Sunél's Blog | What I wish I had known

Sunél Veldtman, | 24 May 2024

My daughter started working as an intern recently. She asked me what I wish I had known when I started my career. I find it a difficult question to answer. I never really thought about my future at the start of my career, perhaps because I was preoccupied with my impending wedding in the same year. For most women in my circle, getting married was the primary goal, in many ways, far more so than, for example, securing an independent financial future.

That brings me to the first point on my list of ‘wish-I-had-knowns’. I wish I had believed in myself, the importance of independence and that I already had all the things I needed to shape that independence. I wish I had trusted my judgement, intuition, intellect, and skills. I wish I had understood how strong and resilient I was, and how my diligence and understanding of people would propel me forward. I wish I had believed in those qualities much earlier, and crucially, believed in them enough to understand how they could empower me to secure an independent future, both personally and financially. 

It illustrates the challenge of young women, even today. Somehow, most young women, no matter how brilliant or successful, doubt themselves, mask deep anxiety and suffer from imposter syndrome. I wish I could go back and change that for my younger self.

I wish I had known myself better. I wish I had more emotional awareness and not mistaken my ability to ignore emotion for maturity. If I had understood that my fear of failure and conflict stood in the way of my prospects and even relationships, I would have stood my ground earlier and with more vigour. I would have learnt how to make my voice heard in more productive ways.

I wish I understood the power of compounding – of spending my increasing income, borrowing, and saving early on. Despite graduating with an honours degree in Econometrics, I understood compounding intellectually but never really grasped it personally. I stepped into the trap of extrapolation – that incomes will always rise, and life will get easier. I had not yet understood that life could throw curve balls and that the future could bring financial challenges and demands that would require resources beyond what I had imagined. I wish I understood that saving a fraction more of my salary at the start of my career would be so important years later.

I wish I had appreciated just how important money is. My religious upbringing had led me to believe that money should not be desired. Now I know that money is important, that there is no nobility in having too little, and that used well, it is a blessing.

But so are time, family, friends, and all the other elements of a good life.

I suppose many points could have been on this list but are not because I thankfully understood them well.  I am grateful that I understood the value of a balanced life, that I seldom sacrificed my life for my work. I’m grateful that I took chances and never really bothered too much about the trajectory of my career or making perfect decisions. Somehow it worked out.

What I would want my daughter to know is that there is no perfect way. I’d like her to believe in herself, to trust herself, and to have faith that whatever happens, she has the resources and resilience to make it work. There’s not much point in regrets or long lists of ‘wish I had knowns’.

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Kind regards,