Hindsight

flower

art by @bronzar

The earliest example of hindsight in my life that I can think of is the eternal ringing through my childhood of my mom telling me to take learning Chinese more seriously because I would “regret it when I’m older.”

She was absolutely right. I’m 23 now, and I wish that my Chinese was much better than it currently is. I wish I had retained more from my weak foundation built during Chinese school. I wish I had taken advantage of the infinite chances to practice it in conversation when I was living at home in high school. 

I’m an adult now, and I’m interested in learning Chinese because I want to better communicate with my grandparents. I have to go out of my way to seek conversations because I no longer live with my parents and don’t have that safe space to speak Chinglish or ask for their help with translating. So I resort to Duolingo, which gets the job done but in a much more unnatural way…

The whole idea of taking Chinese learning more seriously is something that didn’t click in my mind until probably sometime in college, and it took me even longer to actually act on it.

In hindsight, I should have solidified my Chinese language as early on as possible. 

The funny thing about hindsight is that you don’t understand the true impact of whatever lesson you’re evaluating until you personally live through it. 

My mom nagged me non-stop through middle school and high school about taking my lessons seriously, attending Chinese school regularly and making time to chat with my Chinese relatives. Above all, every single day at home I would either speak almost entirely English or some poor version of Chinglish, primarily out of laziness. 

Often, at least with my own personal experience, the lesson doesn’t hit home until some time has passed and you’re looking back on it. I think the reason is because you think about what life might be like if you had understood the lesson earlier on. 

Maybe I would know more about my grandparents and their lives. My parents and I may not have that twinge of disconnect that subtly pervades our phone calls. 

Hindsight: “understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed.”

Another anecdote – I had a good friend in college that I was very close with. Towards the end of college, we had some friendship problems, and at the time I thought she was mainly at fault. We were still friendly despite the problems, but I suppose you could say it never fully got reconciled. Over the next 1-2 years, however, I myself experienced life (comprised of new friends, lifestyle changes, other friendship struggles, and other miscellaneous life experiences). Over that time, I re-evaluated a lot of priorities and had a few other unrelated profound life realizations, but it made me realize that I was also in the wrong in the friendship.

A lot of situations feel pretty emotional and raw in the moment. We tend to feel feelings very strongly when our headspace is stuck thinking solely about one thing. One useful mental exercise I learned has been to ask myself: will this matter in 5 minutes? 5 hours? 5 days? 5 months? 5 years? 

It really helps put things in perspective. 

As time passes, my priorities and opinions will continue to evolve. It’s all of the learning and living that happens in between that shapes worldviews – everyday life experiences and the general passage of time. 

Despite humanity having written all of these self-help/philosophy books and touting all of these highly accomplished people (Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Taylor Swift) who come with their own words of wisdom and life reflections, there are so many factors that determine what specifically resonates with each individual. And as we age over time, they adopt personal mantras, values to live by, life purpose/direction, etc. that they may not have yet known looking back. 

Imagine if as a kid, someone told you that you would reach personal fulfillment by helping the environment, or by getting a high-paying job in the corporate world. Those are things that must first be internally realized – you would need to experience some “life” and get a grasp on your own priorities before whichever goal really starts to stick in your mind.

With this newly realized concept of hindsight, I’m trying to take some time to mull over current trends in my life that may or may not become the subjects of future epiphanies. Trends that include the trajectory of my career, how to prioritize my finances, how my social circle will evolve from this point on…

The takeaway from all this: take life as it comes, but periodically take time to stop and think about what you’ve gone through and reap whatever lessons that you may have heard but never really listened to until they manifest in your own life and reveal themselves to you.


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