I wish I knew then what I know now…

by Doreen M. Cumberford

Orly airport, outside of Paris, France.   A lonely, scared 22-year-old sat on a bench feeling like she had just made the biggest mistake of her life.

Distraught, she barely heard the last and final call for her flight to Yaounde, Cameroon, West Africa.  She bolted into action and ran like the wind towards a future unknown and unraveled.

On that journey to my first overseas assignment in Cameroon, I felt like I had signed away my life to the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, trading breath itself in exchange for adventure.  

Growing up in and around Glasgow, Scotland I had up until that point lived a delightfully provincial, charming, yet small life.

Burning in my bones was this idea that there must be “more.”  But more what? more travel, more freedom, more choices?   I just knew something was impelling me forward.

                  I wish that I knew what I know now,

                  When I was younger,

                  I wish that I knew what I know now,

                  When I was stronger (watch and listen to the entire song here)

Flash forward to today, 2017 a so-called baby-boomer, living in the USA with multiple countries and cultures under my belt – what would I tell that anxious, frightened adult/child who sat quivering on the bench at Orly?

Imagine I was a fairy godmother, what wishes would I grant her?

I would pack a suitcase full of wishes to carry with her.  I would tell her that a life filled with wonder doesn’t just happen all by itself; a life full of satisfaction and fulfillment requires time, intention and immense focus to dance with adventure.

After four continents, six countries, over 25 moves, four languages and many homes the suitcase full of wishes would be packed like this.


I wish I had known everything turns out in the end – and whenever it isn’t looking good – it’s not the end of the chapter. More intention, more application and a bit of persistence is required to have the successful resolution.

I wish I had understood the “law of unintended consequences”.  Our decisions have consequences that take us into worlds we never would have imagined – this is absolutely natural and perfect.

I wish I had applied myself to being more “me”.   I wish I had told the deeper truth more often, spoken up more frequently, been less “nice” and taken much better care of myself.

I wish I had understood all along that day-by-day and moment-by-moment something was growing inside my soul.  My perspective, my memories, a richer deeper imagination and a more mature appreciation was germinating.

I wish I had understood the beautiful value of grief and the children it bears along the road.  Leaving a trail of beloved people, cultures and places behind builds up an internal mountain of grief to be processed and loved. I continue to climb this hill.  My steps are more deliberate, more loving and accepting of the new life I give birth to daily.

I wish I had been more consistent and less impetuous.  I also wish I had taken more risks.

I wish I had the tools I have now.  Primarily those of gratitude & forgiveness. I would have practiced them more frequently and become more confident in their application.

I wish I knew that I was smart.

I wish I knew then that life is precious and portable. Grabbing adventure by the horns gives us the opportunity to create a bigger world-view.

I wish I knew then that relationships require so much application and work. Building a team requires being global-hearted and open-minded.

                If I knew then what I know now,

                I’d be different, I would slow down,

                As the world spins round and around,

                I wish I knew then what I know now.

               –  Lyfe Jennings, lyrics


Please read what Doreen recommends to young people and the rest of the post here


About the Author


Doreen Cumberford speaks, writes and coaches on international transitions and global hearted leadership. 

Doreen is the author of the upcoming “Life in the Camel Lane “ a motivational memoir of her time in Saudi Arabia, helping readers to transform their lives through international travel. She is a licensed teacher of success principles, working with clients to develop practices necessary to create international moves of ease and grace.

Doreen has lived in seven countries on four continents, including the Middle East for 17 years. A native of Scotland, Doreen worked for the British Government in London and Cameroon, and an American corporation in Dubai. She has been an entrepreneur as a coach, writer and speaker for most of the last 30 years.  






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