“If you could go back in time and talk to your 10-year-old self and say anything, what would you say?”
This was the question asked at a recent Table Topics contest at Downtown Toastmasters. With my icebreaker speech fast approaching and the topic having to be myself, I had been wondering what to talk about. In a matter of days, I discovered that this simple question led me on an interesting journey, worthy of speech material.
I thought very long and hard about the answer to this question. Before too long, I noticed a trend in how there were a lot of things I would have told my 10-year-old self NOT to do. I thought about a lot of guys I should NOT have dated. There were jobs I probably should NOT have taken. Goodness knows, there are even more things I should NOT have said. But there were two instances in my life that stuck in particular – poor choices I had made, resulting in some pretty harsh consequences.
I decided that the first thing I would have told my 10-year-old self NOT to do, is get a bachelor’s degree in creative writing. I knew I would never be the next Stephen King (yes, he was my favorite author at the time), I would never want to teach, and I didn’t have the backbone to take on all the rejection and criticism a career in creative writing laid out ahead of me.
I used that degree to wait tables at Amedeo’s Italian Restaurant for the next 5 years upon graduation. While I had fun and met some interesting people, I didn’t do myself any favors in establishing a career or furthering my education.
The second thing I would have told my 10-year-old self would be to NOT move to England in 2008. At that time in my life, I was perfectly happy. I was a Forensic Case Manager for a Pre-Trial Release Program and LOVED it. I was working toward my master’s degree in mental health counseling, running a non-profit organization, had a very active and enjoyable social life, and I gave it all up to skip across the pond on a 6 month work visa.
On the day I was supposed to walk at my graduation ceremony, I was flying to London instead. I spent the next 6 months in Newcastle and had a blast. However, my degree didn’t transfer over there and, unable to find work in my field (even through volunteering), I had to resort to telemarketing.
I came back to the US 6 months later with $36 to my name. I had to go back to North Carolina, the last place I wanted to be, and it took me about 2 years to get back on track in my career and move back to Orlando. While others with whom I had graduated were finishing up their license in mental health counseling, I didn’t want to move forward with it in NC, knowing the plan was to go back to Florida.
So those “mistakes” were the big ones.
I felt pretty satisfied, for a short time, that I had my speech. But then I got to thinking more about it and began to wonder: What if I hadn’t done those things?
We all know from watching “Back to the Future” that if you change one tiny detail, the whole thing gets screwed up! And here’s the realization: I like my life, exactly as it is. I love my job, I love Orlando, I love being part of the Metropolitan Business Association, I have terrific friends, and an amazing family.
And thinking about things from that angle, those “mistakes” don’t seem like “mistakes” at all!
Who knew? I still use my creative writing skills. I write this blog, I’m working on a treatment model for schizophrenia to help other mental health workers, and I occasionally write poems about the services BHC offers at our MBA meetings. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the creative writing classes and workshops I attended, made a lot of friends, and had some incredible professors and teachers.
Even the time I spend at Amedeo’s, I can’t regret. Boy, do I have some great stories from that time in my life! I have recently reconnected with a lot of my co-workers from back then on facebook and am not surprised to learn of the interesting, successful lives they are leading. I look at that period of my life as one of wonder, creativity, freedom, and FUN.
And moving to England? I had always wanted to live another country. It was an item on my bucket list and I checked it off. I made friends through my work there that I still talk to today and I try my best to go back every year as I consider some of those friends I made to be family. I have a room in a lovely home in Newcastle with my name on it, where I am welcome any time. I love England and will forever consider it to be my second home.
Being back in North Carolina for that time was no mistake either. I got to spend a lot of time with my parents, sister, nieces, and extended family. I was able to attend a lot of important family events that I would have, otherwise, been unable to do. During that time I also worked for an Intensive In-Home program that was remarkable and met (and, I think, assisted) some wonderful families who were going through a rough time.
So, when I look at things that way, those “curses” were actually “blessings”. And THAT became an even better speech! But now that my perspective on these events has changed, I have to RE-answer the question.
What I would say to my 10-year-oldd self is this:
“Dream big. Follow your heart. Be yourself. Never march to the beat of anyone else’s drum. You are going to grow up to be a unique and wonderful person. You are going to have some amazing life adventures and meet some fabulous people along the way. While your path is going to take you on the scenic route, as long as you do what you enjoy, it will always lead you to the right place. Your life ahead of you is FULL of blessings.”