Topic of the week: What advice do you wish you’d been given when you were younger?
This is a question I posed. I must have put it in the queue a long time ago, because I honestly don’t remember what made me think of it. Maybe I was frustrated by something the kids did or said. Or maybe I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a member of the Sandwich Generation – having kids and grandkids as well as an aging parent who needs care. Or maybe I was missing my dad and his calm, capable way of handling things. He always seemed to have a logical answer for anything that was bugging me. Anyway, I’ve almost always been one who needed to experience failure in order to understand what not to do. Advice like “Don’t run on wet tile” didn’t sink in until I’d skidded across the tile at the pool. So some advice probably wouldn’t have done me any good. But there are a few things I wish Dad would have told me:
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Back when I was in grade school, I realized that most of my friends had a Van or Vander in front of their last name. I asked Dad why we didn’t have a name like that. His response, “You can write Van in front of your last name if you like.” If the lesson he’d hinted at back then had sunk in, I’d have saved myself so much agony. So many things are not worth the effort to worry about.
Write everything down. I’ve kept diaries from time to time, and later on I’ve looked at them and laughed at how much I anguished over things that now seem trivial. While I suppose it could be depressing to know that problems get bigger, I look at it as a sign that I’ve always managed to overcome my problems and move on. I think I read somewhere that writing things down helps you let go of things that are bothering you. I haven’t tried that yet, but I know that making a to-do list for the following day helps me keep on track. Knowing that I have it written down helps me to get to sleep because I know I won’t forget something important. Even if I lose my list or forget to take it with me (which happens more often than I like to admit), simply writing something down makes it more likely I’ll remember whatever it was. As the years go by, remembering things is more and more difficult, so I’ve finally gotten in the habit of writing down as much as I can.
Ask questions. I’ve learned a lot by asking “Why?” I suppose curious toddlers have it right. Asking why gives you answers. Once I asked mom why we use chopsticks. She told me it was because it’s bad luck to cut your food after it’s been cooked. I’ve never been able to verify that belief, but the explanation worked for me. Now I wish I’d asked other whys when I had the chance. Why did grandma and grandpa come to America? What happened to the rest of dad’s relatives in Japan? Now it’s too late to ask. I should have asked when I had the chance.
Hug more. I’m not demonstrative by nature, and it might be a cultural thing. But I wish I’d been more attentive to the family members who are no longer around to hug. My grandkids all hug me, even the adult ones. I wish I’d done that for my dad and grandma.
Don’t dwell on mistakes you’ve made or things that have gone wrong. Focus on the happy times. I tend to be optimistic, but I do tend to dwell on things I’ve messed up on. Mistakes I’ve made. Things I should have said but didn’t. Things I said that I shouldn’t have. I think my scrapbooking habit helps with this. When I’m putting pictures in my scrapbooks, I’m reminded of the happy times. I’ve been at this for over twenty years now, and I’m running out of shelf space for my albums, but I’ll keep on going, because it’s therapy for me. It’s friend therapy because I normally work on these pictures while I’m with friends, and I’ve read that socializing with peers is good for you. And it’s other therapy because I’m reminded that there are plenty of good things happening, so I have nothing to complain about when it comes to my life.
I’m sure if I think about this some more I’ll come up with other things I wish I’d known, but this is enough for now. What advice do you wish someone had given you?