Things I wish I’d known at 18
Friends often say to me ‘Jo, what do you regret most in life?’ and while it’s pointless to have regrets given that we can’t change the past, I do occasionally look back and wonder how different my life might have been if I’d known at eighteen what I know now. How different all our lives would be with the benefit of hindsight, of course.
I wish I’d known that it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. I was brought up by parents who were very ambitious, perhaps over-ambitious, particularly when it came to me. They wanted to realise all of their dreams through their daughter. I became a perfectionist, always striving to be the best in the class. 99 percent was just not good enough. I suppressed my rebellious streak and became their dutiful daughter. My grades were good enough to get me into a top university and I passed all of my exams with flying colours. When I look back I realise I didn’t even think to question what it was that I wanted to do.
I wish I’d known that it’s the journey that matters, not the final destination. My life was mapped out for me: university, career, marriage, children, security and retirement and the inevitable ‘if only’. I started out as planned with no surprises: a secure job with good pay and prospects. All of my friends were on the same path but deep down I knew that there was something missing. Was this all there was? I’ve always loved travelling and started to live for those precious weeks of holiday. I’d pore over brochures and travel guides and search out the most obscure untouched places. Increasingly I felt more and more alive whenever I was away from my normal everyday environment.
Some of us have the freedom to make choices and in my case, I finally chose to go. After a particularly stressful week at work, I decided to quit and that was quite simply the best thing I’ve ever done. I can honestly say that from that moment on, my life turned into an adventure.
I wish I’d known that everything happens for a reason. The reason might not initially be obvious but when we look back we can understand why something did take place. I’ve learned not to question but to accept whatever comes my way and that is one of the most valuable lessons that life has taught me.