5 Lessons in 5 Decades

MegStewart

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Born in 1969, I’m one of the older GenXers.

I grew up middle-class, in a mobile home that sat on just under an acre of ground. It was located directly behind my paternal grandparent’s home.

My dad’s side of the family were upper middle class, formal, conservative, take off your shoes before entering, formal dining room/fine china, practicing Christians who went to church and guilted anyone who didn’t.

My mom’s side of the family were blue-collar, casual, liberal leaning, come as you are, backyard picnic/paper plate, practicing Christians whose religion was their personal business.

The differences were night and day to me even as a child. It’s not that one was better, they were just different.

My dad owned his own business and my mom worked, so my sister and I were latchkey kids. I grew up with my parents playing good cop/bad cop.

My dad was ultra strict, my mom was much more laid back and would “cover for us” or “bail us out” of trouble if she could.

Again, the difference was stark.

My parents divorced when I was thirteen years old. I was a young child in the ’70s and thus, a teenager in the ’80s.

By 1990, I was a twenty something single mom of two, with a full-time job and full-time college schedule.

By 2008, I was a thirty-nine year old single mom of four who made a 360-degree life change.

I moved from big city to rural farm life to get my kids out of the city and myself out of the rat race.

Now, in 2021, my two youngest children are twelve and sixteen years old, I’ve moved to a small town suburb, and I work from home full-time. I’m a grandmother to ten.

I’m still not where I want to be, just yet. But I’m closer to my goal. I have time to spend with my children and grandchildren and money to pay the bills, but I’d love to have more space.

It hasn’t been easy at all.

There isn’t much I haven’t seen or dealt with over the years. Looking back, there are quite a few things that would have made my life a little easier if I’d learned them sooner.

Maybe these lessons will help you.

1. No one has their shit together as much as you may think

Every one of us deals with insecurity, chaos, grief, and stress. Sick family members, car troubles, and cranky or uncooperative children are common for a lot of people.

Serious problems such as addiction, chronic health issues, money problems, and relationship issues plague many people.

Trust me when I say, no matter what you’re struggling with right now, you are not alone.

But when you’re caught up in the midst of it, getting a glimpse of someone else in the midst of a calm or happy period of their life, can make your troubles seem magnified.

When you begin to realize that other people have the same issues you do, it becomes easier to be more compassionate with yourself, and even with strangers.

Many people have simply mastered the art of leaving their personal life on their doorstep when they head off to work in the morning.

But your boss who is sleep deprived at the office or your co-worker in the midst of a messy divorce, might not make decisions like they normally would.

It’s important to remember that social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snap chat focus on brief periods of time, mere moments, are represented in those posts.

Social media allows you to see what that person posting wants to show you.

There isn’t a window into what happened leading up to that perfect photo moment or even immediately after it.

When you realize just about everyone else is struggling with something, you can stop shaming yourself.

2. It’s not all about you

One of the most important things I’ve learned in half a century is that it’s not all about me.

I can remember in my twenties and thirties feeling like I was grabbing life by the horns.

I knew more than most people my age or thought I did, and I definitely knew more than the old farts who were running the show.

Or at least that’s how it seemed to me at the time.

In hindsight, I can tell you while my skill set may have been broader than most people my age, and I may have had to be an adult faster than most, I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.

If I had listened more to older people, especially women, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble.

3. It’s sometimes easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

I had a boss one time who told me that when it comes to blazing a trail it’s sometimes easier to ask forgiveness than permission.

She made it clear that this wasn’t an excuse to break known company rules.

But in areas where no rules had yet been created or in areas where it wasn’t clear if a rule applied or not, she’d forge ahead.

In her experience, most people will naturally take the path of least resistance, especially busy executives.

When you ask permission, saying yes means your executive has to do the work needed to determine the consequences when their boss or board member comes back to them.

Therefore, it’s easier for someone to say no and maintain the status quo.

If you blaze ahead without asking permission and everything goes well, it’s easier for someone to give you forgiveness for not asking in advance.

Because I’m an out of the box thinker, this is actually something I’ve used many times to get things done, when others thought it too difficult to try.

Of course, blazing a trail comes with a bit of risk because if things don’t go well, you have to face the consequences.

You really can do whatever you want as long as you are prepared to take the consequences of your actions.

Get better at handling consequences and decisions get a whole lot easier to make.

4. You don’t know what you don’t know

It can be so easy to live for decades in a bubble. When I earned my Associate degree, a colleague I respected from the college told me it was time to spread my wings.

He gave me a copy of the book “Oh the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss.

He advised me to go see what the world had to offer, outside of the college where I’d worked and gone to school for just over two years.

I didn’t listen. I continued to work at the college for a decade. Eventually, I realized my colleague had been right.

When I finally left that college to work in other places, there was so much more to learn.

But without comparison, you don’t know what you don’t know.

You begin to think you know it all and you forget how vast the world really is outside of your bubble.

Spread your wings. Change up the bubble you're in frequently.

5. We all look the same on the inside

This last one is probably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life.

No matter where you come from, what you look like, or what you’ve been through, we all look the same on the inside.

There’s no one person in this world who is inherently better or more valuable than another. Every single person has value.

The next time you look at someone else and think wow I wish I had their looks, their confidence, their career, their success, stop yourself.

There’s no reason you can’t have it. We are each as capable as the next person.

You just have to want it bad enough to do whatever it takes to achieve it.

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With fifteen years of freelance experience, Meg founded Freelance Filter in 2019 to help writers and small business owners learn the technology needed to do business better online. She currently offers private coaching to writers and small business owners. Her favorite nonfiction writing projects deal with marketing, SEO, freelancing, productivity, and technology for writers and small business owners. She's currently working on an SEO guide for beginners and a series of short stories. She's a mother of four and "Grammi" of ten.

Madison, OH
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