I have been working and reading a little over the Christmas and New Year break, which marks the two year anniversary of my freelance career — the greatest joy of which is that, in the main, I get to pick and choose my schedule, particularly over holiday periods, unlike in my previous life, when school holidays tended to clash with critical deadlines, and the prioritised family time was often sidelined for more pressing 'priorities' that needed attention asap.
The new year is also the 21st anniversary of the passing of my paternal grandfather — a man whom I loved and respected greatly throughout my childhood and adolescence. I do not bring up this second anniversary to evoke any sort of sadness or maudlin thoughts, rather it is to share a nugget of advice — priceless in my opinion — that this lovely man shared with me as I started out on my university career, just a few months before he died, but which has stayed with me to this day and it influenced me greatly in my decision to go freelance.
After a partisan expression of how proud he was of me and that he had no doubts that I would succeed at whatever I chose to do in my future career etc etc; he imparted this wisdom — "There is something else that I want you to remember, even if you don't quite understand it now: never look back with regret and always double check your priorities. It is important to remember that no one lies on their deathbed and wishes that they had spent more time at work."
I didn't push him for further explanation at the time. At 18, I understood the concept of regret in terms of hair styles and fashion choices, maybe even wasted time on boys that were definitely "the one" — until the next day, anyway; priorities were defined in terms of subject choice and where to work that summer; and looking back was a case of assessing the previous weekend with my friends. But as with most teenagers, I assumed I knew exactly what he was talking about and agreed. With hindsight — but without regret — I would like to have understood the thoughts and the experience behind the knowledge rather than guessing at them. Fortunately, what I did do 21 years ago was to write down what he had said to me and ponder on it at various times over the next two decades. At the close of the last decade, I came to fully understand — and greatly appreciate — precisely what he was telling me and I was able to benefit from it immensely — I still am.
What on earth prompted me to share this? I think it was to do with numerous recent conversations that have illustrated to me that everyone has to deal with day-to-day priorities, and very often it is too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. I was lucky enough to have great wisdom imparted that was to influence me at a major crossroads sign, I feel lucky and privileged to have benefitted from it and believe there is no harm in passing it out to anyone that can benefit from it also — whether now or in 20 years time!