If I had known back while I was in my twenties what I now know, I would have lived my life a little bit differently. Don’t get me wrong; I have no regrets and love the life that has unfolded for me so far. But a few tiny tweaks and small changes would have made the feast of life a bit more delicious and satisfying. Allow me to share more on this theme of “If I knew then what I know now” with you here.
While I was in college at UCLA during the late 1970s I would have made a better effort at connecting with people and forming deeper friendships. I was married with two young stepchildren during that time and believed it was important to get back home as soon as possible each day.
We lived twenty-five miles from the college and the traffic was unpredictable. This meant I scheduled my classes on three or four days each quarter and seldom participated in social events or other extracurricular activities. I convinced myself these were not necessary and that my only goal was to complete my classes and earn good grades. I now know that spending more time with my classmates, professors, and others I came in contact with would have enhanced my experience and rounded out my education in untold ways.
If I knew then what I know now I would have made better use of the year I took off between graduating from college and starting law school. These days that year is known as a “gap” year and this concept actually began during the 1960s, but I was not familiar with it until decades later. The idea is that the student will take off a year after high school or after graduating from college to explore the world, get to know themselves better, and then make a decision from a more mature perspective.
This was not the case for me. My husband and I explored the United States with regular road trips that took us through more than forty of the fifty states. Sometimes the kids were with us (they spent time with their grandparents as a way to help them understand and accept the loss of their mother) and our trips included stops at every place along the way that made them smile. These trips were relaxing and educational and helped us to know ourselves and each other on a deeper level.
I was mature beyond my years already, so that was not why I took the year off. I did it because I was tired, physically and mentally from years of working hard with academics. I had gone to school year around since finishing my high school studies and wanted to enjoy some time without the pressure of reading, writing, and preparing for the assignments and projects leading up to the final exams for each course.
What I didn’t know then was that I wouldn’t need an entire calendar year to get my energy, vitality, and motivation back; a summer away from academia would have been sufficient. Instead, I applied for jobs with several corporations and worked as a waitress at the local coffee shop while I waited to hear back from them. It was January before I was hired, and it was for the phone company. I believe it was called Bell Telephone during this period but I honestly can’t remember.
The job was tedious and I was assigned to a cubicle on the top floor of a brick and mortar building with no windows just outside of downtown Los Angeles. I was issued a card to get in and out of the parking garage. My badge stated my name and employee number and had to be around my neck facing the correct way so I could enter the building. My access was only to the floor I worked on and the floor where the cafeteria was located and I never asked what was happening or who was working on the other floors of a building at least twelve stories high. If I knew then what I know now I would have asked more questions and paid closer attention to what was going on around me five days each week.
It was awful and I counted the hours until the weekends. I silently cheered at a holiday. And when they asked if I needed three hours on Good Friday for religious reasons I said yes without a second thought. Those hours were spent sitting in my car in the parking structure and praying for this year off from my life to be over so I could return to school.
If I had knew then what I know now I would have taken an intern position doing something that interested me. This single action could have led to a mentorship or a career or an awakening on my part as to what I truly wanted to get involved in as my life’s work.
So far I have shared that I would have made better choices as to how I spent the year between college and law school if I had known then what I know now. What else would I have done differently during those years as a young adult? I would have…
- sought out a mentor to guide me in my life decisions – since the time I was old enough to make my own choices I believed I could do everything myself. Refusing to ask for or accept help from others gave me mediocre results instead of allowing me to have the advantage of someone else’s experience and wisdom. These days I have mentors in different areas, as well as being a mentor to those who need guidance in the areas where I am an expert.
- appreciated and been more grateful for my life more, at every age and every stage – I always wanted to be older, or younger, and to be in a situation different what what I was in at the time. We are where we are and can change many aspects of our life at any time by taking inspired action to do so in a way that will serve us over time.
- been more adventurous – deep down in my soul I was afraid and allowed my fears to determine my fate. Yes, we live in a crazy world and many terrible things are happening at all times, but by focusing on this we miss out on the beautiful world where everything is possible and amazing things are occurring at all times. These two worlds exist and it is up to us to take the necessary steps to experience life head on.
- focused on growing a business instead of taking jobs as my primary means of income – I was not an excellent employee. I had too many ideas of my own and wanted to do things my way, especially when I experimented and found them to work well. This all came to a head while I was working as a classroom teacher and forced to adhere to an outdated view of what public school education was meant to include in the United States. I was appalled at what went on and it would have been beneficial for me to leave after about five years, instead of staying for twenty years. Again, I let the uncertainty of business and the economy keep me from doing full time what would have been a better life experience overall.
- worked to increase my confidence and my level of self-esteem – my real estate business was a viable one, but could have been much more successful if I had learned more about marketing and sales. I told myself stories as to why I had ups and downs over the decades but the truth is that it was all up to me to make things happen.
The most important thing I would have done differently if I knew then what I know now is to take full responsibility for everything in my life. Instead, I played the victim and blamed people and situations for my outcomes. It wasn’t the economy, other people, my humble beginnings, or anything else that kept me from living my life to the fullest until I started my business as an online entrepreneur in 2006. It was me – my negative thoughts, my uncompleted actions, my fear filled beliefs, my lack of connections with others, and my inability to be willing to do whatever it takes to achieve my goals that held me back.
Again these are not regrets, just parts of my life that I would have experienced differently if I had taken the time to learn more, shift my thinking, and ask others for more help. I will spend the remainder of my life first working on myself and then on my business. So far this strategy has changed my life from the inside out and it feels so good to take full responsibility and to be a student of life on my terms.
I’m Connie Ragen Green, a kind and generous spirit and adventurer enjoying my life’s journey as an author and entrepreneur. I’d love to work closely with you to help you to achieve your life goals.