I’ve often heard people wishing they could have a talk with their younger selves. Pass on some advice and maybe a few warnings.
I’d love the opportunity, especially since I hit a big milestone last week.
My birthday happened, and I hit the big Six Oh.
Sixty years old. Holy crap. That’s at least 35 years longer than I thought I was gonna be around.
And if I were able to pick my time frame for conversing with me, I’d pick my clueless, 17-year-old self. The boy was hardheaded and about to leave home. He was mad and completely uncertain as to what his future held.
I don’t want to ruin any surprises for him. I’d just like maybe to offer him a little assurance he’s gonna be OK. So bear with me as you eavesdrop on our conversation:
OK, man, let’s talk.
I realize you’re not in the mood to hear from anyone older than you at this moment. You’re mad, you’ve already made up your mind to leave home (because you already know everything there is to know about everything, right?) and nothing anyone can say is going to change your mind.
Besides, any kid dumb enough to fight a guy named “Rocky” in the sixth grade may not be smart enough to process these words anyway. Why’d you want to fight Rocky? He was a great guy. You’re lucky a bloody nose was all he gave you.
It’s cool. I’m not here to change your mind about anything. I’m here to tell you things are going to work out, even if it doesn’t seem possible now.
No, really. I’m serious. Not immediately. You’re about to embark on some butt-whippings of epic proportions. Yes, getting out to see the rest of the world is a great idea, but you’re going to handle it all wrong in the beginning. You’re going to hurt some people who love you. Consider yourself very lucky they all possess a forgiving nature. They’ll still love you, and eventually you’ll get it.
Man, you’re not even gonna believe some of the stuff about to happen to you. You think you’re finished with school, with your plans to drop out before your senior year. Nope. You’re gonna have some other folks pushing you to get your act together. For once, you’ll listen. You’ll get your diploma.
One tip for you: When you get your first apartment, make sure you do it in March or April. Then, it’s not too hot or too cold for when they turn off your electricity because you don’t have the money to pay it. Good thing you like sitting alone in the dark. You’re gonna get plenty of it.
You’ll hook up with the wrong people despite your parents’ warnings. It’ll take a couple of nights getting locked up to open your eyes.
And the trip the next day to the Marine Corps recruiting office will be one of the smartest moves you’ll ever make.
I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing with — never mind. I’m laughing right at you. I’m giggling my old, wrinkled butt off at you, to be honest. You got all mad at 17 about having people bossing you around and making you do stuff you didn’t want to do. So you decide to become a Marine? Those drill instructors are gonna have a blast with you. If you thought Rocky gave you a tail whipping, just wait.
You’ve also got some heartbreak coming. Buddy, I don’t know how to tell you this, but when it comes to women and relationships, you’re an idiot. You’re gonna be an idiot for a long time, too. You’ll fall for every wiggle and giggle and swear it’s love. I’m not even gonna bother buying you a wedding gift. Instead, I’ll give you a valuable heads-up.
Every heartbreak is leading to a pretty awesome gift. No, you can’t open it now.
You’re also gonna learn the Creator has a sense of humor. You know all those ladies you’re gonna chase for so long? They’re someone’s daughter. Guess what? You’re getting your own daughters. Have fun with that.
You’re also facing some losing over these next few years. You’ll lose some people you can’t imagine living without. You’ll lose your health for a while, and you’ll lose the career you love. Lots and lots of losing heading your way. At one point, you’re going to feel ready to check out of this hotel. Hang in there, because all your losing is sending you another gift.
Actually, all your struggles and hardships — a whole lot of them self-inflicted, I might add — are going to gift you the very same thing. It’s by far the greatest gift you’ll ever receive.
It’s called “perspective.”
Yeah, I know. You wanted a boat. Trust me, perspective is way, way better.
You’ll finally come to appreciate what life has to offer. You’ll finally stop thinking every single tragedy is the end of the world. When you finally reach your happy place — yes, you’re gonna have one of those, just not as fast as you’ve hoped — you’ll feel like you’re king of the world. If I showed you the house you’ll have (way, way down the road), you might laugh thinking it’s nothing like the mansion you’re planning right now. By the time you get there — after all the years of never having your own home — you’ll realize you’re living in paradise. And it’ll be yours.
Heartbreaks? All they’re doing is preparing you to appreciate the lady who’s gonna make your life complete. Man, you’re not gonna believe her. If I’m still around when you meet her, I’ll wonder what the heck such a beautiful creature is doing with you. You’ll wonder why you didn’t meet her sooner. It’s because there’s no way you’d have grasped just how rare she is. You’d have found a way to screw it up. With her, you’ll have a family life the likes of which you can’t even imagine right now.
One little spoiler alert: You’re never gonna get rich.
Get over it. Those cards aren’t in your deck. Be happy you’re gonna go years without having your lights turned off.
Some folks might call years of such experiences “wisdom.” Sorry, man, but you’ll never be smart enough for anyone to consider you wise.
But those years of hard-earned perspective are sure gonna make you feel like you are.
Oh, and for your 60th birthday (yeah, you’re actually gonna make it that far), you’ll notice you’ll already have every gift you’ll ever need.
There ain’t a boat afloat that could make you any happier.