Original Post 12/16/18 (updates added below as of 11/27/22):
How many choices would you say you make in a single day? Would it be safe to say we make thousands of choices between the time we wake up and the time we go to bed?
We have to decide what time to get up, what to wear, what to eat, and the list goes on and on. Much of our days are spent doing things we decided to do a long time ago.
Yesterday, our middle child graduated from college, following in her older brother’s footsteps. Needless to say, we are incredibly proud of all the hard work she’s put in to reach this milestone. The number of decisions it took for her to reach this point is almost mindboggling. All along the way, she had to choose whether or not to do the things she had to do if she wanted to earn a college degree.
As we watched the many graduates file into the auditorium, garbed in their caps and gowns, I couldn’t help but marvel at both the efforts it took for each of them to reach that point but also the endless possibilities stretching out before them. Most are at the very beginning of what will become their life
work. Some are charting a new course for themselves, making a choice to do something different.
I wondered how many of them knew what their next step would be. How many will find work in their chosen field? Would they like it once they were out there, working in the real world?
I have to admit, a tiny part of me even felt a twinge of jealousy. What would it be like to be twenty-something again, with nearly unlimited options ahead of me?
But it didn’t take me long to remember how scary it felt. Endless choices can be overwhelming and more than a little scary. Back then, the choices didn’t feel endless.
I also like to think I’ve learned a thing or two through the years since I last stood there in a cap and gown. Life teaches us all so much. Some of those lessons are best learned one time. Some are so painful I’d prefer never to have to repeat them.
So while I wouldn’t want to be twenty-two again, are there some things I wish I would have known then that I know now? Silly question, right?!
• I would tell my younger self to take more chances. To not always make the safest, least risky choice.
• I would assure my younger self I was smart enough and strong enough to take on big challenges and not settle.
• I would work harder to maintain those relationships in life that meant the most to me. I’d hug more and argue less. I’d let petty things go and find joy in the little things.
• I’d move more and sit less. And I’d definitely dance more.
• I would stress less about specific work tasks. It was never worth it.
• I’d warn myself that the endless list of tiny choices I’d make, day in and day out, would ultimately result in the quality of my life. It’s seldom the biggest choices we make, that seem so monumental at the time, that impact us the most.
Wow, I’d have been so much smarter if I could have shared all of this with my twenty-two-year-old self! But the reality is that even if that were possible, it might not have made any difference. Because until we live these things ourselves, and truly appreciate the impact of the choices we make, we won’t take someone else’s word for it. While the years may not always be kind to us, the lessons we pick up along the way will be invaluable.
We can’t go back. I wouldn’t want to go back. But we don’t have to. None of us are really much different from all those graduates standing in that auditorium yesterday. We all have endless possibilities before us. We just have to open our eyes to them. There are blessings in the hard-won wisdom we possess by the time we’re fifty-two instead of twenty-two. We know it’s better if we chose the wheat bread over the white bread and the vegetables over the chocolate. It’s better to find work we love than suffer through work that pays better. And relationships are worth fighting for, even on those days when you might not like the other person all that much.
It’s all about making better choices. And that’s hard to do until you have your own life experiences to draw upon.
Since I can’t go back and tell my twenty-two-year-old-self anything, I’ll instead remind my fifty-two-year-old self of a few essential things:
Having the gift of choice is a blessing. Choose wisely as often as you can, and when you stumble because of a poor choice, forgive yourself and chalk it up to some more of that hard-earned wisdom. Choose better next time.
Challenge yourself and encourage others. And please forgive me, but as a proud parent, I have to add one last note. As I finish writing today’s post, our youngest just popped into the room to tell us she got accepted into the top two colleges of her choice. Now she has a choice to make. The circle of life continues.
Speaking of the circle of life and how our choices impact us, here is a summary of some of the bigger choices my family has made in the four years since my original blog post in late 2018:
Some choices can be scary to consider and difficult to make, but hindsight can offer reassurances that the worst-case scenarios almost never come to pass. There is even more joy to be found when we bet on ourselves.
Always in your corner, cheering you on! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!