I belong to a network called Multiples and More, which is a handy index of blogging parents and soon-to-be-parents of multiples, like me and my wife. In case you’re running out of blog material, the site asks a “Question of the Week” to get you started.
Normally, as you’re likely well aware, I’ve no shortage of material to yammer about, so I hadn’t bothered taking part in the QotW. But today’s caught my fancy, so I went for it.
Today’s QotW: What would you say to an 18-year-old you?
Dear 18-year-old Me,
I hope this letter finds you well. It’s 35-year-old Me. I know your attention span isn’t winning any awards, so I’ll be as brief as I can be.
First off and by far most importantly, you need to know that that haircut isn’t doing you any favors. Trust me, by the time you’re me, your options are going to get extremely modest, so don’t waste any more time doing, y’know, that.
Second, she doesn’t like you. I know, I know, but trust me on this. Well, to clarify: turns out she does like you a lot, but not in That Way. It’ll take another year or so for you to really come to grips with this, but your life will get infinitely easier when you do. And no kidding: somebody better’s coming.
Third, for god’s sakes, do some sit ups and go for a quick run a few mornings each week. Nobody’s ever going to mistake you for an athlete, but this will change your life. For the better. It’s worth it. Start tomorrow.
Fourth, I know you’re going to ignore my third point because you’re going to stay young and skinny forever, right? Kid, I swear. You’re killing me.
Fifth, the best is ahead of you. Really. You won’t believe how fantastic and how much fun it’s going to be. That’s the good news. Bad news is, the worst is also coming. And brother, it’s bad. And when I say bad, I mean bad. You’ll make it, though.
Sixth, the career stuff will be a little harder than you think. It takes an awful lot of work and you’re going to need to deal with an awful lot of failure and rejection to do what you really want to do. It won’t seem like it at the time, but all that failure is actually an enormous favor, gift wrapped just for you. (And by the way, someone over you who you respect a lot will tell you when you’re 24 that you’re not talented enough to do what you’re good at for a living. I promise you: you’ll never see this asshole again and turns out he won’t even be able to keep his own company afloat. Don’t let him rattle you for even a day. When it happens, you’ll want to cry (I did) and later on you’ll wish you’d peed on his desk instead. Do me a solid and, at the very least: smile, shake his hand, and tell him how full of s#%@ he is. You’ll be tempted to kiss his ass a little for the sake of a good reference later. Don’t bother. He’s a speed bump. Move on.)
Seventh, I’ll go ahead a blow the suspense here: you’re going to be married. From time to time, your wife will suggest you try something absolutely ridiculous. Every once in awhile, consider taking her advice on outrageous stuff. You’re going to find that your biggest wins started out as insane suggestions from her. Fair warning.
Eighth, 30 is just a number. Don’t sweat it.
Ninth, ask for help from people who are smarter and more sincere than you are. I know that’s vague, but I don’t know how else to say it.
Tenth: dude. Cut people a break now and then. If you’re anything like me (and something tells me you are), you’ll be tempted to ignore this wee little truth, but I swear it’s gold: 9 times out of 10, it’s better to be kind than to be right.
Eleventh, that pain in your back is kidney stones. You’ll continue having them for awhile, maybe forever. It sucks and I’m sorry. (Let me save you years of mental anguish, though: a shot of pure lemon juice every morning will keep you out of the hospital.)
Twelfth, there’s a company called Apple and they make those weird little computers that are hard to use. Convince Dad to help you buy a little stock in them and hang onto it until you’re me. Don’t ask questions.
Thirteenth, I’m not kidding about the hair thing. It’s what your friends are doing, I know, but YOU’RE JUST NOT PULLING IT OFF. C’mon, man.
Fourteenth. And this is more or less the whole point of this letter. You’re going to spend an awful lot of time thinking about children and whether or not it’s socially responsible to have any. It’s going to seem to be such an effortless decision for everyone but you. Rest assured, it’ll be resolved eventually and… you know, come to think of it, I don’t want to say anything else at the moment about it other than this: something surprising and astonishing and rare is going to happen and, I swear, it’s not what you think. You may think you know what I’m talking about, but, stack of bibles, you don’t. Things are going to get legendarily weird for you. I didn’t see it coming, so it freaked the hell out of me and it still does and I think it’s probably best that way.
And, finally, fifteenth. I’m 35 and I’m telling you: our biggest adventure hasn’t happened to either of us yet.
That’s all I’ve got for now, JB. Hang in there. Believe it or not, a handful of your current friends will still be in your life when you’re me. You’ll need them later as much as you do now. Oh, and don’t take your family for granted. They’re the best. In fact, give your mom a call and tell her you love her (and keep telling her. She’s in for a trial or two of her own, several years from now, and she’ll need your help).
PS – Don’t feel so bad about, y’know. You’re in your teens, it’s natural. Even several times a day, it’s fine.