We often flip through the pages of life so quickly and we forget to pause and consider the most important lessons. I recently paused to reflect on what I would say to my 22-year old self. I shared my thoughts with her in a letter.
What would you say to your 22-year old self? What are your most important lessons? What has surprised you? Life is always teaching us more, but we must acknowledge and embrace the wisdom along the way.
Dear 22-year old Chinwe,
What if… life is even better than fairy tales?
What if… life is even better than the victorious toss of graduation hats?
What if… our greatest milestones are not pinnacles or endings, but rather the beginnings of life’s most brilliant instructions?
What if now is a great time to pause and reflect on the journey thus far?
You’re graduating from college. While it is an exciting milestone and an important time of transition, there is an extent to which it was a foregone conclusion. You grew up in a family of academics and you were surrounded by excellence. Your father is a professor and your mother later obtained a doctorate degree. You were never pressured into going to college. Indeed, some form of a graduate degree is also expected, but there are many unknowns in the path ahead.
All presumptions and expectations aside, you’re feeling an overwhelming sense of pride because of all you have accomplished in college and because you are now months away from starting at your dream law school.
Two decades later, here are seven reflections on the journey:
1.Trust the Voice Within.The biggest question on your mind is whether you’ve chosen the right law school, so we’ll address that first. Today I can tell you that going to Harvard Law was indeed the right choice for you. The lesson here is to trust your intuition and inner wisdom. The only reason you questioned your decision was because others shared opinions about which of the 10 law schools you should have chosen, and a multitude of reasons that Harvard may not be optimal, including that it’s too expensive. I encourage you to be open and make informed decisions, but trust the voice within. Take time to tune in and listen to it.
2. Master Money and Relationships.These are quite possibly two of the most important life skills. Every moment spent gaining mastery of making and managing money, and learning how to create an extraordinary long-term relationship (e.g., marriage), is time wisely spent. You didn’t learn any of this in decades of formal education, but as it turns out, they are critical to living a life of fulfillment.
3. Joy Is a Superpower.There will come a point in your career when you believe that stress is an inevitable part of being grown up. Don’t fall for it. Your ability to have deep, unshakeable joy, regardless of what is going on around you, will serve you and those around you well.
4. Always Tell Yourself the Truth.You never intentionally lie to yourself, but sometimes you may think of situations as you want them to be or worse than they are. It is important to see things as they are. From that point of honesty, you will make better decisions.
5. Address the Uncomfortable Questions.Things don’t go away because you ignore them. The sooner you address uncomfortable questions and circumstances, the sooner you learn from them and grow through them.
6. Faith and Family Are Monumental.There will be people, ideas, circumstances, and commitments that seek to convince you otherwise, but faith and family have helped shape who you are, and will guide you through some of your greatest personal and professional challenges.
7. Be Mission-Driven.To the extent you connect the things you do with a deeper meaning and higher purpose, you will give your best and tap into your highest potential.
A Beautiful Journey
With due credit to your deep commitment to growth and learning (you don’t need to build this muscle; you were born with it), you will evolve in ways that you could never imagine. Even if you ignore everything I just told you — even if you ignore all of the seven reflections above — I have no doubt that your life will be an Ijeoma, a beautiful journey of love, discovery, service, and contribution.