Have you ever been asked that question, “If you could go back and change anything in your life, would you?” Even though my life and career have been a cross between cooked spaghetti and a roller coaster ride, I don’t think I’d change anything. But I do have one regret. I spent way too much time in my 20’s and 30’s comparing myself to others. Comparing my bank account, my children’s school, my appearance, my vacations, and my career achievements. How I wish I had spent that time living in the moment instead.
I remember one frustrating situation when I was offered a dream career. I was 32 years old at the time. It was a made-for-me position speaking and training, and the job paid more money than I’d ever been paid. There was one huge problem, though….travel was required. A lot of travel, more than three weeks a month. Being a divorced mom of two young sons, that was not possible for me. Disappointed, I turned down the offer. For the next several weeks I sulked. I was convinced that an opportunity like that would never present itself again. And, at age 32, I worried that I didn’t have a lot of time left to nurture my career.
One evening, after the boys were in bed, I sat at the kitchen table paying bills and looking over my finances. “If you had only taken that job, you would have a lot more $$ in this account”, I scolded myself. I continued with the negative thinking, “You could have gotten a nanny; you could have found a way to make it work.” Suddenly I heard a voice saying, “Beth, why are you complaining? Look at this bank account. You have every bill paid, and you have money left over. You work PART TIME and get the opportunity to be at home in the mornings and afternoons. You don’t have to do EVERYTHING right now!” The voice was loud and clear, and I not only heard it, I felt it.
I began to pay attention to my thoughts and noticed that I’d often compare myself to women who had no children or whose children were grown. I’d compare my career accomplishments to women who were older and had far more experience. Every time I’d catch myself saying “If only….” or “You should be….” I’d remind myself of the message, “You don’t have to do it all right now.”
“Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 20.”
I began to be thankful for the great job that I had. Even though it was not my dream job, it paid our bills and allowed us a life better than many other single moms. Instead of criticizing myself for not taking the boys to the beach or to DisneyWorld, I began feeling grateful for our days at the local lake and community park. I was blessed to have a flexible schedule and enjoy the time during the day with them.
As the boys grew, instead of the local parks, we found ourselves at baseball games, soccer fields, swim meets and scout meetings. I continued to be thankful for my flexible hours and a part-time job. As the boys grew, so did my career.
Opportunities arose and I was brave enough to say yes. I took some risks, I stretched myself. And today, I have my dream job. I write, speak, train, AND TRAVEL. I earn more money than I thought possible, especially for doing work I love. Despite my fears and worries, everything worked out just as it was meant to, and better than I imagined.
The next time you feel like you “should” be doing more, remember that you have a lot of time. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You CAN do it all. Do what you’re meant to do right now, stay open to possibilities and say yes to opportunities. And, most importantly, remember this: 32 is NOT old, there are many good years waiting for you.