5 things I would tell my younger self (even though I know I wouldn’t listen)
It’s taken me over sixty years to feel as though I can call myself a “wise woman.” For some reason the age of sixty was a benchmark for me in what I refer to as the wise people community. It didn’t have anything to do with my hair having to be grey, even though it is. And I didn’t feel as though I had to have a face full of wrinkles or a body that was bent and aging. It was more of a certain confidence that I noticed in others as they age. A confidence that comes from exposure to different experiences, struggles, successes and relationships. A time in your life when you can hold your head up high and not care if anyone else agrees or disagrees with you, it just is after all your life.
After spending time with family and friends over the holidays and sharing stories, some funny, some tragic and some just plain stupid, I thought about my life and what I could offer for advice to myself. I know, I know, I’m not going to listen, but I thought about these bits of advice anyway.
Here are the 5 things I would tell my younger self:
- Friends and family: You know the saying “you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family”? I never really thought about what that meant until I moved overseas. Moving to a country where I had no friends or family opened up a world of possibility of just who I wanted in my life. Have you ever given any thought to being more selective of who you spend time with or interviewing possible friend candidates? Usually friends come through us from school, work or other introductions and we rarely reach out ourselves to meet someone new. In moving to a new country, I knew that one of the things that would help make this bold move a positive one was to find new girlfriends and fast.
I have to say that I was a little intimated to seek out new girlfriends as I was in a country where I did not speak the language. I got all caught up in my head about how embarrassing it would be to say to someone “hey, you wanna be my new friend?” So, I decided to hide under the social media cloud until I gained more confidence. In that, I began kind of stalking women on the social media sites I belonged to. I was seeking women in the city that I was living in that had similar interests or similar postings and I began reaching out to them to meet for coffee. Sounds kind of creepy as I write this but that is exactly what I did. As you can imagine some women never responded and quite possibly blocked me from their social media feeds. Other women, possibly being in the same circumstance, welcomed me with open arms.
So, my friendship speed-dating type interviewing began. I realized that I had a choice. I realized that I didn’t have to like everyone and that not everyone was going to like me, and that it’s all okay. Wow! What a load was lifted from my shoulders.
The result is that I live in a foreign country with women from all different nationalities, religions and cultures and I get to call these amazing women my friends. We have rich and deep conversations. We teach one other new recipes and uses for spices. We share our experiences and our thoughts of world views. We show one another our countries own unique traditions, music and share traditional costumes. My life is so rich from these new friendships. The action of taking an active role in discovering new girlfriends has given me a fearlessness and courage to be able to replicate this wherever I travel or move to, knowing that there are women just like me seeking new, healthy and rich girlfriends.
- Career: I was one of the fortunate ones. I knew at a very early age what I wanted to do. I think I came out of the womb knowing that I would have a career steeped in retail that would lead me to taking part in developing leadership programs for others. I saw retail as a way to communicate. Once I had the confidence of being one of the best in my field I began to pull out the disciplines that I enjoyed most and began to share those. That served me well in building my life full of passion and purpose.
Now I get to travel the globe, work with international companies in team building and bridging the gap in cultural differences to enhance the work place and profit margin. My work with individual female clients takes a deeper dive into helping them to create a life of soulful purpose using past experiences to design a life filled with passion. Although this unfolding took time, I had layers of negative thinking that I had to release. Layers of self-doubt and perceived unworthiness that needed to be dealt with, but the work and the learning has paid off in ways that I never dreamed of. Doing what you love, even if it is one tiny aspect of your work and learning all that you can about that one thing will take you places you have yet to uncover.
- Do what you love: Undoubtedly you have heard the quote, “do what you love and the money will follow?” I was lucky enough to have a great role model that made this quote come alive. My Dad was a Chiropractor when it was illegal. As a young athlete he had been helped by a Chiropractor and decided that he wanted to do the same.
He fought long and hard for his beliefs and for his profession and taught us (my brother and sisters, who are all entrepreneurs) to do the same. It’s not always easy and you don’t always get it right the first time in being an entrepreneur or tackling a profession or career that you love but once you find that “thing” that makes your heart sing, with patience and nurturing the pay off is huge in more ways than one.
Doing what you love for me is a layering process. There were many “things” that I loved doing throughout my life. Many “things” that I enjoyed learning about. It wasn’t until I began noticing a trend that everything began to click. I noticed that I was always placed or gravitated toward leadership positions, I noticed that the teams I built were solid, strong, with little or no turnover, I noticed that these skills could be used anywhere in the world, I noticed that my one on one relationships were more comfortable and deeper with my female clients.
Doing what you love is a mastering of a few small skills or interests and doing it better than anyone else you know. One of my biggest lessons in doing what I love is just being authentic and those that are ready for the message will gravitate toward you.
- Live where you love: This seemed to take me forever to understand or grasp. As a mother and now grandmother I had all kinds of perceived ideas of who and what I was supposed to be. Yet, somehow in my mind that did not equate to the life I dreamed about or the life that was playing out in actuality. I was racked with guilt and shame as my role of a mother seemed to veer of course. I was sure that my children would be damaged for life and that there was no one to blame but myself. I had no other role models that I could look up to for inspiration or support.
Then the grandchildren came. I began to have anxiety about what that role meant. I didn’t have the big house with the wrap around porch that I saw in all the movies. I had a career that took me all over the country and parts of Europe. How could that possibly compare to what being a good grandmother looked like in my head? Then the big blow came, the blow that changed everything.
One night while on a Skype call with my granddaughter, who was 6,000 miles away, she said, “you’re the Grammy that lives at the airport.” Although some or many of you may be chuckling at this statement, for me on the other end of the phone I struggled to hold back the flood of tears. What I heard was, I was the Grammy that was not around, I was the Grammy that had no home, I was the Grammy that was not there. My heart felt shattered into a million tiny pieces. All the voices of friends and family that told me I would never last living overseas were blaring in my head.
Then, after the sobbing ceased, I saw the other side of the conversation. I saw the Grammy that could show my little granddaughter the world, I saw the Grammy that could instill a confidence that anything is possible, I saw the Grammy that could help her bridge the gap in cultural understanding and acceptance of others. This Grammy could now stand up tall. This Grammy didn’t have to fit the mold, this Grammy could provide something else. I love living a life abroad. I learn something new every day, either about the place I am visiting or myself. It is an ongoing love affair. One that I hope more people will venture to discover.
- Money: It is impossible to talk about life long advice without touching upon money matters. Money is said to be an exchange of services rendered. Ok, sure, in your chosen profession the dollars you are paid may not seem enough and usually are not. But that’s not all that this is about. How do you take care of your money? What are the things you spend your money on that are not worthy of it? How many things do you purchase that you don’t need but what you want? How many things that you purchase do not enhance or provide joy in your life?
After reading the book, “The life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo, I realized just how much money or exchange of energy that we waste. Moving to a foreign country and going through the process of down-sizing or in my terms “right-sizing” was life altering. My husband and I had accumulated lovely antiques throughout our life together. Our home was welcoming and warm. Yet when the time came to leave it all behind, the never-ending task of emptying the drawers, closets, garage and storage seemed too much to handle.
None of our children wanted anything. We were burden with stuff, mementos, furnishings that somehow, we thought defined who we were. Then the process of giving it all away began. We struggled in letting go. We moved things from one pile to another seeking to hang on for just a while longer. Then the deadline came. The home was sold, the airline tickets purchased, this was real. It was happening. We dreamed it, we are doing it. Sadness, joy, elation, anxiety came flooding in all wrapped up into one big mixed up emotional mess.
We were told by financial advisers that we needed several million dollars in order to retire or live this lifestyle. We were told that the life we dreamed of was not achievable with our current financial forecast. We were told we didn’t have enough. There is it, that not enoughness again. It took me years to get rid of that scarcity thinking and I wasn’t about to begin adopting it again. So, I began to research. An all-consuming research of others that had lived a life abroad. Of others that didn’t have millions or that had lost their savings in the stock market or poor investment choices.
I knew there was a way, and that meant that keeping scarcity and fear out of the conversation was important. There was no place for the word “no” without a conversation of where it came from. I left no stone unturned. I looked to the internet and found articles on grandparents.com and Time magazine on couples that threw in the towel for plane tickets. I joined internet communities of people that were transferred for career opportunities around the globe, looking at what they did for work, how often they moved and where to, as well as how they lived. Come to find out, it was achievable. I wasn’t making this up and I certainly wasn’t the first one to do this. Fear and scarcity have no place here, the money conversation is about what you want out of life. Stuff or experience. We each have our own answer. By becoming convicted to your dream, seeking a way to make that happen (legally), and then stepping into it without guilt, shame or embarrassment can be done. “What your mind can conceive and believe, your mind can achieve” and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
So, to you, my younger self, I know we must learn from our own mistakes. Each of us uses life lessons in a different way and they mean different things to each of us. Try to remain present, stay away from the blame game, and keep your eye on the prize – no matter how big or small. Live your life, not that of those around you. Listen to your heart, not of those that you see in the movies. Create your world full of the richness that beautiful friendships can offer, work to become special and unique at one thing and share it with the world, do what makes your heart sing, love wherever it is you lay your head at night, and believe that your experiences are not limited to the amount of money in your pocket but are limited to whether or not you choose to have that experience.
What are the things that you would tell your younger self?
To your journey, make it yours!