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Sunday Scribblings: Don't Follow Me

This week's Sunday Scribblings writing prompt is "follow". I'm not much of a follower, and never was. I can follow instructions, and I will most often do what I'm told, but I don't enjoy it. I have a stubborn streak and much prefer to do things in my own time and in my own way. That also means that I've had to learn most of life's important lessons the hard way - sometimes repeating the same mistakes two or three times before the futility of the situation sinks in and I begin to consider the wisdom of choosing other options.

To follow in someone's footsteps or follow their advice is a choice, and not usually the choice I've made, though at times it would have been so much wiser. I'm not terribly proud of many of the choices I've made in my life, and for some the only plausible explanation is temporary insanity. :-) But I have also learned a great deal by taking the winding path instead of the straight one. I have experienced so much more than some my age. I have known and befriended people of all ages and from all walks of life. I have witnessed how brutal life can be, and how ugly people can be toward their fellow human beings, but I have also witnessed moments of transcendent beauty and love. I have learned first-hand not to judge another if you haven't walked in their shoes and lived their life. It's always so much easier looking from the outside in.

While I have acquired an array of emotional baggage and battle scars by choosing to march to my own drummer rather than following the norm, I have also learned the greatest lesson of all... compassion for others who are struggling on their own paths.

I observe my co-worker who at 27 conducts her life more like I did at that age than I would like to admit. Sometimes I have to smile, knowing now what I didn't know then, and remembering how clever and wise I thought I was at the time. Sometimes I have to cry, knowing how she really feels inside and how some of the choices she is making hurt her and others. Sometimes I just shake my head realizing that all the talk in the world probably won't influence her enough to prevent her from making some really bad choices that will impact the rest of her life... but talk to her I do.

"Don't follow in my footsteps", I tell her. "Don't make the same mistakes I did." Don't limit your choices and close doors to your future by stubbornly refusing to see the obvious, and neglecting to consider the long-range ramifications.

"You did that when you were my age?" she inquires, at first doubtful, and then shaking her head in laughter. She has come to know that the dowdy middle-aged woman sitting next to her has been around the block more than a few times and has lived a fairly colorful life - and a relatively foolish one... too many unwise choices, too many lost opportunities, too much time trying to force situations that were never meant to be, too much acting out without first really thinking it thru.

"How did that work out?" I ask after her latest failed love affair. "What were you expecting to happen?" " Did you really think he would leave his wife for you?" "How successful were you in your plan to not let your heart get involved?" She listens to me, and quietly considers her answers, and she smiles in the awareness that no matter how she replies, I know the reality of her experiences. She knows that I will challenge her, encourage her to think harder, to consider her own worth more. She also knows that I will not condemn her.

I do not truly regret anything I have done in my life, or anything I have experienced, because all of that has combined to make me who I am... and I am not ashamed of who I am. I have learned, and I have grown, and I have finally in my 50's arrived at a place of peace and understanding.

"Don't wait until you are 50 to start making wise choices", I admonish her. "Don't follow in my footsteps, don't live my life. Be smarter, love yourself more, care about others more, consider where you want to be and what kind of person you want to be. Don't be afraid to love, and don't be afraid to believe that you are lovable. Respect yourself, respect others, respect the wisdom of those older who understand what you are going thru better than you can imagine."

"Don't follow me, don't do as I did. Your life doesn't have to be that hard. You can learn the lessons younger, you can arrive at my age with less baggage and fewer scars. You can have more fun along the way. You can feel more successful. Listen and choose wisely... don't follow me."

10 comments:

  1. I think your effort with her is more than commendable. Unfortunately, if she is like "US", she won't listen to a word of it. Perhaps she will be different, perhaps this one will learn from someone that honestly knows. I know that God puts us in certain places for good reasons. Keep at it...

    Hugs friend.

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  2. Excellent advice Josie, but sadly youth feels invincible and often unwilling to listen to the voice of experience. Who knows though, maybe some of it will sink in when it counts. All you can do is try.

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  3. I find it almost unnerving when I see some of my patient's parents and they are all of 23 years old! I look at them and all their really bad decisions and want to just steer them in a different direction. But, you know...I never listened to the old biddies when I was in my 20's...why should I expect them to do so?

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  4. Excellent post. I may steal this idea as well.

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  5. Outstanding post. You are giving this young woman excellent advice. Unfortunately, she is probably like most people her age and won't listen to you. They know everything. I've decided I will allow my niece and nephews to fail. It's all about choices.

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  6. You've come into this young woman's life for a reason...if she only listens to 10% of what you say...she will be that much better off. Sigh...I've always said we were made backwards...oh to have the wisdom of a 60 yr old at the age and vitality of 20. Hugs, dear friend.

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  7. She's lucky to have you, but Robin is right.... youth think they are invincible. I have a 30 year old working for me and she breaks my heart with the mistakes she makes in life. She needs to walk a few steps in her own shoes before she'll gain any wisdom. It's hard to watch and I just make sure I'm close to "catch her" if necessary.

    Now, who wouldn't want to work with YOU? I know I would.

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  8. She probably won't listen but I'm sure she appreciates the advice. I've think you've turned out really well. She probably does too.

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  9. Thanks you everyone for your thoughts and comments! It is so true that we don't really listen to advice at a young age, though later on we see some of the wisdom in what was said. I do think we are a bit more responsive to input from adults other than our parents when we are young, since we are so convinced they are "unenlightened". LOL My coworker and I have become good friends. She gave me a subscription to Pogo games for Mother's Day. We have a lot of fun together, and I am the one she calls or confides in. I see my role in her life as listening and encouraging, not judging.

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)