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Rather than kicking yourself for not yet succeeding, pat yourself on the back for having made it thus far.

I recently attended an old school reunion and it was fascinating to see how the years have impacted us. Not all of us were there; we have lost a few, and lost touch with others.

But, as we danced around our handbags to the soundtrack of our teenage years, it struck me that time had also changed the ‘roles’ we had adopted or been given in school. The prom queen that everyone wanted to date had now matured into a rather more matronly queen mother; while the lithe, athletic jocks of yesteryear are now the first to admit that they haven’t seen the inside of a gym for 20 years. And the smart ones, tipped for stratospheric (at least, according to our standards) success, were now acting out their inner rebels in a range of unconventional occupations.

Yet, despite the passing years, there was still a sense of stories that were not yet finished, lives that still held surprises, and horizons as yet unexplored. Grey hair (or no hair) and sturdier hips have not diminished the possibilities that are still open to us when, as one school friend put it, ‘I finally grow up’.

No Judgement

I was also struck by the camaraderie among a group of people who haven’t interacted on a regular basis for over two decades. I’ve heard of people who go to great lengths to avoid their old school reunions; dreading the thought of having to see those who tormented their early years or of being judged by their peers for losing hair or gaining weight, for making too much money or not making enough.

Fortunately (and not just because no-one expected much from us anyway), there was a complete absence of judgement.

When we mark our own papers based on our perception of what other people are doing or have done, we give ourselves no credit for our own achievements.

In fact, the reason I found our reunion so striking is that in our hyper-competitive world, it was so refreshing to be taken, literally, at face value. Instead of gatherings where people talk to you while not so subtly craning over your shoulder to spot someone who might be more important, people at my reunion were scrutinising the faces before them, trying to match them to the younger versions held in their memories, and marvelling at the changes.

Rather than the ‘What do you do?’ question being followed by a smirk of superiority or a sigh of envy, the ‘Where are you now?’ and ‘What are you up to these days?’ questions were usually followed by appreciative shrieks of ‘No!....YOU?!’ or ‘Great stuff! I need some work done…when are you free?’ or (most likely) ‘Nice one. Now, whose round is it?’

This was a club where the only entry requirement was having attended the same school. It was a reminder of a time when it didn’t matter who you were or who you knew and when the only competition was in who could attract the bartender’s attention first or recite the words to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Never Give Up

Theodore Roosevelt once said that ‘Comparison is the thief of joy” and, truly, when we mark our own papers based on our perception of what other people are doing or have done, we give ourselves no credit for our own achievements.

But when you start to despair as you think of all the things you had planned to accomplish and have yet to achieve, remember that you don’t need to judge yourself by any yardstick other than your own. Wherever you are on your path to success, you still have plenty of time to grow up.

The author, Dän Lee Dimke, says: ‘Live your life as if all your dreams have come true, and then challenge life to catch up.’ Rather than kicking yourself for not yet succeeding, pat yourself on the back for having made it thus far. Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to old dreams and start dreaming new ones. Don’t give up on yourself, because even if you are not where you thought you’d be, you are still in a great place to plan where you want to be.

It is never too late, so dance around your handbag and keep dreaming!

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Author of the novels ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot’ and ‘From Pasta to Pigfoot: Second Helpings’ and the books I Want to Work in… Africa: How to Move Your Career to the World’s Most Exciting Continent’ and ‘Everyday Heroes – Learning from the Careers of Successful Black Professionals’

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