Sometimes, I trick myself into thinking that I haven’t really grown old all that much. That unlike poor unfortunate souls who race against time, I have escaped time’s clutches unscathed. Then, of course, I do something which is part of my routine and I’m jolted back to reality.

Case in point: The other day, I was checking my students’ college application essays. And I caught a glimpse, in a very real and concrete way, of what the world looks to a teenager, which I haven’t been for quite some time now. But it made me remember clearly when I was writing my own college essay. I was so sure of myself, so unbelievably confident that I knew what I was going to be in the future and what my life would turn out to be.

I was going to take the world by storm via the world of advertising. I was going to live a fashionably cosmopolitan lifestyle in high heels and fancy dresses. I was going to have incredibly cute children. I was going to have it all, a family and a corporate career. Which, I found out later on, wasn’t what I actually wanted.

When I started actually working on projects related to advertising, I found it grueling and stressful. When I wore business attires and high heels to oral presentations, I was uncomfortable and my feet developed blisters. I found out I much preferred sandals and sneakers and a non-corporate lifestyle.

If I told my 15-year-old self how I’d turn out, she would probably scoff at me. “You can’t be me,” she would say, looking at my daily uniform and paycheck, “I’m going to be famous.”

It’s very clear to me now that I’ve made the right choices when it comes to my vocation and profession. But sometimes, I miss my 15-year-old self. That girl who was all bright-eyed. Who saw the world with fresh eyes and with such potential. She never had to worry about taxes. About politics. About compromise. She never had to worry about gray hair and laugh lines. She just thought that if she worked really hard and treated everybody well she would succeed.

Everyone over the age of 21 knows that what I thought to be doesn’t actually happen. Sometimes, we can work hard and not get what we want. Sometimes, we can work hard and not get the credit. Sometimes, we can work hard and still not afford the lifestyle we want to lead.

Sometimes, we can treat people well and they can ignore us. Sometimes, we can treat people well and they can hurt us. But at the end of the day, we accept it and move on.

Because other times, we get more than we deserve. Other times, we can treat people well and they will treat us even better. As adults, our experience tells us that the world is a lot worse than we thought it was when we were 15. But our experience tells us that the world is a lot better too.

[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]

nancy toledoAbout Nancy Unchuan Toledo
When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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