Looking back, if I could, I would tell my anxious younger me to relax, take a few deep breaths and smile. The serious and studious younger me had no chill. I would shake me up and say, “Girl, there’s more to life than hitting the books.”
I spent my entire youth chasing dreams that were just out of reach. I excelled at academics in school with the hope of making it big in the corporate world. In hindsight, I burned myself out, and I passed university with average marks. I lost momentum. I did not climb the corporate ladder. In fact, I didn’t even get onto the first rung.
I got married and had four beautiful daughters. I changed tack and went on to study to become a beautician – with four daughters it seemed a cost-saving career in the long run. (That is the would-be accountant in me talking.)
Yet, life has a funny way of bringing you full circle. I look at my kids and think, “Wow, I wish I could do it all again.” I would do somethings differently, for sure. I would spend more time allowing my creative juices to flow, instead of suppressing them because they got in the way of my ambitions. I would have made sure that I received a holistic education and be more street-smart than book-smart.
“Fathima,” I would say, “You have talent, sew that exquisite gown you can’t afford to buy for the matric dinner,” or, “Take a break from the books and write that poem that’s in your head.” My younger me would probably have given me a withering look and retorted, “Are you crazy! I don’t have time for that stuff. I need to study for my finals.”
In hindsight, I see the folly of my ways. Don’t get me wrong, I did become a sales rep, beautician, and own my business, but I did not become a Chartered Accountant or make the money I expected.
I should have taken my granny’s advice when she found me crying during school vacation because I had come second in grade seven and beat myself up about it. She wisely said, “Don’t worry about the other person. You should always try to better yourself.” If I have to go by those words, then yes, I have bettered myself and continue to do so.
Since I can’t go back in time and fix the younger me, I try my best to guide my children with the wisdom of my experiences. While I advise them to study hard and get good grades, I also facilitate their ability to have a hobby. They know that it is okay to paint, bake, skateboard, or take surfing lessons.
After all, life is about balance and doing the things you love while doing the things you need to live. Sometimes you are lucky enough for the two to merge. I wish the younger Fathima could have known this. Who knows what direction her life would have taken.