My birthday and the birthdays of loved ones are my favourite days of the year. Today my husband celebrates his 33rd birthday and as usual, I was in a baking mood. I made a chocolate and red velvet cake (weird combination? Not too sure but I am doing it anyway) and I am excited to celebrate with him. I turned 30 last October and a lot has happened since then. We moved back home to South Africa, I started the hunt for a job after being unemployed since mid 2017, and the biggest and the scariest thing is definitely the lockdown we are currently experiencing here in South Africa due to COVID-19. We feel extremely blessed to be able to be with our family during this difficult time.
The events of the past few weeks have led me to reflect on my life so far, the good but especially the bad. There are so many times in my life when I could have done something that I really wanted to do, something that would have made me happy. The people pleaser in me usually wins over things that I really want to pursue. A new thing I learnt was to remain quiet when people did or said things to me that I disagree on or that makes me feel uncomfortable or unhappy. This has been a big reason why my anxiety and depression have spiralled these last few years. I guess the big part about change is knowing what you want to change.
There are many things I have to say to my younger self, the first is to take care of my health. We never know the value of being healthy until we are unwell and usually by that time it is too late. There are so many times I could have chosen to eat well and to exercise and get into the habit of taking care of my body and reducing stress. I would tell myself that my emotional and mental health impacts physical health and to not ignore one aspect thinking that they are not linked to each other.
The second thing I would tell myself is that hard work always pays. When I was younger, I was convinced that I was intelligent and that it would always be that way, and when that wasn’t working anymore. I ended up blaming it on the teachers who weren’t teaching me properly. The fact is that anything can be accomplished with hard work. I never knew how important it was to surround yourself with people who have a growth mindset. Honestly, I didn’t even know that I had a fixed mindset until last year.
The next piece of advice I would give myself is to never stop reading. Reading was a habit I cultivated very early on in my life. I was a member of the public library in my area even before I started school. I am the only person in my family who has read more than 100 books in my lifetime. When I started working, I planned to buy one book with each paycheck. Well, that never happened. Firstly, I underestimated how expensive books actually are. Secondly, when I started working, it just became my whole life. I would spend all of my energy at work and have none for my own life. Naturally, I spent a good few years never picking up a book, even when I was on leave. I regretted this because when I did decide to start reading again, it was a difficult habit to implement. I am pleased to say that the lockdown has reinvigorated my love and joy of reading and I have already flown through 3 books over and above all the other household chores and studying I have done.
When it comes to the workplace, I would definitely not recommend bringing people from work into your personal life. While it is true that I met my husband at my job, as soon as I left the places I worked at, it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. Going further was when I had ‘friends’ from work involved in my wedding. It was disappointment central and that experience which was supposed to be a stress-free and best day of my life almost turned into the most disastrous day of my life. Not only was it an eye-opening experience, it was a tough lesson that I needed to learn.
I remember my first day at my 3rd job. I walked in, sat at my desk, and immediately came to the realization that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. Leaving that job was the worst decision I ever made when it came to my career. I called my mom during my lunch break and told her it was a mistake. What I should have done was looked for something else. Instead, I sat there for a year until the company consolidated with another division and relocated to another city. This led me to my last job, which also turned out to be a mistake in terms of my career and my personal life. Moral of the story, if you have made a decision and it has turned out to be the wrong one, DO NOT accept your fate, you can always make another decision to change your fate. This goes for every other part of your life.
Don’t ever be afraid to cut people out of your life. I am a people pleaser, it is one of the reasons I got into debt when I was younger and allowed people to overstay their welcome in my life. I have had my fair share of people humiliating and insulting me in my life and I chose to allow it to continue. When I was younger, I was straight-forward with everyone. I was labelled a b***h, cattish, and everything else an assertive woman is called. When I stopped doing that, I became miserable and ended up being depressed for a few years. I was so desperate for approval and sacrificed who I was to make everyone else happy at the expense of my own happiness. If I could go back, I would realise that if someone really cared, they wouldn’t mind me speaking up about my feelings, and if they did, they shouldn’t be a part of my life at all.
While there are so many other good pieces of advice I would give my younger self (I might explore this topic again) I would not stop journaling. When I was younger, I wrote down everything. Diaries were my favourite and it was always fun to go back and read all of the nonsense I wrote in them about my day, but more than that it was an escape for me to let all of my emotions out. When I was working, the people I used to work with were my escape. We would all vent about anything and everything that was going on in my life. It all fell apart when I left my job and moved away from friends and family. I didn’t have that escape and all the time to wallow in my emotions. I decided that the safest way for me to deal with all of the emotions I was feeling was to journal. It has honestly changed my life, and is something that I would recommend to anyone and everyone regardless of any circumstances.
While I know that there is no way I can go back in time (unless someone builds a time machine which would be the coolest thing ever) I would not be the person that I am today. What I can do is use the knowledge I have collected and use it to make my future better.
What advice would you give your younger self? I would love to hear it!
Stay safe and stay home!