I am sure like me, there have been times when you have wondered what difference might have been made to your life, if your younger self had been gifted with the experience and knowledge you have accumulated over the years.
I invited several friends from the writing community to share their thoughts on this subject which I am sure you will enjoy as much as I did.
Today author Staci Troilo shares her thoughts on the prompt…..
I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now by Staci Troilo
Ciao, amici! Sally, thank you for asking me to participate in this segment and welcoming me here today.
I’d have submitted something sooner, but I couldn’t settle on what to say. Some of the advice I’d give my younger self is intensely personal and wouldn’t benefit anyone other than me. Then there were other words of wisdom I considered, but they’re so common… I’m pretty sure everyone knows those lessons. (I just wish I’d learned them sooner.)
This is my fourth attempt. I decided if I couldn’t nail it this time, I wasn’t sending anything. (And yes, I recognize the ridiculousness of an editor not being able to revise her own work into something usable.) For better or worse, I was satisfied enough with this one to send it. I hope it’s neither too specific nor too generic.
Here we go.
When we’re born, we’re basically little ids. (In that, I agree with Freud.) There’s no use in me offering advice to my infant self, as I wouldn’t understand it or follow it. Babies simply want what they want, and no amount of reason will make them understand they can’t necessarily have it (or have it that instant). At least at that age, what we want is easy to obtain. We’re hungry, we cry, we get fed. We’re cold, we cry, we get swaddled.
As we get older, we start to develop a conscience. It’s still incredibly difficult to reason, but we’re learning right from wrong and therefore, we’re learning priorities. Mine at that age were simple. I desperately wanted things like a picnic at the park, a trip to the library, a specific toy, or a visit with family. When I didn’t get my way, there was disappointment, ranging from a mild pout to a full-blown tantrum. But I learned pretty quickly that what my parents said was what would be. That meant my priorities, though basic, needed to take a backseat to those of my mom and dad.
As I got older, my desires took on more weight. I’m pretty sure I uttered variations of “If I don’t get X, I’ll just die!” several times a day, where X was anything from a good grade to a specific article of clothing to the affections of my latest crush. Hormones make teenagers completely illogical (and often overdramatic), and everything seemed like a life-or-death situation. Some of what was going on was, in fact, important. A few instances ended up being seminal moments. But now I know most things very much weren’t, though I thought they were at the time.
When I graduated college, I embraced adulthood in all its glory. That meant my concerns had become “grown up” concerns, complete with deep-seated fears of failure in its many forms. I worried about finding the right job, and once I did, I agonized over my performance. The first three jobs I left required two people to replace me because I’d done so much work in those positions. But as I climbed the corporate ladder, I still fretted and feared every little thing in my professional life. And I did the same in my personal life. I bent over backward to please the people most important to me. In so doing, I lost myself and became what other people needed.
I wish I could tell my younger self not to sweat the small stuff. But everything that’s important to us in any given moment seems like the biggest deal of our lives. It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose. In school, getting an A instead of a B seemed like the most crucial thing in the world. (It certainly mattered to my parents.) Ask me how many people these days even ask about my degrees or what university I went to…
That would be no one.
I’m not saying good grades didn’t matter, but they certainly weren’t worth the hours of tears I shed over trigonometry and calculus. And as for being a people-pleaser? There’s nothing wrong with trying to make people happy, especially loved ones, but not at the expense of your own happiness. Certainly not at the expense of your identity.
So where am I going with all this?
We always have wants and desires. We’re born with them, live with them, and will have them until we die. And I’m a firm believer that we should pursue them passionately. But also with reason and prudence.
Hindsight and perspective have taught me not every decision is a dire one, not every tense situation is life-altering, and not being true to myself is costly. Tragic, even.
My advice to my younger self would be to not take life (be it people or situations) so seriously all the time. That old adage about the things that don’t kill you making you stronger? It’s a popular saying because it’s true.
For most of my life, I thought losing something or someone I treasured would be the death of me. And as I suffered one loss after another, I failed to learn that wasn’t true. But a few years ago, I suffered a monumental loss and truly believed the pain would kill me. Even wished for it at one point. But surviving makes you strong. No loss is insurmountable. And if you allow yourself to move past the agony and the shame and the guilt, you’ll be better for it.
At least, I think I am.
I wish I could have told myself all this sooner, but I don’t think I would have listened if I did. I tried to impart this wisdom to my son and daughter, and they didn’t grasp the concept. Maybe I’ll have more luck teaching my grandkid(s), though I suspect it’s a lesson that’s wasted on the young. Could be it’s something we all have to learn on our own.
What I do know is I’m not going to beat myself up over it.
©Staci Troilo 2022
My thanks to Staci for sharing her early years. Also such a poignant reminder that loss is inevitable in our lifetime and yet we can survive stronger and more resilient. I know that she would love to hear from you.
About Staci Troilo
Staci Troilo grew up in Western Pennsylvania writing stories and poetry in her free time, so it was no surprise that she studied writing in college. After receiving creative and professional writing degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, she went on to get her Master’s Degree in Professional Writing, and she worked in corporate communications until she had her children. When they had grown, she went on to become a writing professor, and now she is a freelance writer and editor.
Staci is a multi-genre author. Her fiction is character-driven, and despite their protests, she loves to put them in all kinds of compromising or dangerous situations.
You can find out more about her on her website. Staci Troilo
Books by Staci Troilo
One of the reviews for Between the Vines
Elena is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love thanks to the jerks who have been sniffing around her door since high school. Aaron is her cousin Rick’s longtime friend, a cop who’s recently been dumped by his fiancée, Heather.
Heather is now engaged to Jarod, a one-time friend of Rick, until he tried to take advantage of Elena. Sound like a romantic merry-go-round? Oh, just wait until the complications/fun begins!
From the start, the underlying attraction between Elena and Aaron is clear, but several obstacles stand in their way—foremost, Heather, who decides she was hasty in leaving Aaron once she sees him take down a robbery suspect. This woman is the pinnacle of self-centered and shallow. Troilo writes her in such a way that the moment she appears in a scene, you cringe. Heather is a character you love to hate.
But all Troilo’s characters are well developed. Elena is a walking bundle of doubt buried under a core of outer strength. Aaron seesaws between exasperation and attentiveness. Poor guy has his work cut out for him, but bring out the pom-poms because you’ll be cheering for him and Elena from their very first spark of chemistry.
This is a fun novella with snappy dialogue, perfectly paced scenes, and breezy writing. It leaves you with a warm feeling and a happily-ever-after smile. All three Keystone Couples stories are superb, but I think this clever gem might just be my favorite.
Thanks for joining us today and it would be great if you could share Staci’s guest post… Sally.