Question of the week #19
If you look back at who you were at 17
or so, and what you expected in your life, are you still "the same
person" inside? Is your life fundamentally what you hoped for, or is it
I really do believe that fundamentally I am the same person inside as I was at 17. I recently met with an old boyfriend who I had not seen since I was 20. He emailed me the next day to say that I am the exact same person and he meant that in a very good way. Phew.
I was not a great student but I was always competitive and driven to financial success. I came from an upper middle class family and my parents got divorced while I was in High School. Money was always an overlying issue. My father thought my mother spent too much and my mother thought he was cheap. She went on to make a small fortune after their divorce in order to live the financial life she wanted to live. Having lived through that most definitely made an impact on me in terms of my desires to have large financial independence. Did I think that I'd be as financially success as we are? Not so sure but then again not so sure I knew the dollars and cents as much as I knew how I wanted to live my life.
Career-wise I always thought I'd grow up to run a multi-billion dollar company that I had built from scratch. I always had a head for business and actually management too. One of my all time favorite jobs was being the assistant store manager at the New Rochelle Macys store. I managed 1/3 of the store and loved it. I loved the interaction with the people, helping them grow in their careers and at the same time making an impact on the growth of the business. I was well suited to it.
Yet there are some things that are different which I think comes with age and success. I make decisions differently as I do not need to get so bogged down in the details. I feel more confident about decisions that I make. I understand that with financial success comes with its own bag of responsibilities and it is not always easy going about that. Saying no to anything from a charity to investments is constant. I try to stick to the high road and keep my compass the same as it has always been but that takes work.
I am feel incredibly lucky for the life we have created for ourselves and our children. I got what I wanted. A great husband, wonderful children, a life in NYC and the financial flexibility to do certain things. I wanted that at 17 but pretty sure that I could not articulate it like I can today but internally it was definitely what I was hoping for.
Thanks for sharing; I appreciate your authentic disclosure and mirror much of your journey. Great example for others.
love this post! enjoy the weekend,
I’m still a kid a heart when I can be. I’ve been on the extremes professionally either pounded badly or flying very high.
Letter to 20 year old self by Sugar a/k/a Chery Strayed (I am not sure if she is the same person now or not or how she would answer):Dear Me Back Then,Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.In the middle of the night in the middle of your twenties when your best woman friend crawls naked into your bed, straddles you, and says, You should run away from me before I devour you, believe her.You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.When that really sweet but fucked up gay couple invites you over to their cool apartment to do ecstasy with them, say no.There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him to fuck you anyway. This will be a mistake for which you alone will pay.Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t “mean anything” because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.Say thank you.Yours,Sugar
.Love the rant. Lot of weird wisdom in there. Weird wisdom, mind you but wisdom nonetheless.JLM.
“Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
When I was in a terrible marriage in my early 20s, the image that kept coming up in my head was that I wanted “a room of my own.” Something small, a little cheap room somewhere that had nothing to do with my husband. A place where I could read and THINK.I knew nothing of Virginia Woolf. It was a primal cry.
Yep. You might also want to look at the comments to the rant that you wouldn’t get otherwise. 🙂
When you are 80-something, you will still be 17-or-so in your heart, but a very, very wise 17. An old soul.A few months before she died, I asked my 80-something grandmother how old she “really was.” She gave me a twinkly grin and said, “Eighteen.” She and my grandfather were courting on “Nucky Thompson’s” Atlantic City boardwalk when she was 18, and their marriage lasted their whole life. From her, I know I get my sense of the story, the moment that must be lived or noted and preserved. She always had stories, and I know she taught me the rhythm and the value of stories when I was a small child.Sugar, you know how to acknowledge the sweetness in the midst of the dreck, and with wisdom, you know when to step around it, because it ain’t roses that the horses left behind!My mother may be dead by spring. She lived a good life, but her energy is fading by the day. When I call her now, I remind her of our little moments–lady’s slippers in the woods around her parents’ farm, dogs we loved, flower gardens, apples we picked from an abandoned orchard. I’ve long since forgotten the clothing of the wrong color but right intention that she gave me over the years. Right now it’s plenty that she still knows who I am, hears my little stories, and every time I say, “I love you,” and she says, “I love you, too.”Yes, when I was 17 or 18, I was much the same as who I am now, but not as articulate, and not as attuned. I think the wisdom with the years tunes us to pay attention to the important things.
i am not sure i am 17 but i agree, you just get older with the same age.
I believe that those of us who still know who we were/are at that younger age — we are the ones who retain the ability to take a risk, to step forward into an unknown future, to change our minds when faced with new information, to … well, to be entrepreneurs. Whether in the practice of business or by carrying that mindset into our practical lives, as intrapreneurs, or as those who mentor others with more youth, stamina, or bravado.I think if we hold onto that sense of our younger selves, we retain the ability to live our lives more fully. Salute.
.Here’s the real question — when you dream who are you?Are you the big girl all “growed up” and accomplished or are you in your 20s and the whole world is waiting — like at a surprise party — for you to show up?The disguises that we put on ourselves — a very good thing, mind you — are all of our own re-invention. Try as many as you think you can get away with. More than one will fit.Just know that they are all just disguises.We are all still Fifth Columnists from our own past, from that person who owns our dreams. Who when totally free we become again, in our dreams.Find that person.I bet your old boyfriend was pissed off that you ended up with Freddie. And that the two of ya’ll hung the moon. Haha. Life is sometimes delicious.JLM.
Poetry. Thanks for sharing.
I simply don’t know.What i do know that when i was 20, I was living on top of a mountain in North Central British Columbia, making musical instruments, organizing community fairs, running bees in the Okanagan and writing fiction and plays.I was happy.I spent 25 years building tech/consumer companies and now am still doing it and advising.Happy now.I guess I never had a plan. But I’ve always known not to do what I’m not suited for.Thanks for the share!
Great line – always known not to do what I’m not suited for. Wish I could say the same.Are you CDN?
No, US citizen.
So you’re still making “music,” organizing community, and writing. What’s different? Oh, you’re appreciation of good wine as it serves as one element in community-building. 🙂
I think everyone gets what they want out of life.I just think sometimes people are unaware of what they want – in essence, they think they want A when, inside, they really want B.Here’s to your A game.
I’m all over someone playing their A game.But life dishes out some very strange curve balls. (Hurricane Sandy is just one reminder.)Go watch “Grapes of Wrath” again if you need a refresher, and notice that the current economic “dustbowl” has devastated much of the country. Take a tour of Detroit if you doubt me.I’m now in the hotbed of new hiring — West Texas. The U-Hauls are the current equivalent of the overloaded pickup with the rocking chair on top. Worse yet, there are jobs in this area, but no housing. Want a hotel room for $250 a night? A week at Value Inn for $499?My neighbors have 6 people in a 2-bedroom apartment, and I think management has relaxed the occupancy rules just because there is nowhere else to go. Even the RV parks are full, with no vacancies in sight.
I grew up in Odessa and presume you are near there. I always loved the bumper stickers we had there back in the 70s ” God , please give me just one more oil boom and this time I promise not to piss it all away” Eric in Austin
An elegant woman, in her very fashionable late sixties, down at the dog park with her rescue dog, said basically the same thing. She’s a 30-year “newcomer” to the West Texas area.She knows the boom-times come and go. Seems she’s weathered the down times well. Perhaps partly because she knows how to play with her dog when the weather is good. I think she’s really 17.
I am sort of the same, but profoundly changed. Much deeper thinker than I was. Started soon after graduation at a bayonet assault course in the mountains of Colorado. I took a path-and looking back I would have taken a much different one. But, you can’t ever change the past, so it’s the path forward you have to change. Ironically, I have the same core friends I had when I was 12. Although, one of us is going to die soon. That’ gives you perspective.
“Ironically, I have the same core friends I had when I was 12.”I firmly believe there is a lot to be said by how long you have known your close circle of friends. Those that cycle through close friends throughout their lives – probably aren’t such good friends in the first place.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to be in proximity to real peers at an early age. And some kids have parents who move every few months or years because of their jobs. The kids end up leaving behind friends who they might have known throughout their lives if they had longer to mature the friendships.Judge not, unless you’re walking a mile in the other kid’s high-tops.
Moving when really young is one thing, but any close friends in middle school or high school or beyond — it’s your choice whether to keep in touch with them or not. And them vice versa. Though I wouldn’t consider us “best” friends now, I’m still extremely close with my best friend from 6th grade. When we do see each other it’s as if nothing has changed, and he’ll definitely be a groomsman in my wedding (whenever that happens), even though we haven’t lived in the same city since senior year of high school (I’m now 30).I’m not saying you have to stay close friends with every single close friend you’ve ever had. I haven’t. I am saying regularly cycling through “close friends” is a bad sign. I’m getting at the scenario where your close friends change every couple years, and you don’t keep in touch w/ past close friends at all (or have falling outs w/ them).
Fair enough. I accept your point. It just doesn’t match with some people’s lives. Those who can stay in touch are very, very fortunate.
Maybe I have a unique skillset of keeping in touch.. 🙂
none of us went far away to college. none of us took jobs in a different city. some of us went to college, some didn’t. some had fathers that were tradesman, some didn’t. (mine was a teacher) all of us hung around and when we get together we just drink beer and hang out-so there isn’t a lot of cost expectation like going to restaurants etc. now that we are older it’s pretty cool, but we didn’t plan it.
:/ I don’t know what it is like to watch a friend to die
The truth is we are all dying — some more quickly than others.I hope we can help those around us choose to really live in the moments that are available to us.Perhaps that’s a way to evaluate our friends — do they inspire us to really LIVE in our lives?
It’s horrible. A part of me is dying too. Mostly my youth-but a long time friend with lots of shared memories. This week his daughter friended me on Facebook and part of that made me really happy, and part of it made me sad. She is a HS senior.I have had a rough life the last three years-more than probably a lot of people could take professionally and personally. But, when he and I talk about it, I don’t want to be in his shoes.Ironically, one of our circle of friends had a wife die and wrote a book about it, The Color of Rain. He is helping in this whole crappy affair.I do what I can. Try not to dwell on it and send him racy pictures when he is in chemo. : )
What strikes me about a lot of the happy and successful individuals–both men and women–is the partnerships they share with their spouses or steady significant others. I think the true, unique value of having a partner and support system by your side is often overlooked (which is not to say that you have overlooked this). Family, friends, and children…just not the same
In the book “The Millionaire Next Door” the single most significant detail that struck me was that those with real financial and personal success had picked good partners early in life, and had stayed with them because they shared the same values.All the other details in that book are much less significant to me, because the appropriateness of those “millionaires” choices changes as economic situations change. Many of the details listed in that book are pure bunkum when you look at today’s economic landscape. But the power of a partnership … that doesn’t change.
i totally agree. it can be a big factor.
loved this post and the comments. You “always known not to do what I’m not suited for” and the great thing is you’ve taught 3 more humans to create the same values.
Thank you for your honesty.When I read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, my takeaway was that we “train” our intuition through our self-education and our experience. It’s not enough to just follow our guts.My guess is that in your background you had the right combination of influences to recognize a good thing when the right relationship came along. And many good things followed from that choice. No matter what direction Fred took, I’m thinking you would still have had a successful future together, because of the partnership you established.My early training was that “all people are basically good.” So I married young to a narcissistic predator. Yikes. Not exactly what I was asking for!It has taken me many years, and much self-education to acknowledge the wonderful things about my early heritage, and to re-educate myself to be better protected against those who in fact may have few or no redeeming personal qualities.I suspect that you may have an extra measure of enjoyment in your life, because you do have what you hoped to have at that early age. Even through your recent disasters and displacement, you have a tribe of people who are like you, and who love you. And now you have your pots, pans, and kitchen back!Here’s to being that kind of “17.”
1) High school can suck. It is ok. Doesn’t mean you will be sad on every birthday (there will be happy ones)2) Despite what you were told growing up, the outside world from where you started is a friendly place3) Embrace change4) Giving people random complements never hurt
I love giving random complements. When you can really speak the truth, and the truth is a lovely shiny thing — well, why the heck NOT???!!!So often we get stuck in our private shells. I saw an 80-something woman at the grocery store in an outfit that I would snatch off the rack if I could afford it. I told her I wanted “the shirt off her back!” She laughed, because she knew I was taking note of who she was.BTW, change is inevitable. We might as well welcome it with a hug.
I can tell you a great story from my life as a physician that related to that 17 year old and how he or she may never really go away (for good or bad).While still practicing in Bev. Hill Century City in Los Angeles before coming back to Austin, I took care of many elderly people and one lady was still quite active in her early 90s. She drove herself to our office, went to lunch with friends and lived alone and independently.One day we had time and were discussing her being 92 and what was different and she said…..” You know that little voice in your head that is you that you talk to when you are alone. The one that when you wake up in the morning is there to discuss what you are going to do that day. The one that mulls over good things and bad things . I have always known that voice was me and my thoughts but I always called it my friend and it is a bit like having a friend. Well, now, when I awake, that voice is still there and still works just like it always did with the same interests, attitudes, wants and needs, etc. etc. It is so similar and has been so for so many years that as I get up and begin my day I feel that I am the same person I always was with the same wants needs politics desires etc. etc. As I go into the bathroom and the thoughts or conversation continues I forget that I have changed so much so that sometimes deep in thought I will come to the mirror and think for just a brief moment , “” Who in the hell is that old bitch and why is she standing in my bathroom??” ” .I almost fell out of my chair that day but that has stayed with me all these years later. Its very comforting for most of us that like ourselves to know that friend will still be with us even as we change physically. As a physician I see age, regret , pride, decline and death as well as reprieve and new beginnings . I get to think about aging a lot . Generally my elderly patients have helped me face my own aging with less regret anger and dread. But I still try to not glance at a plate glass window when I am walking by deep in thought. Eric in Ausitn,
Brilliant. I totally get what shes saying
Beautiful share. Please sign up with Disqus so we can keep the conversation going.
Thank you for such a thoughtful and honest response to a challenging question. I’m glad it rang a chord with a lot of other people as well.