Have you ever watched a movie and wanted to shout at the person on the screen and tell them not to go into the basement because you can see who's hiding there? Did the female lead ever dismiss the good guy early in the movie in favor of the bad boy whose faults are revealed to the viewer but not to her? Don't you want to yell, “Don't fall for him. He's lying."?
Well, that's kind of how I sometimes feel when I talk with my much younger friends. As a woman in my 60's, I've become a sort of elder spokesperson to these fledglings. While life is not a movie, hindsight can imitate it. But just as I did in my 20's and 30's, they listen to well-meant advice with a little “you really don't know what it's like nowadays" echoing in their heads. But some important basics don't change and will help make life a little better in the future. Here goes:
THE most important thing to remember is your future just doesn't happen to you, at least if you take part in its shaping. Sounds simple, right? Somehow, it's always easier to say, “I'm too young to think about that now."
Try incorporating some of these key points in both your personal and professional lives and you'll have your hands on the wheel:
1.The media are the message—social media that is.
Keep yourself up to date on all sites, both professional and personal. Know the difference and make sure you don't over share on the personal ones. This is something I've never been guilty of, but I often wonder why some of you post so much on your sites. Prospective employers don't need to know how you look in a bikini or how fast you can chug a beer. Nor do new boyfriends need to see a history of you and your ex.
2.Have a go-to interview outfit, and invest heavily in it.
If there's anything I've learned, it's that you are what you wear. If you walk into an interview and the first thing your potential boss sees is the 50 wrinkles in your cheap white blouse, they're already too distracted to listen to what you have to say. Buy a good blouse and a power outfit. Spend the money. You will feel better, more comfortable and at ease, and you won't be worried about your clothes while delivering your best interview version of yourself.
3.Keep your LinkedIn and other professional sites current.
Your resume should be updated whenever there are any status changes. I wish someone had warned me about this. Trying to piece together 14 years of job history with my firm when another company bought it was a monumental task. I wish I had kept a “job diary."
4.Don't be pressured to find a mate/husband.
You've time for that. Get to know yourself. Speaking as a single woman, let me clue you in: there are a lot of perks to the unmarried status. While singlehood isn't for everyone, neither is marriage. Going solo can be fun too.
Don't settle for the wrong guy just to have a guy. Don't sell yourself short--you deserve someone you're thrilled to be with, not someone who'll just be "better than nothing." (That's what my friend's father named the husband she quickly divorced.)
5.Don't envy anyone because they look so perfect online.
It's easy to portray a false image for the public. I remember having dinner with a friend I hadn't seen in years. On her Facebook page she looked happy and popular. She told quite a different tale; those “friends" were co-workers she was forced to socialize with for business. She currently was looking for a new job because she was miserable.
6.Be careful not to get involved in office drama.
I had a boss who was always telling me all the details of her marital problems and when she and her husband smoothed things over, I was resented for knowing their secrets. I had to transfer to another department. Also, don't get involved in office gossip. You can't anticipate who will hold what position in the future.
7.Don't box yourself in - be open to possibilities.
You never know where your current career might lead you. This is an area where I definitely could have been more open. I was once offered a job as an assistant manager of a famous antiques shop and turned it down without considering it because I felt I didn't have the knowledge. The owner was willing to train me, and it might have been interesting and certainly fun, but I was too timid to try it.
8.Don't take yourself so seriously that you burden yourself with critical timelines!
Dip your toes in different waters. Remember Gaugin was a stockbroker before he became well known for his painting. Now I'm not suggesting you dump your current endeavors and hightail it to Tahiti, but hey, you never know!
9.Financial health is important no matter your age.
Save the maximum. Bank your raises. Sure you can and should splurge now and then. Just be aware the future is closer than you believe. I wish someone had twisted my arm to get me to follow this crucial advice. I felt the future was so far away that I should enjoy now and save later. Unfortunately, I'm now retired and still paying a mortgage.
10.Pay attention to politics.
Maybe you needn't get into a dispute over your candidate while at work, but stay informed and be active on issues that speak to you. Now is the time to begin to make statements through your actions. Being involved in current events can help shape the future of this country.
11.Take care of yourself both physically and mentally is another investment in the future.
Careful eating and exercising can go a long way to making you a happier, healthier person both now and in the future. I was always interested in nutrition and took courses on the subject in college, but now there is so much information just a click away. Also, don't be afraid to seek emotional support when you need it.
12.Don't be afraid to rock it. You've got youth on your side.
While age no longer makes a difference in fashion, the really wild outfits usually benefit from a bit of young blood. No, you won't see me in dowdy clothes, and my blue toenail polish is anything but dowdy, but I think I'll leave the short jumpsuits to you.
13.Be sure you know the difference between a friend with a problem and a problem friend.
People that are always negative can drag you down with them. I was once in a situation where a friend of mine would have problem after problem, many of them of her own making and would talk about nothing else. She never wanted any advice and would just continue to dwell in misery. After a time, I had to minimize my contact with her. The relief I felt was amazing.
14.Never compare yourself with anyone.
I believe that has been one of the most important principles I have followed. As long as I'm doing the best I can, I only judge myself on my own merits—not in comparison with anyone. That has given me an amazing sense of peace and acceptance.
15.Live your passion.
There's a saying that if you work at what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. When you can combine your work with your passion, you are indeed fortunate. While I can't say that I had a passion for my work, I can say I have always enjoyed it. I could never understand people that complain about their jobs and how they hate them. I have never worked at a job for any length of time unless I truly enjoyed it.
16.Be sure to embrace your talents.
Don't be so critical of yourself that you don't see your own assets. Trust me, you'll encounter lots of people who will be more than happy to lend a hand in pointing out your shortcomings. A little self love is a good thing, although too much is definitely not!
17.Your success can breed success for others.
Share your knowledge, networks and experience with others. I love keeping a file of information if my head and linking people I believe can be of benefit to one another.
18.Invest in social capital.
Friends and acquaintances should be positive additions to your life. Friends can be part of a network, both professionally and personally. Housecleaning friendships can be liberating, and nurturing good friendships can add to your well-being. At this stage in my life, I realize the friends I have had the longest are those with common interests and values. Choosing friends as thoughtfully as you do jobs and mates should be the norm.
19.Don't be afraid to listen to your inner voice.
It may tell you something important. I once had an interview and had a bad vibe about the prospective boss, but I ignored it and took the job. It didn't take too long to find out he was difficult and condescending, and in a one on one situation, it was impossible. I quit within a month.
20.Listen to the voices of experience.
This might be the most important one. Listen to those who are older and wiser. They might actually know something!
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.