For March, we’re talking about “If Only I’d Known.” I’m excited to see what our fab Mysteristas have to say about this theme, although I’m a bit challenged by it myself. However, I found inspiration this morning from my mom. My mother, as a middle school educator, is full of funny and poignant quotes. “If wishes were horses…” was always a favorite, and one that sticks with me. It took a few years for me to really understand what she meant, this idea that you can’t simply wish for things; you have to make things happen (and that usually means work, effort, and patience).
During the past few years, I’ve embarked on a purposeful journey to reduce the baggage I carry with me. In a practical sense, that means I try not to carry anything around that isn’t absolutely necessary, which includes regrets and a certain amount of hindsight, in addition to physical objects. This weekend, I re-arranged my kitchen. Part of that exercise included reducing the number of coffee mugs (we don’t drink coffee) and shot glasses (we don’t do shots, either) living in the space. I’ve kept them over the years, moving them from apartment to apartment, rented house to owned house, as they served as placeholders for certain memories. The K-State shot glass from one of my first conferences as a presenter, as a graduate student, the coffee mug my parents bought for me when I was young with my name on it, and others provide sweet reminders of past moments. But, do I need the tchotchkes to have the memories? Perhaps not as many. Plus, these things need space and have to be dusted! (The dusting is a deal-breaker. I hate dusting.)
Likewise, I am actively refusing to carry regret. I can’t change the past, I can only learn from it. Wishing for something to happen or be true doesn’t make it so. Beating myself up for choices I’ve made isn’t helpful, productive, or healthy. Instead, I’m trying to own my decisions, good, bad, and ugly. It’s a process, for sure. But, I find that I get stronger the more I practice it; this exercise definitely adds tone and definition to my psyche! However, the lessons I’ve learned are invaluable. Carrying the lessons, but not the emotional baggage, is the tricky balance I’m still working to achieve.
So, what do I wish I’d known sooner? That confidence comes from within. If I don’t believe, no one else will, either. That it’s okay to invest in myself and the things that make me happy, like writing time. Revision is work, but the rewards are worth it. Wishing my novel complete won’t make it happen; butt in chair, fingers on keys is what needs to happen. I’ve learned it’s okay to change my mind, and that doesn’t mean I’ve failed, only that I’ve learned the lesson, and I’m smart enough to move on to the next one. That famous authors are real people, and almost universally kind; they love readers, and are happy to speak with fledgling writers. Use those opportunities!
What do you wish you’d known? What things might have changed?