Yesterday, I read Arianna Huffington’s post There’s Enough Time in Your Life for Everything Important. That’s when I discovered that LinkedIn Pulse is inviting posts on what professionals would do differently if they could go back in time to when they were 22 years of age. It set me thinking. #IfIWere22, what would I do differently?
Arianna Huffington, in her post, expressed that she would make the time for important things in life, and not give into a perceived ‘time famine.’ Do read her post – her message is an important one and may save you looking back and asking yourself what you would have done differently if you could turn the clock back. Because, more than ever, people are starving themselves of time to pay attention to things that really matter. Like children and family.
As for me? I had to think really hard as to what I would have liked to do differently #IfIWere22 again.
I was 22 years of age over three decades ago. Things were very different for young girls in India then. The life path for the middle and upper socio-economic strata girls was school – college – marriage – children – homemaker. Frankly, girls didn’t object. The conditioning was so strong, they saw nothing wrong in that life path.
Destiny had something else in mind for me though. With the family going through hard times, I had to work and bring home the bacon.
I didn’t mind the responsibility. You see, that’s the other thing about growing up in India. Family commitment and values are so strong that one never really even considers striking out on one’s own. Things began changing in India only post-1991 when the Indian economy began opening up to the outside world and allowed capitalist forces in. Now, young girls plan for careers and nuclear families are on the rise.
I, however, was a product of the 1960’s and 70’s. Do I wish I was born in a different generation? Not at all. I wouldn’t change a thing about my life or what I went through because the experience taught me to shoulder responsibility and made me what I am today. I have zero regrets. Not a-one! There is just one thing that I would do differently with wisdom in hindsight.
On some issues I faced from some people, I would look them in the eye and say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!”* By the way, I have wanted to voice that line with aplomb all my life and today, LinkedIn Pulse has given me the opportunity:)
Sadly, those days, I did give a damn. When you are young, social acceptance is so important, it affects you. Peer opinion, if taken too seriously, changes you or, at the least, undermines your self-confidence.
I was no different. Except for the fact that I never had the money to keep up with the Joneses. India those days was also a total cash economy. You either had the hard cash to spend or you had to go without. Mostly, I went without because I usually had just about enough cash for the bus fare home (please note I am not advocating piling up credit card debt to keep pace with social demands).
Colleagues in the office didn’t know about my strained finances. As a result, I was subject to frequent comments on how I needed to dress more fashionably or accessorize to appear more feminine. I don’t know if the view then on what constituted femininity still holds (I suspect it does) but over the years, I have reached the conclusion that most people don’t have a clue that the real meaning of feminine is possessing the qualities of nurturing and caring. Google the meaning of feminine and you still get “having qualities or an appearance traditionally associated with women, especially delicacy and prettiness.” Thankfully, there are a few articles, which talk about the essence of femininity lying in a nurturing personality (see link at the end of this post).
#IfIWere22 again, I would say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” to the people who got onto my case. By the way, it was usually members of my own sex who would comment on my perceived lack of femininity. The experience strangely made me more stubborn about my personality, making me adopt a “take me as I am” stance for the rest of my life!
My constant lack of spare cash created other problems too. I remember my birthday that year. The office norm was that the birthday girl or boy would buy cake for the whole office. Well, I couldn’t afford it. So, I kept mum when the usual demands were made and just muttered something to the effect of “No cake.” Later that day, I overheard a conversation in the locker calling me a stingy person. Silly goose that I was, I went home crying though I made sure the tears had vanished by the time I got home.
Today #IfIWere22 again, I would confront those people in the locker and tell them, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn as to what you think.”
But that episode had its value. Because, it taught me to be more sensitive. Ever since that experience, I ask colleagues to be more careful about making demands – especially on people who they know are at the lower end of the pay scale.
These then are some of the reasons why I say I would not do anything different #IfIWere22 again. I would, however, handle some situations differently.
#IfIWere22 #LinkedIn #LinkedInPulse
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Featured Image Credit: Gone with the Wind Movie Poster – Labelled for Reuse by Google Images (impawards.com)
- The famous line, said by Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), in the 1939 classic Hollywood film Gone with the Wind. According to Wikipedia, the line is partially spoken by Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind, published in 1936, from which the movie is derived. The novel does not include the word “frankly” which was added by scriptwriter Sidney Howard. The movies was produced by Selznick International Pictures and directed by David O. Selznick.
Susan Walsh. The Essence of Femininity. January 18, 2011.