John: When I was 22, I got married for the first time, and wish someone would have told me that I was not emotionally ready to handle that level of commitment to another person. Sex, yes. Commitment no. When I was 24, my son was born, and I wish that I was less focused on me and more on raising him right, so he could’ve benefitted from my tutelage. At 25, I wish I would have cared less about what everyone thought about me, and focused more about what I thought about myself. I could’ve been happier. All of us have the tendency to be Monday Morning Quarterbacks, and look back on history with rose-colored glasses. The truth is, you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now because of all the decisions you made leading up to this point. Maybe I wrecked my first marriage, but I was able to grow from that, and have a pretty successful second one. Maybe I wrecked my relationship with my son, but I was able to repair it with him as he got older – and he was able to be where he is because his mom raised him. And let me say publicly, there was NO WAY I could have raised him as well as she did. She gets the credit. And maybe if I was less focused on what other people thought, I would not have been able to develop a ridiculously sick work ethic to work as hard as I can for what I want. Each year holds a few great lessons. The kinds that you must not miss, because you might not be able to recapture until two decades later. Damn sure pay attention.
Question for my three friends – what are the lessons you learned in your 20s that you didn’t catch until years later?
Jen: I have learned that increasing my overall knowledge ultimately multiplies how much I don’t know. I used to envision knowledge as something that is finite. Something that has a beginning, middle, and end. I was a card-carrying member of the “I’m a lifelong learner” club. By that I meant that I planned to learn everything there is to know about things that interest or are useful to me. For instance I would learn everything about drugs and the lifelong part would be learning about new drugs or new developments in the pharmacy world, etc. As I have grown in wisdom, not just knowledge, I have realized knowledge is infinite and ever-growing. Tackling certain subjects expands the mind and opens up more ’empty space’ to fill with new knowledge and ideas. I finally learned that there is a lot I don’t know, and that there will always be; and, moreover, that there will always be more that I don’t know than I do.
Molly: I am very thankful that social media did not exist in my 20s and that the lessons I learned at that time were not documented for all eternity! The biggest lesson that I learned in my 20s, but didn’t catch until later was that I do not have to drive full speed ahead all of the time. When I was 18 I had a plan for myself; go to college and graduate in 4 years, become a nurse, work for two years, and then get my masters degree as a nurse practitioner. I was on track until my first semester in my masters program, my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I dropped out of school to move home to take care of her. Without the family emergency, I most likely would have pushed ahead, despite not being happy on that particular path just for the sake of “not quitting”. To me quitting equated failing, even if it wasn’t the right fit. I made the same mistake again at the age of 30, when I thought it was a good idea to work full-time, with one year old twins, and started my masters degree again. Life intervened again, when I became pregnant with our third son and was put on bed-rest almost immediately. I was on the right path, I was taking on too much. I was fortunate to figure out that a more realistic approach was to work part-time while I went back to school and had three boys under three years old. You don’t always have to keep moving forward in order to get ahead, and sometimes quitting can be winning.
Trish: This is an interesting topic John. I think we all can look back to our 20s and wish we did things differently. I think about technology. How in my 20s, I got my very first mobile cell phone, my very own email address, and was thrilled to connect to the internet using a dial-up modem. How exciting those times were!!! Who would have known that all these years later we have super high-speed internet and super smart phones!! Looking back, I really wish that as new technology was introduced, that I would have been less excited and set a healthy distance in connectivity. I find that like most, I am too attached to technology and too “connected”. In my 20s I didn’t realize how much self-care I had because of the lack of total connectivity. I work today to find a healthy distance from technology to recharge my own batteries.
Originally Published on November 16, 2018 on LinkedIn
By John R. Nocero, Jennifer Rawley, Molly Downhour & Patricia Graham