By Enola Wright.
Experience – so what?
The great Oscar Wilde once said: “Youth is wasted on the young”. I’m sure we all remember that time when we were footloose, fancy free and fresh. We had vitality, energy, dreams, hopes and we thought we were pretty much invincible. It was that window when you could climb any mountain. Cross any sea, turning your dreams into reality and become anything you wanted to be. Ah [sigh], my youth, I remember it well.
I’ve decided to look at the flip side of that and to focus on something I’ve accumulated over the years since my youth: experience.
Around the block…and up the mountain
I feel as though I’ve been around the entire block at least three times. I had my family young, my first son at age 20. By 27 I was happily married with three wonderful children and living in my dream 4-bed detached house in the suburbs with a husband I adored.
I loved being a young mum and everything that went with it. I didn’t go to university straight from school, instead I embarked on a degree and studying at a post graduate level when my children were grown up. I’ve enjoyed a flourishing career across a spectrum of industries. Working as a researcher, journalist, and editor with my own weekly column and publishing a book. With the coming of the internet, I transferred my offline skills to the online world. This culminated in me working as a technology and communications expert for multi-million pound international companies.
Just as I reached the dizzy heights of hitting the proverbial glass ceiling, wallop, I got hit with cancer at age 46. Then for the second time last year. But not even cancer fazed me. I took all of the surgery, tests, scans countless blood tests in my stride. I’ve even been at death’s door, not once but twice, undergoing full resuscitation from a cardiac arrest. I have, quite literally, been to the other side and back.
I sometimes feel that I have done more in my 54 years than many people do in a lifetime. I’ve travelled the world, sung at the Royal Albert Hall, snorkelled with turtles in the Caribbean sea and sailed across the ocean on the Queen Mary 2. I’ve married, divorced and re-married. Acquiring a new loving and devoted husband along with two step children and three step grandchildren. That has its challenges and I’m still learning how to deal with those experiences; I’ll be writing about that soon. You don’t go through all of this without coming out the other side with a bucket load of experience.
But so what?
Experience. Experience. Experience. I have reached an age when very little is new to me. I’ve been there, seen it, got the t-shirt and bought the hat. But what do you do with all this experience? One thing you can’t do without falling foul of the receiver’s protestations is to offer your opinion based on your experiences. Trust me, if you haven’t experienced it yet, take it from me, it will be lobbed back at you like a drop shot at Wimbledon.
My eldest son married last year and his bride bought me a little gift; How to be a good mother-in-law. It’s actually a jolly good read. I received the book it in the jocular spirit in which it was given. There is a section which says: “If your opinion is not sought, don’t volunteer it.” Oh goodness, surely that is impossible. It is for me. I’ve got all this experience. I can see where things are going wrong and more importantly based on my experience, I know how to do everything the right way.
It is a waste of energy and time to give advice and offer your experience if it not been sought because everyone wants to do things their own way. Everyone needs to make their own mistakes and learn from them.
It will widen the gap in any relationship or friendship not close it, if you continually hand out advice like Smarties. Don’t be surprised if people start to shun you. Hands up everyone who wants a Mrs Know-it-All as a friend?
That delicate balancing act
Now, let’s go back to my youth. It would have been a boring naff world if my elders at the time said to me; don’t get married at 19 and have a baby at 20. In my experience you should wait until you are 32 years old, get an education and a career first. Material things matter the most. Only marry a doctor, dentist or lawyer of extensive means and don’t think for one minute about having your own independent thoughts. I’m middle aged, I’ve got experience, therefore I know better.
There you have it. You’ve got experience, lots of it. Try and put it to good use by doing things that are meaningful and important to you. You know what makes you happy. You know what makes you feel unhappy. Above all don’t keep doing something that makes you feel sad over and over again. The experience doesn’t get any better.
Some of it will be bad and hopefully most of it will be good. With experience, one thing is for sure, you will keep acquiring it. Share it when you are asked. Above all use it to live a life full of happy and joyful experiences.
Read Enola’s thoughts on Procrastination.
Enola Wright is a mother of three, step mum of two and step grandma to three. She writes about how a life changing rare illness affected her as she reached the very top of her career aspirations and how this has bought about a different kind of normal. She founded and runs the UK insulinoma support website.