5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Was Younger

“Just because you’re taking longer than others does not mean you’re a failure. Keep going.”

-Unknown

The year 2016 was an internally monumental year for me. I had to process through my not being able to complete my studies and having to ultimately return home without the degree that I was so certain I would come back home with. I had to grapple through with feelings of hopelessness, envy, self-hate, feeling like a failure and so much more. I had left high school and went to university with a rather naive perception on life as a whole. And looking back, there are some lessons that I have learned as a young adult, which I also wish I had been told before I left for the real world of “grown-ups” (I believe that would have saved me from the suffocating battle I’ve had with anxiety and depression when life really started “getting real”). Here are my most prominent lessons which came out of some of my most painful moments in my life:

1. My journey won’t look like others. We go through primary and high school with not much changes in between. We progress with our peers at the same pace from one grade to the next and we think that’s how it is always going to be throughout our lives. But once we leave school, we begin to realize that each of our individual journeys begin to take their own unique shape and form. It is therefore a great disservice to myself to try and force my path to resemble that of my peers. With this, I am learning to fully embrace my path and not worry about how the next person’s road looks like, after all we are each placed on our own track in life.

2. Success is not a straight line. When I was younger I had this image of how my adult life would pan out: I would finish school, go to university, get my degree, settle down, get my husband and set off in the sunset with him and go off and change the world. But oh, how I was wrong. In between all those envisioned life plans I had for myself, so much took place in between all the milestones I thought I would have got to by now. Through it all, I have also learned that often when we set goals for ourselves, we fail to account that so much of life will take place in between; we won’t always swiftly jump from one goal to the next. This does not mean that we become disheartened or give up on our dreams, but rather, it is for us to always remember that when we are on the road to getting our dreams, there will be potholes of mistakes we get into and long, twisting detours of lessons that we bump into; and consequently our expected arrival time to our destinies become delayed. This takes me to my next lesson…

3. Things won’t always happen when I want them to happen. I used to have a thorough time-line set for myself of when I’d achieve certain things and where I would be at a particular age. I got rid of it. As ambitious of a person I am, I realized that having such a strict time-frame for myself brought overwhelming anxiety, especially when I was realizing that my life is not going according to what I had planned. Now my rule is to live life one day at a time, taking small, progressive steps to where I want to be (but also not being overly concerned with final outcomes) and trusting that every step taken will eventually add up and lead me to where I’m meant to be, when I’m meant to be there.

4. It’s okay to not know what the next step of my life will be. In a world of “go-getters”, “movers and shakers” it’s very easy to feel like your life is stagnant and that you are not progressing because you don’t have any significant goals or maybe just like me, you just don’t know what exactly you should be striving for. But just maybe, we are not always meant to be “making things happen” and perhaps we need to have moments of stillness in life where nothing seems to be happening and things seem to be not going anywhere and maybe these are moments that we are to be waiting on God and trusting Him to make the next step unfold for us. Or maybe in a world where everyone is constantly living more in the future, not knowing where we are going is a time for us to lose our reigns on constantly wanting to control the future and just simply rest in the beauty of the present moment and allow it to surprise us as it unfolds.

5. My achievements do not define me, I define me. It can be quite stressful to live in a meritocratic society where as an individual your value, worth and potential as a human being is measured according to ones academic achievements, professional success and all other external merits that an individual acquires. I know I have been a victim of this. From Grade 1 through 12 all I have ever known was academic excellence, I always ensured that I was on top of my class because that was the only true measure of me being a “good student” and I also revelled in the pride and affirmation that those around me would show towards me when I maintained such a performance. I had comfortably defined myself around this identity of being an over-achiever. This ultimately proved to be detrimental to me because when I got to varsity and started failing dismally, I believed myself to literally be a useless individual. And this is when I had to do the hard, internal work of asking myself, “Katlego, who are you outside of your academic endevours? What gives you your worth?”. But you see, I’m learning that nothing gives us our worth, it has always been there and will always be right there within us. So whether my academics are falling apart and I seem to not be acquiring any worthwhile external achievements, I as an individual remain a whole, worthy and valuable person because my worth no longer rests on the above.

I think after all is said and done, some lessons in life can indeed only be learnt by experience; and I can stand here and be testament to the fact that out of our most painful moments in life comes our most profound lessons. I can also say that my life has not turned out the way I had planned but I am grateful for all the detours in life that I’ve had to take which forced me to reflect on my life and redefine myself as an individual.

So perhaps life is not about the destination, but the continuous journey of learning that we will always be on.

Sig

21 thoughts on “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Was Younger

  1. Wow Katz that’s profound thank you very much. I have been struggling to complete my degree and having pressure that my peers whom I left high school with & started at varsity with are done and working.

    1. Hey Baliwe, thank you for that.

      I really resonate with what you are saying. A lot of my friends that I started with have graduated while I don’t even know where my life is going. It’s very easy to feel like you are a failure or you are falling behind in life but always remember that God has set good things for each one of us. We won’t always get things at the same time and that’s okay. So we should never compare our progress with those next to us.

      And I hope that this post also helped in giving you all the encouragement that you need.

      May you have success in your studies.

      Much love❤

  2. Amazing read. I think point 5 speaks a lot to me. It actually made me think about how i had to go through phases of understanding who am i and what is my identify based on or defined by me.
    Such knowledge and wisdom can only be reaped through growth and lived experience. Thanks for sharing Katz

    1. Mosima, I’m so glad that you had that one thing that resonated with you while reading.

      You are so right, many things we go through help us in shaping us into becoming or reaching our full potential as individuals.

      It’s only my pleasure, thank you for also taking the time to read.

  3. My Sister, you are not alone. Literally everything you spoke off was everything I experienced, felt and suffered from IN 2016. But slowly but surely, I am overcoming. WE WILL OVERCOME THIS MENTAL PRISON

    1. Thank you for this Amanda. It gives me such encouragement to have someone come out and say that they too are going through the same thing. We are really never alone.

      And indeed, you are right, we will come out of this!

  4. Hi Katz
    Thank you so much for this post. I resonate more with point 4. I have had to take an academic leave of absence for 6 months and in that time – there was complete stillness in my activities, everything. Looking back; that’s where God did the most work within me. I realised it was necessary for me to define myself, find my unshakable pillars and completely break the shakable ones. We live and we learn.

    1. Hey Dinie

      You are most welcome, thank you to you too for taking time to read this.
      Wow! I think we really need moments of stillness where we truly redefine ourselves and maybe this is so that when we do get those achievements we don’t define ourselves by the shakeable pillars but the unshakeable ones, as you have beautifully articulated it. ❤

      I trust that everything beautiful will materialize in God’s perfect time.

      Lots of love ❤

  5. Now you’ve said a mouth full, if we were in @ church and u were the one ministering these powerful words, I would scream “YES! PREACHING LIFE!! You’re one of a kind Katz, thank you for all the words of encouragement. …

  6. “Now my rule is to live life one day at a time, taking small, progressive steps to where I want to be (but also not being overly concerned with final outcomes) and trusting that every step taken will eventually add up and lead me to where I’m meant to be, when I’m meant to be there.”That rule came naturally to me 20 years ago when I left Maf with not so goodlooking biblical studies matric certificate and rural boy tendencies, neither did I plan to get married at a tender age and have four lovely kids,afford a house in Florida, and later run a successful trucking business netting close to 100k per month driving 7 seater suv, non of this were planned. And 20 years later I’m back in Maf with zero bank balance, 1 smoking mazda midge,and little one little boy out out of four who still thinks im the best man he has ever seen,I did everything to my best possible human ability in good faith , that’s why I have no regrets whatsoever.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story Wilfred.

      And from what you shared I’m really coming to realize that life is really not a straight line.

      May your life be everything that you hope for it to be. ?

  7. Wow Katz i can definetly say i register with this 2016 has been difficult for me as well, after finding out im expecting i really started beating myself up about it. i have friends who have graduated already and here i am expecting, i have been pressuring and straining myself trying to figure out how im going to get through next year, but i guess things will happen as they should. One day at a time.

    1. Hey Kay, don’t beat yourself up for your pregnancy. I’ve learnt that a lot of times in life things happen that we never anticipated or planned for but the beauty of it all is that things really do have a way of working themselves out and I believe it will also be so with you. Do take things one day at a time. It will be alright. <3

  8. You have given voice to the feelings I’ve been dealing with all year long. I’ve discovered for myself that I need to be engaged actively in choosing the kind of life I want to lead and who I surrounded myself with and what defines me and my character outside of my academic achievements and school. Despite the disappointment I’m eager to find out who this gem is that I’ve not come to know fully.

  9. Thank you Kat, I am visiting this for the second time to read. Pity I am still feeling empty and worthless since 30 Nov 2016.

    I am still figuring how to redefine myself outside of academics.

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