Every day I learn something new about life. I think that to learn is to grow, and the minute you stop learning you die. Maybe not physically, but emotionally and mentally, for sure. When I think back over my past 32 years, I think about all the life lessons I’ve learned. There’s been a lot of them, to be sure, but a few stick out in my mind. The biggest one, though, is fairly simple.
Don’t let expectations of how you SHOULD be force you into something you’re NOT.
When I was growing up, it was always expected that I would do well in school. Pay attention in class, earn good grades, do extracurricular activities…those types of things. What’s weird, however, is that college was never part of the equation. No one in my family had ever gone to college before, not even in my extended family, so it was never really talked about that I’d be any different. In fact, the expectation was the opposite. Everyone just expected that I’d stay at home after high school. I’d find a local job, find a man, settle down and get married, and have some children. And, let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with that plan! If that’s what you want out of life, then absolutely, it’s a great plan! But, if it’s not really your cup of tea, then there’s a problem. And, obvious or not, that plan wasn’t my cup of tea.
Sadly, my parents weren’t onboard with my plan, which was attend college and move away from home to pursue a career. And, especially in the beginning, I can see why. College was new and scary for them, they’d never had a child move away. All in all, it wasn’t sounding like a good thing, so I can definitely understand their lack of support and hesitation. Emotionally, it would have been so incredibly easy to just cave and do what was expected of me. There was a lot of guilt and pressure to toe the line (so to speak) from my parents, and at times I could feel my determination to carry on waiver. There was a lot of heartache, and some harsh words, and it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but I decided to stick to my guns and go to college.
Looking back, no regrets. It was, hands down, the absolute right decision for me. I thrived in college, learned so much, and accomplished my dream of going to law school and being a licensed attorney (even though I don’t currently practice). It was years of hard work and dedication, late nights and too many caffeinated beverages. I worked more part-time jobs than I care to count, and had to make some tough decisions during my years there, but I learned so much more than what was in a book. I learned life skills, decision-making skills, coping skills. My critical thinking really developed, and even though I had no background in corporate marketing or program leadership, I’m happy to say that I’ve done really well in both areas, mainly due to the skills that I picked up while on my own in college. All of that maybe wouldn’t be true now, had I caved and followed what my parents expected of me.
So, that’s my greatest life lesson, up until now. It was hard learned, hard-fought, and especially hard-won, but worth every struggle. What about you? What is your greatest life lesson?