big and fancy, nor is my car remotely high-end. But as far as hopes and dreams go, I think I’ve managed to keep mine in sight.

Lately, I’ve been interacting with a lot of younger people, people who are still at the beginning of their adult life journeys. And that has caused me to think back on all the things I wish people had actually told me when I was getting ready to depart high school and make my own way in the world.

After some contemplation, I have settled on 2 pieces of life advice I wish I could pass back to my younger self.

1. Sometimes you have to make selfish-seeming decisions

Navigating adult life generally involves moving from job to job (and sometimes town to town), while trying to settle into a career you want to maintain long-term. Sometimes life makes those decisions easy; your boss decides for you that you don’t work in a specific place anymore, or you get a job opportunity that takes you to a new location.

But every now and then you stumble into a crossroads that offers a particularly difficult type of decision – change direction in a way that benefits yourself and, possibly, upsets other people in your life? Or stay on your current track, give up a possible leap forward and keep everyone else happy?

My husband encountered a moment like this while we were living in England. We both wanted to come back to Canada, so he kept his eye open for Canadian job opportunities. The only problem with this is that England hires its teachers much earlier in the school year than Canada does. By the time my husband found a coveted Canadian job, he had already accepted a job at an English school.

He had to decide; stay somewhere he wasn’t happy and honor his original commitment, or rock the boat for something we both really wanted?

I didn’t envy his position. But when he asked me about it, I said this: you have to make the choice that is best for you. Cross-country job opportunities are few and far between. The choice to stay had several cons that would have impacted our life negatively moving forward, while the choice to go offered us a lot of things we were looking for.

Sometimes to put yourself in the best position to accomplish your goals, you have to make someone else unhappy in the process.

Some will consider this ‘selfish’

Obviously, it’s a bad idea to make tons of professional commitments and break them. Obviously it’s rude to make a decision that affects a friend or family member without consulting them about it. The point of this advice is not to only ever consider yourself – that would make for a great many burnt bridges.

But I know many people who never consider themselves. They base their career and life choices on maintaining a certain precarious balance between friends, social life, current location or family preferences. If that works for you – great.

But if you only ever make decisions that make other people happy, you might find somewhere along the line that you are unhappy with where you have ended up and might have difficulty switching track. There will always be people who judge others for the choices they make. So put those voices out of your mind when the time comes to make critical life decisions. Do what puts you in the best position to live your best life, and give yourself permission to feel no guilt about moving forward.

2. Always keep your life goal in mind

Seems like such simple advice, right? But when you’re worried about finding a place to live, keeping a steady job, paying the bills on time and still trying to enjoy yourself at some point, it easily gets lost in the shuffle.

Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I faced a sea of voices warning me how impractical it was. There’s no money in writing. You don’t have the proper base skills for writing. You’ll need to find some other way to make money. I know x other writer and they basically live in poverty.

But all those negative voices just made me want to succeed even harder. So that I could prove wrong all those negative voices that seemed to seep from every aspect of my life.

My initial life plan probably matched every other teenager’s: brute force it. Throw yourself at that life until it submits to your every whim.

Sadly, that didn’t work out according to plan. I didn’t snap my fingers and land a literary agent. I struggled to write my first full-length novel. And when I did finally finish a novel, it received total crickets in response to my queries.

In my darkest moments, it wasn’t the rejections that weighed greatest on my shoulders. It was the overwhelming sense that all those voices had been right all along. The life I wanted to live was an impossible dream. My best option was to give up and get a real job.

But I didn’t – give up, that is.

What I discovered is that life is a winding road. It has many indirect paths that will take us to our end destination, so long as we keep an eye out for openings to change lanes.

Sometimes a step sideways is a step forward

I wasn’t able to pay the bills with writing directly out of high school. And working at Starbucks to pay the bills while writing wasn’t exactly fulfilling. For a few years, I avoided the idea of a better paying career because I thought that would lock me onto a track I wouldn’t ever be able to escape.

But when the food and retail grind threatened to crush me, I broke down and looked for something that felt more bearable. I landed on IT and enrolled in college.

But I kept writing.

I wrote between classes and during my spare time. I wrote on my lunch breaks and in the evenings after dinner. One way or another, I promised myself, I would write. If I had to write all of my novels on lunch breaks, so be it.

Thankfully, I have an insanely supportive husband. When the opportunity for me to write full-time arose, he allowed me to grasp it. We built a life that can be supported by a single career budget. We’ve had to adjust several times in different ways to ensure the available budget fits our expanding life goals, but we have managed.

We wouldn’t have been able to do that, though, if I hadn’t worked for several years as a full-time IT support specialist. The money I made from that job allowed my husband to finish teacher’s college save up for our first house.

In order to move toward my ultimate goal, I had to move sideways. I had to put writing partially on a shelf for a few years while I built a foundation that could support the cold, hard necessities of life as an author. But because I always kept my end goal in mind, I eventually forged my path.

What advice would you like to give your past self?

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