In my recent post, Do You Teach What You Most Need to Learn? I mentioned that my parents were strict disciplinarians. Being the oldest of three, I got the brunt of their ‘children of Greek immigrants/raised during the depression’ brand of parenting.

I was told what to do, and not allowed to make decisions for myself from the smallest things such as choosing the type of ice cream I wanted at Carvel’s, to what to wear and how to fix my hair.

About the only thing I could do without any questions from my parents was read books. My mother detested frivolous behavior – no slumber parties for us! Education was held in the highest regard in our household. So, I became a championship reader. I won awards for reading the most books during summer vacation in 6th grade, and for fastest reader in 7th & 8th grades. I even read books when I played ‘house’ with my sister and best friend. My character was always the smart kid that read books, so they could play around me. Books were my escape from a home life that centered on the constant drudgery of work to “keep us in line and out of trouble.”

My parents’ overbearing parenting style resulted in my rebelling big-time in high school. I hung with a fast crowd and did all sorts of things I wouldn’t want my kids, if I had any, to do. All I could think about was getting a good job, so I could get away from home. I remember thinking when I was 16 that I couldn’t wait to turn 30, so that then my parents might respect me and see me as an adult.

Wanting so badly to escape from the clutches of my parents led me to make many mistakes. The voices of my parents were hard to shake and caused me a lot of inner conflict. If I could speak to that young girl, and she would listen, I’d have lots to tell her. I’d want her know:

You’re not crazy. Your gut feelings are right. It isn’t normal for parents to be so over-protective and controlling. Do not let this undermine your confidence.

It’s okay to relax. You don’t have to work all the time to prove you’re worthy of your parents’ approval. They can’t let go of their depression era values, but that doesn’t mean you have to assimilate them.

You’re not “good for nothing” if you want to sit on the porch and sip iced tea on a Saturday afternoon, instead of mow the lawn, or trim the hedges.

Forget about what the “neighbors” think, or anybody else either. What does it matter? You can’t control their minds, so stop worrying about it. Just do what’s in your heart.

Take time to dream – and dream big! Do not put the word dream and practical in the same sentence, ever!

Don’t dial down your dreams to “get a good job with benefits” that will ultimately make you want to walk in front of bus someday.

Leave home. Go away to school. Experience campus life. The friendships you make when you live on campus will be lifelong ones. The campus is a mini-city where you can spread your wings and be an adult for the first time. You’ll look back later and wish you hadn’t given in to being a commuter student.

Normal people have fun! They get together with friends and share a glass of wine and kick back and enjoy their lives. Some go out dancing, some go to sporting event, and some to pubs, but the point is they get out and socialize. There are other things beside academics.

Take more vacations. Go for the R&R. Lay on a beach and read trashy novels for a week. There is nothing wrong with that. Life is to be enjoyed.

Slow down. Take one day at a time. Don’t live in the future. Don’t put off happiness for when you’ve accomplished this, or done that. Time goes way to fast. Before you know it you’ll be through half your life, and you will not have enjoyed the journey, and the accomplishments will feel empty.

Please don’t give away your guitar! Someday you’ll wish you hadn’t stopped playing. Keep it. Even if it sits in a closet for 20 years. You’ll be glad you did.

Just because you’ve been dating someone for X years doesn’t mean you have to marry them. If it doesn’t feel right before you get married, it’ll feel even worse after you’re married.

If you don’t like what you’re doing it’s okay to quit. It doesn’t make you a quitter, it shows that you value yourself and take your likes and dislikes seriously.

Don’t stay in career that’s not for you. So what if you have to start all over at the bottom of the ladder. At least this time it’ll be a ladder you want to climb!

Oh, and when you’re in grad school do not take a part time job in the mortgage business…you’ll never get out – and you’ll be so sorry.

Resist the urge to go after money and security all the time. Allow yourself to free-fall. You’ll probably land somewhere ten times better.

When you’re ready to sell your condo for a bigger one – don’t buy a house instead, please? Okay? Stick to your original plan and buy a nice townhouse where you can stay put for a couple of decades instead of having to downsize in a down market 7 years later.

You mustn’t take life so seriously! Forget the rules once in a while. Run through the grass barefoot. Have cereal for dinner. Live, love, laugh and enjoy your life!

That’s what I’d tell her today. Who knows in ten years I might have more insights for her, but for now this what I think she needs to hear.

By the way, I don’t blame my parents – they did the best they could, and I know they thought they were doing what was best for me. I was angry and rebellious when I was a teen, but as I got older I let go of the anger. I realize that everything that I’ve gone through in my life has helped to make me the person I am today, so to change the past would be to change who I am now – and I wouldn’t want that.

What insights would you share with your younger self? What would you want them to know – that you know now?

My heartfelt thanks to Abubakar Jamil of, and Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living for inviting me to participate in their wonderful Life Lessons series.

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