This I Believe

Sherry - Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Entered on April 3, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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25 Things I Wish I’d Known When I was 25

There are 25 things I wish I’d known when I was 25. I believe that if I had known then what I know now, I would have made different choices and lived my life easier and lighter.

I grew up in a loving and fairly functional family, yet I learned lessons that didn’t serve me well. I learned that what others think is of ultimate importance; that I needed to be perfect to gain approval; that I must never disappoint those who love me or depend on me.

I never knew what it was to be ordinary. I needed to be exceptional: to over-achieve, to make straight A’s, to be the best, to gain approval, to not disappoint. I hated it when I got 98 on a spelling test in grade school. I strived for perfection, for 100 – or with the possibility of extra credit, 105! What I didn’t know was I didn’t need to be perfect; I needed to be ordinary. But I thought being ordinary meant being mediocre, or worse. Who wants to be mediocre? Not me! To me, that meant being a failure.

My husband taught me an important lesson about being ordinary. When I first heard him say, “Sherry, I’m just an ordinary man,” I thought that was such a derogatory statement and I didn’t like it or understand it. To him, being ordinary meant “just being human,” not perfect, but fallible. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with that concept: being human. And I’ve grown to like the sound of it: being human – one who makes mistakes, who likely will disappoint another from time to time, who probably won’t win the approval of everyone. What freedom – to just be human – not perfect. I never knew that was possible until now – now that I’m in my sixth decade.

In looking back over my life, I think of family and friends I expected to be perfect: my brother, my parents, and others over the years. What a disservice I did to them, to place them on pedestals, to assume they were all-knowing and perfect, to not expect them to make mistakes or have doubts or be human. But they weren’t perfect; they were only human. And what of those who expected me to be perfect? I know I disappointed them. I’m only human. I used to think of that as an excuse: “I’m only human.” But I’ve learned that it’s not an excuse; it’s just reality and who I am – and who we all are.

I believe that no matter your age, it’s never too late to unlearn lessons from one’s youth and discover new ways to think and act. I’ve learned that I have the capacity to forgive myself and others, that I most certainly will disappoint someone, that I won’t win everyone’s approval. This I believe: It’s okay to be human, to make mistakes, to not be perfect. I wish I’d known some of these things when I was 25.