Next month will mark a milestone birthday for me. I have approached the midway point between 30 and the big 4-0, and many moons have passed since dictates of Western culture have deemed it appropriate for me to meet birthdays with anything but sackcloth and ashes. While I regret this attitude towards aging (I prefer to think of it as ripening, like fine wine or really good cheese), as another anniversary of my birth approaches I have taken the opportunity to take stock of my time on earth thus far. So, rather than keep my failures and regrets to myself, I thought I would share a bit of my wisdom…and folly. Hopefully you can either relate to the errors of my ways or, even better, learn from my missteps. Without further ado, here are eight things I wish I had done differently.
#8—I wish I had had better taste in men—or boys, really—in high school. Better yet, I wish I had not sampled that particular dish at all until the opposite sex was given a bit more time to “ripen.” As the mother of three boys and the wife of a great man, I hate to say it but most males under the age of 25 are like tadpoles, not really hatchlings but most definitely not yet frogs. Also, I knew some great gals in my early years, and I wish had given them more of my attention.
#7—I wish I had taken my studies in college more seriously and given more thought to what I enjoyed learning about. When else in your life do you get to hang out with such learned people whose express purpose is to help you to become learned as well? Luckily, I am married to one of them so all is not lost.
#6—I wish I had figured out earlier how wise my parents are. It would have saved a great deal of trouble for me and many sleepless nights for them. I know it’s a cliché but it’s true. Hopefully I am making it up to them now.
#5—I wish I hadn’t confused politeness and kindness. Recently, I have realized the damaging effects of not speaking your mind and being up front with others. If nothing else, it often leads to gossip when, out of a desire not to give offense, you “speak your mind” to someone completely unrelated to the situation. I have learned that it’s better to ruffle a few feathers than to stab the bird in the back, so to speak.
#4—I wish I had said “no” to the tattoo. Nothing more needs to be said on this subject.
#3—I wish I had figured out earlier that being morally good and being interesting are not mutually exclusive. Thank goodness I met my husband who dispelled this myth but a lot of morally upright and fascinating people passed me by before he came along.
#2—I wish I had learned to balance my check book at 20 rather than 30. It’s only money, but the daughter of a banker should know better.
#1—I wish I had thought more about what I should be doing than what I wished to be doing. I have never been happier than when I was doing the former and never more miserable than when pursuing the latter. Getting older may have given me a few more wrinkles and slowed my metabolism a bit, but my experience has also taught me to be less selfish and more eternally minded. So this year, when I see all those candles burning on my birthday cake of choice (chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting, since you asked), I will choose to see marks of maturity rather than the fires of doom. The old grey mare may not be what she used to be, but that may not be such a bad thing after all.
Ripening indeed. I like that perspective.
And I’m grateful for your candid reflections above. Some will live many more years without learning those lessons, and many will benefit from your learning them when you did. Thanks for passing on that wisdom.
Hi amy – I have to say, I was at Taylor about the time you were there – graduated in ’97. I have very similar feelings about #3 – I definitely let the “goodie, goodies” pass me by only to realize later what I missed. the wisdom here is realizing and changing for next time. Thanks for your honest post.