I’m quickly approaching one of those “milestone” birthdays. I certainly don’t know everything, but there are a number of things that I wish I could go back in time and tell myself. Kind of along the same lines as that Brad Paisley song about the things he’d tell himself at 17. I would love to say that I’m going to teach my kids this stuff, but let’s be frank. They are as hard-headed & stubborn as I was (am) and they will need to learn this stuff on their own…
That being said, here goes–
Dear 17 year old dumbshit,
*You are not nearly as smart as you think you are. It’s only as you get older that you realize how damned dumb you are. Don’t give up hope here, you’re never going to know everything. If you aspire to learn a little every day and surround yourself with bright & worldly people, it’ll all turn out ok. On that note, at 39 years old, I have still never used ANYTHING I learned in algebra (sorry Mrs. Orkin). Some of the most important life lessons you will learn will be from the School of Hard Knocks. These are the most painful lessons, but the ones that will stick with you forever.
*Family is the most important thing in the world. Know some of the people who share your blood will never be your family and people who share nothing with you genetically speaking will be your family. This may be confusing now, but friends are the family that you choose. Home is where they love you. Which leads me to my next point…
*ALL people are screwed up some of the time. Recognize what makes us different, makes us special. Recognize that the person who is being a total sh*thead to you may be having the worst day of their lives. Forgive whenever you can. We teach others in our lives how to treat us. Be the friend you’d like to have. If there is something you need from someone, tell them. Most people don’t read minds. Give them the opportunity to understand what you need.
*Wait until you’re older to get married. Until you’re about 25, you have no idea who you are, much less who you want to be with. Find the person who you want to be old with–the one that you will still find sexy & likeable when they’re sick, when you’re sick, & when they’re covered in your baby’s puke. Wait to have kids, too. Get your wild oats sowed so you’re never resentful of that beautiful baby that needs every second of your time. Which once again leads me to my next point….
*Children are the best thing in the world. You’ll never be totally ready to be a parent–financially, socially, emotionally, physically… do it anyway. When you have that baby, your life will change. You will find all new dimensions of your heart that you never knew were there. You can and will learn the ability to love without condition or limits in the course of a minute, as soon as they place that wet, squirming new soul on your bloated belly.
*Watch a baby being born just one time when it’s not happening to you, if you possibly can. This will be the closest you ever get to being a part of a miracle & the most spiritual moment of your life. Amazing…
*Forgive yourself. You can & will screw up epically. Forgive yourself as well as you forgive others. Anger (at anything) is positively toxic. Don’t hold on to it.
*Recognize that there are mean & hateful people out there. Walk away from them, feel sorry for them, and know this amazing little thing called KARMA will catch up with them eventually.
*Live your life to try to make this world a better place than it was when you got here. You don’t need to find a solution to global warming or anything… just recognize your actions affect others. Make those actions positive. Know that some times the road to hell is paved with good intentions… be filled with good intent any way.
*It’s possible to walk thru hell and come out the other side a better person. If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.
*Always wear your seatbelt & never, ever drive after you’ve been drinking.
*Don’t get bogged down with the little shit. There will be enough big shit to keep you busy. There is only one way to eat the proverbial elephant… one bite at time. You can accomplish anything with enough patience & perserverance. Just don’t try to do it all at once.
*Accept help when it is offered & be the one who offers it whenever you possibly can. Goes back to that treating others as you want to be treated.
*Get over yourself. Don’t take life so damned seriously. Put life’s little drama’s thru this litmus test, Is this going to be a big deal 5 years from now? If it isn’t going to be such a big deal 5 years from now, don’t let it take up too much of today.
*Don’t start smoking, quitting sucks.
*Live & love EVERY single day like it is your last. Go to bed every night knowing that you did your best and that you told people you love how much you love them.
*Be especially kind to those people who are younger or weaker or have special needs… animals, children, & old folks most especially.
*Be grateful every single day for your country and your freedom. Know not everyone has the opportunities you have. Thank the men and women you see in uniform. Thank them for your safety, and for your freedom, and for their sacrifice.
*Realize that as much as you want to change the world, you can’t always. Try to make things better, but recognize there are times in this life where you can’t change what others think or what other people do. You CAN change your response to those things. After all, you are the only one who is responsible for you. Be nice. Be honest, even when it hurts. And remember Dr. Seuss said it right, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
Above all, know that this whole “life” thing gets really tough, but you’re tougher. Know that 20+ years from now you have amazing family (friends), beautiful, healthy children, and you’re spending your life with the guy the man of your dreams who you find hot, even with cancer or covered in baby puke. Nothing came easy. The stuff you worked hardest for is the stuff you’re most grateful to have. And it all turned out ok. Even if it were to all end tonight, know you got it right, at least most of the time. If this is as good as it gets, it was all better than anything I could have imagined, even in my wildest dreams.
Love life, this isn’t a trial run, kiddo….
With Love, Your older, a little wiser & way hotter self 20+ years from now…