Why am I thinking of all of this ‘wisdom’ stuff right now? Well I’m sitting on the couch in my sunroom, in my PJ’s, with an icepack literally tied to my face because I’ve just had surgery to remove my last two bottom wisdom teeth, and it got me to thinking about why they call them Wisdom Teeth…?
I used to associate wisdom with adulthood. I thought when I was going to turn 30 a couple of years ago it meant I’d finally ‘grow up’. In the 12mth lead up to it I had a full-on pre-midlife crisis; this all-consuming panic: What the hell was I doing with my life???
I felt like I had to be a ‘real’ adult now. I would no longer be in my 20’s and therefore surely I could no longer continue to just amble by in life, moving in whatever direction I fancied at the time, able to wave off mistakes as typical stuff young people get up to? Yes I had travelled overseas to many different countries, and grown from those experiences. Yes I had worked hard & finally bought my first brand new car. Yes I had a secure job in a large company with prospects to move up the ladder. But I wasn’t happy. I felt like I was missing the point, like something vital was missing from my life. Was it because I’d just gone through a break up of a relationship? Because I didn’t have children yet to focus on? Yes, I’d say they had a hand in it, but that wasn’t it…
I felt I had to have a real direction in life, take real responsibility for myself and my actions, make real plans for my future – after all, I didn’t want to be working in the bank for the rest of my life. Yes I was very good at what I did, and enjoyed helping people immensely (most of the time), but it wasn’t what I felt was my calling in life. I kept being asked to consider becoming a branch Manager, which was very flattering and supportive, but left me uninspired. I looked into studying to become a financial planner, but then the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit, which squashed that idea dead in its tracks.
So at 29yrs old I enrolled in Uni (university/college) for the first time, in an industry completely unrelated to anything I’ve ever worked in before: Education. A very daunting experience, particularly because no-one in my immediate family had ever been to Uni before, and I wasn’t quite sure I was smart enough for it?
The first 6mths I had to compete against a shitty male flatmate who constantly undermined me, and my hard efforts with his childish power struggles (we were living in his rich Daddy’s house after all…), constantly pranking me, and generally just making my life hell for his own amusement (at first I could shake it off as funny, until things took a turn for the nasty after he broke up with his girlfriend and demanded I stop being friends with her). If my flatmates helped me proofread an assignment, or suggested any changes here or there, then the resulting high mark was “ours”, not mine. This left huge doubt in my mind about my own abilities. Maybe I should just give up, go back to being ‘normal’, go back to a normal 9-5/Mon-Fri job, not these crazy night and weekend hours I’d had to change to, to fit around my new Uni schedule. And I’d be able to see my friends and family again, instead of missing out on every moment in their lives because I was either at work or Uni, or writing an assignment…
But I couldn’t quit now; the new people I’d met, the new experiences I was having, the new knowledge I was getting (I felt as if surely my brain had grown in size to hold all this new amazing information I was gaining!). No, I’d changed. I thought differently now, saw life through new lenses. I’d been taught to question everything. I couldn’t go back now.
So I moved house mid-year, and worked hard. The high marks kept coming, and I finally knew: I COULD do this! This was all MY doing and I’d earned those results fair and square! Finally, finally, I started to believe in myself.
I realised that I really could do anything I set my mind and applied myself to. Which I try to remind myself of now when I try other things in life and start to doubt myself. Or when life throws those curve balls at you. I now see being an ‘adult’ and ‘having wisdom’ as such a multifaceted thing, unending, continuously evolving. Do you remember those old sayings your Grandma or Mum used to say when you were growing up that used to make your eyes role? Things like “everything happens for a reason”, “treat others how you want to be treated”, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink”, “life’s not about the goals you make, its what happens on the journey getting there”. There are millions of these little sayings, and I used to think they were so old fashioned, but as I get older I notice many of these little pearls are actually pretty damn insightful.
I think maybe they say you get wisdom with age because you’ve had time, and opportunity, to make mistakes in life. To learn how to deal with those mistakes – it’s ok to make mistakes, but learn from them, and don’t repeat them! Understanding that you have to be responsible for yourself and your own actions, and own up to the consequences of those actions.
Everyone is different and needs to go on their own journey. I guess for me personally my biggest (and hardest) wisdom growth would be these little pearls:
- Realising that while I am completely guilty of (sometimes) seeing things in complete black and white, not everyone thinks like me, and I have to make allowances for that; I try very hard to have empathy, to put myself in that person’s shoes and what I know about how this person thinks, so that I can understand why that person is thinking or feeling a certain way.
- Being such a fiery and passionate personality, I constantly work on stopping and thinking before I speak.
- Being true to myself. Knowing who you are as a person is a huge milestone for anyone! But you have to know who your are first, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, what it is that makes you you, before you can really be true to yourself. I may not know exactly what I want in life and where I’m going, but I certainly know who I am!
- That it’s ok to not have a set plan in life! These last few years have taught me that stuff is going to happen whether you like it or not; it’s more about how you deal with it, adapt to it, and move forward from/with it. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next 12mths, but I hope to have some more fun and adventures along the way! Life doesn’t have to be so rigid and serious all the time.
But so, so much more too – this is just the tip of the iceberg; as long as I keep learning new things, I’ll keep gaining wisdom (well hopefully)! But for right now, the wisest thing I can do is to take some more (over the counter painkiller) drugs and change the icepack… and maybe have a bowl of custard.