People always say that hindsight is 20/20 or bemoan opportunities lost to the sands of time. How often have you heard any one of the following?
“If I’d only known then what I know now…”
“I wish I could go back and…”
“If I had it all to do over again, I’d…”
I’m sure that everyone of us have, at one time or another, had that thought or uttered those very words. I mean who wouldn’t want to go back and clean up some things that happened way back when. It’s a universal desire and part of being human. I wanted to take a stab at this myself, using our “Five Off the Top” format here at OneStackMind. Some ground rules were required. For example, no sharing the winning lottery numbers or championship teams. That’s cheap and lazy, Biff Tannen and you shouldn’t do it. Secondly, while I wouldn’t call all of these items necessarily realistic, the assumption here is that I’m not trying to radically change anything in my life, ie. the lottery numbers. Maybe I’m just trying to make my arrival at my current situation a little smoother. Finally, I tried to avoid any era-specific items. This would include advice like don’t bet on the Buffalo Bills. Ever. British Knights are not really as cool as you think they are. Stop pegging your pant legs. Don’t get too attached to that Sega Dreamcast. Things like that. These decisions may have seemed important, but in the big picture, they really didn’t have the lasting impact that some other things did on my life. (Okay, maybe the British Knights did.)
Here, then, are Five Things I Wish I Could Tell My 15 Year Old Self:
- Enjoy Your Hair – For that matter, enjoy everything about your youthful appearance and health. Enjoy having a high metabolism and low body fat. Enjoy the fact that when you’re young being active and being out of breath can indeed be two separate states. More than just enjoying your health though, try your best to preserve it because there’s nothing you can really do about preserving youth. Push yourself, try things, set goals, not limits. All the cheesy motivational gym slogans we see as a 41-year old, overweight pharmacist are indeed applicable to our lives. It’s just much easier to apply them when you’re young and without children of your own to distract you and drain your lifeforce.
- Parent’s Don’t Always Know Everything – As a child, I thought my parents could handle just about anything thrown at them. I thought that, whether or not I agreed with their rules and regulations, they drew their knowledge from some sort of mystical book of parental guidance or a vast pool of experience in all things. As someone who has now achieved parenthood myself, I can say with a high level of confidence that they didn’t have any more idea what they were doing than I do right now. I tell my wife from time to time that I always assumed I’d know more by the time life’s larger mile markers were passing by me. Marriage, children, midlife crisis, choosing a phone carrier, these were all things I thought I’d be more prepared for when they arrived. This is why I have two pieces of advice for my 15 year old self when it comes to parents. First, value your time with them. You are going to grow up and change and they are going to grow old and change. Enjoy them and all that they are right now. Second, give them a break. Try your best not to be belligerent or smart mouthed or hateful. Not necessarily out of some deeper goodness, although it is a very good idea to be kind to your parents. No, you should treat your parents well because one day you yourself will be a parent, and they will be grandparents. And they will spoil your kids and cause them to misbehave purely for their own enjoyment. They will do this at every available opportunity. So be nice to them now. Maybe they’ll take it easier on you later.
- Stay in touch – In an era of social media this is something that we often take for granted today. In fact, all of us probably have people we wish we could see a little less of via Facebook, Twitter and the like. In the days of my youth, however, we still made landline phone calls, stopped by people’s houses and (gasp) wrote and mailed letters. It did tend to make things a little more challenging than today, but still completely doable. And yet, I can think of several people right off hand, that I’ve lost contact with over the years and, even in today’s environment of information overload, cannot establish their current whereabouts or a means of contact. Some of these people were roommates, coworkers, fellow students or just good friends and all were very close to me at one time or another. The thought of not knowing where they are or how to get in touch with them would’ve seemed silly, if not completely out of the question. Even in today’s world, I would suggest compiling an address book full of names and locations and doing your best to keep track of those people. I’ve always found Christmas cards to be a good way of making sure someone is still located where you last thought. If you send one out and the address is still correct, you generally can expect to see one in return. If you receive the card back in the mail, then you may have some work to do and some other friends to call. Keep up with people. You never know when you may want to get back in touch or pay someone a visit.
- In matters of romance, be more confident – Now I’m not saying you have to be some sort of ladies man or Lothario. Nor am I suggesting that you immediately kick off the date with necking and some heavy petting. No, what I’m suggesting is that you should appreciate the fact that on all your “dates” in high school, college and even early adult life, the female accompanying you is, most likely, just as nervous as you are, perhaps even more. I spent the better part of every date that I was ever on with butterflies in my stomach the size of rather large pterodactyls. It was rough. I needed to be more confident in myself and just enjoy the situation that was in front of me. In saying that, I’m certainly not implying that I would’ve somehow discovered some lost romance and ended up with a different spouse or anything like that. (I’m required to make that disclaimer per the vehement – read violent – insistence of my wife.) I’m simply saying I think I would’ve enjoyed myself more and I know that I would’ve definitely saved myself a great deal of anxiety.
And speaking of anxiety…
- Relax – If I could give my 15 year old self just a single word of advice that I thought would impact “our life” more than any other, it would be to “relax.” I don’t necessarily think that I was an overly nervous youngster, but I do think that I was a little on the anxious side. My mom used to say that I took things too seriously and handled every difficulty as if it were the end of the world. I do remember investing far too much time worrying about things and people that, in the grand scheme of things, were not as important as I perceived them to be. That is not to say that nothing in middle school or high school or college was at all important, far from it. I would just say that if I could have, at an earlier age, developed the ability to take a step back from a problem or worry and enjoy other aspects of my life in spite of it, I would have been a much happier young man. I’ve heard the expression that “Worrying is like rocking in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t take you anywhere.” I would agree with that sentiment and wish I’d have stood up out of that rocking chair more often than not as I grew into adulthood. So, 15 year old me, just relax. It will make you a happier individual and besides, you have to look cool when you’re sporting those sweet BKs.
That’s the five nuggets of brilliance that I’d share with my 15 year old self. What’s yours? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts. Also, give us a follow here at www.onestackmind.com if you can.