Telling your stories means sharing your journey. Every time you write about a memory of something you learned you’re sharing your wisdom. Writing about things you didn’t know lets you address the whole process of becoming older and hopefully wiser. Whether you write a list, essay, journal entry, or even a letter to your younger self, this introspective topic makes great reading.
You can share the lessons you’ve learned at the school of hard knocks. Juxtapose things you didn’t know against things you now understand:
- Things you wish you could have relaxed about.
- Things you wish you had been more careful about
- Things you wish you had understood more fully
- Your advice to younger friends and family members
Things You Didn’t Know —or Even Dream Of
As a “mature” adult looking back, things you didn’t know often include things you thought you knew, but didn’t. Perhaps you enjoy a lifestyle or profession that you never even dreamed of as a youth.
Did you spend your youth pursuing a life path like a horse wearing blinders? I did. As a high school and college student, I was sure I was going to be a clinical psychologist. Career paths that I totally rejected included several that I later happily trod: cog in a multi-national corporate wheel, stay-at-home mom, and author.
Perhaps you assumed—or the whole family assumed—you would follow the path of your parents. Did you later felt the need to walk a road less traveled? These stories are particularly poignant when they involve making hard choices that contradict familial or societal norms.
Listening to my kids and their friends, I’m always struck by how black and white the world appears to them. But, my friends remind me, that’s normal. It’s part of youth. Separating the good from the bad is seeing gray for them—usually things are great or horrible.
As you write about things you didn’t know, it’s fun to note when you began to see the shades of gray. What colored your perspective?
Things You Never Expected
You can also write about things you never expected, not because you never dreamed of them, but because you didn’t believe enough in yourself. Perhaps you didn’t believe in your creative talent or intelligence. Did you doubt your ability to become an authority in your field? How did believing in yourself change your dreams and goals?
Things you didn’t know might include those things you were simply too naïve to expect. Many times, as youth, we operate out of a bubble of invincibility. Bad things can happen, but only to other people. Perhaps you never even contemplated the eventuality that your marriage could fail. Perhaps you came to the harsh realization that love and faith were not enough to cure mental illness, addiction, or simply falling out of love.
Technology certainly has brought about things I never expected. Watching The Jetsons as a young girl, I never dreamed that I’d Skype into meetings or have face time with my kids. Going to the airport to see my dad off on business trips, I fell in love with the glamor and excitement of travel. I never expected to look at air travel as a complete drudgery. How has technology changed the way you look at life? (Also see Changes in Technology)
What are the things you didn’t know? Which ones do you want to share with your loved ones—or the world at large? Please share!