Lessons to My Younger Self

Kathyrn Minshew of TheDailyMuse asked me to write a blog post around the series they are doing called Lessons to My Younger Self.  I was happy to do it.  The lessons that I have learned are lessons that I am happy to pass on.  It goes under the heading called mentoring.  If my generation can help the next generation learn from lessons we learned then hopefully they will do the favor to the next generation.   BTW, picture of my younger self. 

So here is the post:

I had lunch this past week with a very old friend of mine.   We met right after college at the Macys Kings Plaza store in Brooklyn.  She ran accessories and I ran cosmetics.  Our birthdays are one day apart.  We both turned 50 this month. 

I couldn’t help but ask her if she every thought about what her life would be at 50 and if she did, did it meet up to her expectations.   Her answer is that she has always enjoyed the moment, never really looking ahead so much but being happy at each point where she was.  My answer is that I have always been one with a desire to successfully move forward without having any road map.  My career has reflected that. 

What I mean by moving forward is that when I was in high school, I wanted to get to college.  When I was in college, I wanted to graduate and start my career.  When I was 14, I wanted to be 16 so I could drive.  Always moving forward but not really with a clear expectation of what I wanted when I got there.  Even at Macys when I began in a three- month training program, I was ready to get out to the first job as soon as possible and then ready to get promoted as soon as possible.  I have always been competitive and driven to financially succeed in a way that I would be able to take care of myself in a way that I wanted to live.  Of course at each turn I wanted more because that goes back to the desire to move forward and my competitive nature. 

When I opened up the first Women’s Entrepreneur Festival in January 2010 I spoke about my career choices and as I got older many of them had to do with children.  There was a point where I looked in the mirror and felt like I had somehow let my young ambitious self down.   When I spoke those words I saw people in the audience nodding their heads up and down.  Those words hit home to a lot of people who felt that somehow they had lost their identity with some of the choices they had made.  I know that I felt that way for a very long time. 

Perhaps it is my generation or perhaps it is just life as many women find themselves in the exact same position as I did even now.  They took time off, they took a different track that wasn’t as time consuming at work, or continued moving forward at a frantic pace and felt guilty about leaving their kids in the dust.  Need I go on?

So what is my advice to my younger self?  Do what feels right at each step of the way.  You can always pivot, you can always do something different but you can never recapture the time you spend with your kids and your family.  Julia Child didn’t start her career until she was way into her 40’s and look at the mark she made on the world.   Do what makes you happy and everything else will fall into place.  Don’t be so concerned with what’s next and do what my friend has managed to do which is enjoy each moment.  Life is short.  Take time out to smell the roses, carpe diem, give back, move forward but do it under your own terms. 

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Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    ‘Never regret anything, because at one time, it was exactly what you wanted’Very nice picture, that one. 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal


  2. Dan Wick

    Fantastic post, Joanne!  So true about balancing ambition and being present.  Being happy in the moment but always ready for what’s next.  Great advice.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks Dan!!

  3. kirklove

    Superb post.Was actually thinking of this just this morning. I feed The Bean and she fell asleep in my lap. I was late for work, though I didn’t care. That moment was more important. It felt so good to appreciate it.PS: Bonus points for the photo! 😉

    1. Gotham Gal

      Celebrate that moment. I so remember those times

  4. karakurth

    Love this. As a young mother this is exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you.

  5. Shripriya

    I was looking at this blog post and my kid, J, almost 4, sees the photo and says “I like this girl. I want to meet her.”

    1. Gotham Gal

      That is hilarious. I’m literally laughing out loud

  6. daryn

    Wow, you look just like one of your daughters in that photo!Great advice here. I explored a lot of things in a compressed time period, at an early age, then locked into a path when most of my peers were just starting their explorations. My career, for example, has been the same type of work, in the same field, and same type of companies, since I was 19. I’ve loved all of it, and it’s been very satisfying, but I “regret” never had the experience of a mindless miserable job for the paycheck. Seems a silly thing to wish for, but it’s one of those experiences that if you don’t have early, you probably never will. Maybe it has to do with immigrant parents, and the excitement of finding success while doing something fun, but my advice to my younger self would just be to be young. Like you said, to enjoy the moment, and not worry about “having your life figured out”, just make sure that you’re always learning, satisfying your curiosity, and moving forward.

    1. Gotham Gal

      that was my response to shri about laughing out loud. hit the button before this came in.you missed nothing with the job for the miserable paycheck.constantly satisfying your curiosity and learning through that process is absolutely the key to life. couldn’t agree more.

  7. Helenerosenthal

    great post but the picture is….priceless.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i particularly love the vest.

  8. cmschultes

    As a young(ish) father, this makes me think, too. Am looking in the mirror quite often lately, and have found it’s just as difficult/life-affirming for fathers as for mothers to close your eyes and jump…

    1. Gotham Gal

      yes, yes.

  9. artyowza

    what a darling photo!   made me smile.having things you want or need in the forefront of your mind is great advice…..(as well as ways you can give, share and connect) 

  10. Tereza

    Love the article, love the pic.  How old are you in it?  Around 8?  I ask bc my daughter is 8 now and i just love that age — it’s this “i can do anything” stage and I just want to bottle it or freeze-frame it so it’s forever.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i think i was 11.

  11. CCjudy

    What was Kings Plaza Macys? Near Kings theatre on Flatbush? Judy

    1. Gotham Gal


      1. CCjudy

        Where did you go to high school? J

        1. Gotham Gal

          churchill, potomac, md.

          1. CCjudy

            I see – you worked at Macys flatbush after school. I grew up in Flatbush brooklyn (like Barbra) JSubject: [gothamgal] Re: Lessons to My Younger Self

          2. Gotham Gal

            an amazing place…after coming from the suburbs of maryland i can tell you that i loved it.

  12. brazil6

    Cute picture!  Time is our most precious commodity and I totally agree that taking the time with our children and family is priceless…:)gr8t post!

  13. TanyaMonteiro

    lovely to see this picture of you! was recently struck by a comment made regarding a friends younger self. She always ask’s herself if she’s being loyal to her desires or her fears? Staying loyal to our desires regardless of the fear that’s moving forward in each moment.

  14. Arielle

    you are definitely in the prime of making your mark. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      Hope so