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3 Things I Wish I Learnt Sooner

by Najwa Helyer about a month ago in advice

A reflection on my past self

Daymond John via Instagram

Over the past few years, I’ve been debating on going back to school to get my Masters. Feeling stuck in the place that I’m in, I thought going back to university would light that creative fire. Currently, I’m getting my diploma as well and I have been feeling more motivated (even though it’s taking up some of my time), but I know it’ll pay off in the end.

I’ve always had an idealistic view on life. Unsure on whether it’s from the influence of books I read or the people that helped me build my dreams, but this sense of my perfect life is always at the forefront of everything I do. In that way, I’m very similar to my father.

That’s a stark contrast to my stepfather who has always been a very practical man. He’s always calculated his moves methodically throughout his professional life making sure to always go where the money is. He thought about what his qualifications meant when he was in school, where it would take him and how it would propel him in his career.

I’ve always had a “keep ten toes down with my head in the clouds” mentality, so naturally, the universe gifted me with two fathers that were the exact opposite to each other. One to remind me to always dream, the other to remind me to be practical with those dreams.

My stepfather has been in my life for as long as I can remember, he’s seen me grow into the young woman that I am today and even though his advice for me paving my way through life can be jarring, I know that it comes from a good place.

Recently, he taught me an important life-lesson:

There’s a huge difference between doing what you love and being good at what you do.

My father, being the dreamer like I am, was supportive when I went to university to pursue my passion for film. My stepfather, however, saw it as a risk and my decision to do my Masters in production is sending him off the rails too. The creative world is a risky business, what I’m able to give may not be what other people want and what people want, I may not be able to provide.

So when I saw that tweet from Daymond John, I think about my younger self — bright-eyed and excited to enter the real world, of course, being aware of how ugly and unsexy gaining independence really is, and who I’ve turned into today. What would I tell her now? That her dreams don’t matter? Because that’s not true…they still do.

Rejection is redirection

I can’t remember where I read that from or who said it, but it was when I got my first job as a content creator. It was difficult in every sense — all my ideas kept on getting rejected and my ability as a creative was constantly being questioned.

During that time, I was blaming other people for my downfalls. It’s hard to hear “no” when you’ve worked so hard on something and it’s just not good enough. I didn’t look at it from the right perspective. It wasn’t about being good enough, it was my inability to be bad at something new and finding the patience to learn.

In time, everything fell into place. I settled into my role and all those setbacks gave me more of a reason to push forward. Even though it took me a while to realise this as I moved on to different jobs, I wish I just knew it sooner. It could’ve saved me a few years of sulking at how much I sucked because no one told me that rejection is going to happen at every corner of my professional life. Mainly because no one talks about rejection, but there isn’t anything bad that surrounds that word. It just means that there’s something else we have to figure out.

Time is only a concept; it’s never too late for anything

When I turned 24, I was unemployed and finding a hard time getting myself to a place where I wanted to be. I laid out all my options of what I should do next, all while calculating how long it would take me to do it.

If I went back to school, it meant I would be 27 when I graduate and adding a Masters would make it 28. But if my interest means I want to do a 9-month course, that would mean I’d be 29 once I’m all done and so on…I’m sure you get it. But that's all I spent my time doing instead of using it to be productive.

Calculating my steps and my movements believing that the older I got meant that the chances of my success slipping away would be greater. Of course, that’s not true. Not everyone’s timeline looks the same and there’s nothing wrong with taking my time. Some dreams take longer to come true, that doesn’t mean it never will.

What you love may not be what you’re good at

When I sat down with my stepfather to talk about my future, he made sure to be completely transparent with me about my options. He always thought that one of the biggest flaws in the way children are being raised now is that we are made to believe we can do anything.

It’s true, we can do anything we put our minds to but the reality is that we might not be successful in doing so. In this competitive world, only the few will succeed. Others would either take a long time or not make it at all.

Of course, he opened my eyes that in believing that I have to monetize the things that I am passionate about — that’s a capitalistic ideology. I can still be a writer and a filmmaker, a mediocre one, and do it on the side for the few that love my work, all while perfecting my craft and working full-time (incidentally is what I’m doing right now).

Sometimes passions in life won’t fall into your lap even if I did spend three years in university for it. I can write every day, but it won’t solidify my place as a writer in this world. Certain things take time and even if I have to spend my days working in a different field is completely alright.

These three things were the hardest concepts for me to grasp when I was younger. Finding a way to navigate the world alone is difficult, to say the least.

Despite both my father and stepfather being complete opposites of each other, they both shared the same philosophy of making sure that I make my own decisions in regards to my future. Their guidance and advice, although insightful, are very minimal and it forces me to rage through my own discomfort to come out the other side a better woman.

We’re all on our own journey and sometimes it can feel lonely, but in trusting in the universe to guide us, we’ll find the answers soon enough. I know I did and in that, we use to it to push ourselves through more questions that we’ll ask along the way.

Najwa Helyer
Najwa Helyer
Read next: The Deception of Instagram
Najwa Helyer

Creator of words put together.

Constant work in progress

Product of patience.

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