What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?
CHRONIC ILLNESS,  EXPAT LIFE,  FEATURES

Wisdom of Age: What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

I’m 47 years young today, so I thought I’d write a post about my observations over the decades that addresses that age-old question: What Would You Tell Your Younger Self?

I was silly and carefree in my teens.

I had a blast in my 20s and lived life just as I should have. I took every chance that came my way and have no regrets. At age 27, I moved to China to teach English for a year. I had no idea that I was heading to a continent that I would eventually call my home away from home.

Leaving was the best thing for me although I miss my family enormously. I never think about what would’ve happened if I hadn’t left. Traveling and living in Asia empowered me. I did things I never dreamed of doing: I was a successful nightclub singer for many years, participated in a live reality show in Chinese in Beijing in 2004, I was a teacher to thousands of students who were learning English, I worked in a publishing house, launched this blog, became a business owner, created and led two non-profits and have been involved in many others. I’m also a patient advocate – something that was never on my radar up until 2010.

I’ve learned so much about the woman I am today.

I had no idea I was going to meet my husband and best friend on the other side of the world. Little did I know that I’d experience my first pandemic – SARS – in 2003 and that was just a taste of things to come.

In my 30s, I finally received answers to the ill health and pain that plagued me in my teens and 20s. I received an Axial Spondyloarthritis diagnosis in February 2009 and shortly after that, I got my fibromyalgia and MECFS diagnoses.

At that point in my life, my mindset was really starting to change. Having been sick for years, we pushed to get as much travel in as possible and as many visits home as we could. As far as I was concerned back then, money meant nothing and travel was the best thing to invest in. I became a business owner of a thriving business in 2012. Three months later, my brother died and that knocked me back. A year later, we lost John’s father, and while we were home attending his father’s funeral, one of our staff robbed us. We came home to a totally different office. That same person has trolled us relentlessly online for years and we never found out why. We ultimately came to the decision that he was a sick person and forgot about him. Life goes on.

And, of course, my health was a ticking time bomb.

In 2014, I joined the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan and had a wonderful six years with them. It gave me great pleasure to help the Canadian business community in Taiwan. I had incredible opportunities in organizing Canada Day celebrations, gala charity events for sick kids; and we launched a foreign business event called Dragons’ Chamber Taiwan to assist foreign business owners in Taiwan. It was an interesting experience and I enjoyed meeting Canadian delegations whenever they visited Taiwan from 2016 to 2020.

However, I didn’t notice the toll everything was taking on my health until 2017. It snuck up on me quickly.

This year, my birthday was perfect and low-key. I’m on new medications, so I’m taking things slow and resting a lot. I’m enjoying life. I love our new rooftop home in the mountains and watching our garden flourish. I have three small dinner events to attend in the next month which is better on my health than being with a ton of friends at the same time. (Being with too many people at once still makes me very sick.) My birthday is often one of the only times each year that I get to see everyone so I’ll make the effort to see as many of them as possible.

All in all, I feel lucky and blessed. And that is why I’m writing this post today. I think the advice I’m giving to my younger self today has been shaped by pivotal events in my life between the ages of 15 and 35. That includes meeting my husband, experiencing my brother’s sudden death, and obviously dealing with chronic health problems.

What advice do you wish you’d give your 25-year-old self?

  • Don’t worry so much – things work out over time.
  • Have faith in yourself. YOU CAN.
  • Be kind to yourself, especially when you make mistakes.
  • Do it now. You never know if you’ll have the same opportunities later in life.
  • Life comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Be accepting as you have always been.
  • Make sure you keep up with your handwritten diaries. They’re going to be priceless to you later in life.
  • You’re not going to need all those shoes and make-up collections, Carrie! 🙂

What advice would you give to your 80-year-old self?

Do it all. Remind your loved ones you love them every chance you get.

Don’t fall! 🙂

What do you know for sure?

We’re all perfectly imperfect. Learn to be ok with your imperfections.

What have you learned?

I’ve spent a great deal of my life learning how to communicate in a particular way. The most important advice I have for myself and for others in their younger years is to be careful with your words. Words can’t be taken back. I have some reminders of things I said to others at a young age that used to make me feel ashamed, but I’m glad I learned this lesson early and had it down pat in my 30s. That includes not responding to silly, aggressive emails and texts, which is something I learned with my business early on. If you must, save it for a face to face conversation.

People are most hurtful when they can’t see you and are replying on a screen.

Don’t waste time on people who don’t appreciate who you are. Stop taking on their problems. Remember that some people come into our lives and go and others are meant to stay. They all have an impact on your life in some way.

Thoughts on education?

  • Finish high school. Whether you choose university or college after that is up to you, but try to learn a trade skill.
  • Learn a second language or three.
  • Travel and see the world.

Best piece of advice??

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

Also, listen to your mother.

Get a penpal! I had my first penpal at age 6 in Grade One. Melina lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I’ve kept up with my correspondence with her over the past 40 years. I love the idea of long-distance friendships and having these types of connections has worked out perfectly now that I’m mostly housebound.

Many people say that online connections and far-away friendships are meaningless and they’re not real, but I’m firmly against that idea. Some of the best people in my life are people I’ve rarely seen.

Did your advice work?

Yes, it did!

The moment that everything changed?

When I got sick, everything changed in my life. I fought too hard against it and tried to push through instead of taking time to rest and let my body heal. It took years to get past that, but I’m richer for the lessons I learned and the insight I gained in myself from this experience. Stop fighting and let it go. (Words from my mother once again. As I said, listen to your mother!)

Having said that, my life also changed when I started traveling and I’m richer in the same way as I mentioned above.

Happiness is…

Finding the joyful moments in each day. Enjoying life with my partner. Snuggles with my cats. Spending time with my friends and loved ones. And always reaching for the brightest stars.

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!

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