I am generally of the belief that, in my life, I would not go back and change a thing. This is not because my life has been perfect or easy. This is because all of it, the good the bad and the ugly, got me to where I am today and taught me so much along the way. However, some days, I can’t shake the feeling that I wish I could rewind.
I spent a lot of time in my teens and 20’s flailing and finding myself. My 30’s, a little less flailing and a lot more finding myself. Still, though, it was not really until I approached my 40’s that I really, truly and deeply found and consistently embraced personal growth.
Now, my younger self might tell you that’s not true. I read The Gifts of Imperfection in my mid-30’s. I knew I needed to work on myself. I hoped and believed life could be different and I did begin to search for clues as to how, all the while trying to evolve. Continuous self-improvement was my mantra all along. But, if I’m being completely honest, those moments felt more like blips of light in darkness. I would read a book, feel the inspiration, become really awake and motivated, and then I would fall back into my own personal status quo.
It was enough, though, to sew the seeds for where I am today: A member of many communities who lean into this work together, supporting one another, coaching each other through the hard questions to connect to our own inner wisdom to guide us through. These communities and friends share resources and wisdom that keeps the momentum going consistently. So, now, instead of blips I have brilliance.
My sense, though, is that a lot of personal growth and leaning into coaching is happening later in life, like it has for me. I don’t know if that’s when we get burnt out or fed up or we start going through a midlife crisis and wondering if this is it. Or is it true, like I always hoped and believed, that 40 really is this magical barrier that, once crossed, bestows a sudden ability to better let go of everyone else’s opinions and judgments? We may never know, but I am grateful it’s at least been true for me. Admittedly, probably buoyed by all of this self-work.
And, this is where I can’t help but wonder: What would life have been like if I had really started to work in earnest much earlier? Again, I am not one to look back and fight the impossible by trying to rewrite history. However, I do find that the past holds great lessons for the future.
I also find comfort in the fact that I may be able to utilize my missteps to help others find a clearer path. If I can be really honest with myself and really vulnerable with others, can I use the struggles I’ve endured for good? Can I help my team take a leap before I ever would have? Can I help my son be comfortable in his own skin? Can I help the generations coming up in the world behind me to find their authentic selves much earlier than I have?
When I look back and think about what that could have looked like for me, it is bittersweet. There is a sense of grieving for the lost opportunity. But there is so much excitement and beauty in the possibility of helping to co-create that for others.
Perhaps it is not rewinding I seek after all. Perhaps it is paying it forward.