Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Advice to my younger self

Skippy-san, our resident Far East Cynic tagged me with a lovely meme:

List 3-5 things that you would put in a 'Back to the Future' type letter from you now, to your younger self at, say, 20-21 year old, on the verge of graduating. There are only two caveats here: 1) you cannot direct your younger self to do anything or violate the principle of free will in decision making and 2) you should not try to reveal specific events in the future since, in theory, if any of your advice is accepted it will already screw up the time line and the events won't happen at all. This should, however to allow you to give your younger self some advice, and in the process force some introspection into your own existence. It can be as shallow or as revealing as you like, and feel comfortable with.
Since there is so much I've had time to learn, this is both a tough and an easy one. (There's a scary corollary, too, in that there is so much I still have to learn, and so many mistakes left to be made.) Here goes: 1. Be nice. Being nasty does not mask insecurity or hide inadequacies, it magnifies them. Niceness is not a quality our culture has valued in the young, at least since the 1960s, but it is a wonderful quality. I'm talking genuine niceness, not some sort of saccharine artifice. Being witty might be amusing to some around you, but it is being nice and being kind that will make you a valued person and, perhaps more importantly, enable you to value others. 2. Don't worry too, too much about your career choices. As you'll discover, this is not the 19th Century anymore, with people working in one office from the end of school until the day of retirement. Dive into whatever you decide to do with discipline and enthusiasm, but don't be so worried about the future that you paralyze your decision-making abilities. Your 20s are the time to experiment with different professions and to learn what your day-to-day skills are outside of the academic arena. 3. Stop being so judgmental (I think this might be a subset of number 1 -- be nice). You can hold strongly to your own opinions without denigrating others. This does not, of course, extend to core matters. The skill is to distinguish what's really important -- the core, unchanging, unrelativistic values -- from the ephemera. That guy over there is not a less valuable person because he's wearing brown socks with black shoes. However, that women over there who is dressed perfectly but is defending honor killings is not someone you should be hanging out with. 4. Embrace new experiences. Don't let your fear that things might go wrong prevent you from enjoying life. You're smart enough not to take stupid risks (I know you'll never do drugs or drive drunk or something), but you've got to take some risks, even if that means saying yes to coffee with someone you wouldn't normally pick as a potential friend. 5. Tell your parents every day (or at least once a week) that you love them. In fact, if you can do it honestly, never be slow about praising people for things they do well, or letting them know that they add value to your life. (If you're becoming sycophantic or a vain flatterer, you're doing it wrong.) People need to know they're being valued and appreciated, and you'll feel good about yourself if you're the one doing it. 6. Don't feel sorry for yourself and don't buy into the Left's victim mentality. The whole world is not out to get women. In coming years, you'll figure out what you should have known instinctively -- men and women are different, and that's not part of some vast cultural conspiracy. 7. Don't panic. Once you figure the other stuff out, you will get married. Whew! I've exhausted myself, and haven't painted a very pretty much of my younger self either, have I? Sarcastic, judgmental, hypercautious, stingy with praise and emotions, and sorry for myself. I'm surprised I survived my youth without anyone committing a mercy killing against me for my own good! I hope I've learned something by now, and I hope that I learn more as time goes by. As I've done before with these memes, I'm going to tag all those who visit my blog. If you take me up on this tag, please be sure to send me a trackback or comment so that I can see what you would tell yourself with the benefit of hindsight.