Can Your 17-year-old Self Help Your Older Self?
I was on the road the other day when suddenly I had this strong urge to give my 17-year-old self some life advice. Admittedly this urge came a little late, as I’m now 58, but I nonetheless decided to sit down and write those ideas out.
You’ve probably seen or even been asked at some point what advice you might have for your younger self. I’d never been compelled to engage in the question before, because you can’t re-write history, and I assumed I might find myself feeling pitiful pangs of regret if I ever did jot down such a list.
But as I began to craft my list, I grew excited, and then became so enthused that I started sharing it with my daughter, my spouse and others. There was this sense of clarity after looking back and considering what might have happened if an oracle—of me as an older woman—had appeared to that girl of 17 and sat her down for a chat about life and her future.
CAN YOU GIVE OTHERS ADVICE?
Of course, by my teenage years, I was an angry wall of resistance, scared to death of what I didn’t know (which was everything) and way too much of a talker. I craved making decisions on my terms and no one else’s. If there had been some theoretical oracle, it would have had to be pretty epic to have successfully broken through my wall.
I wondered if the list of ideas would be of value to my grandchildren at some point. But, of course, who knows if anything I would advise would resonate in their lives now or later. Advice is tricky—so easy to parse out, and yet so difficult to deploy in one’s life.
But still, here are some of the things I came up with:
- Learn and know that you can learn. Your intelligence is not measured by how you learn but how much you try to learn. Make learning your goal when you are young and keep at it for a lifetime. It will bring you richness of thought.
- You are fine, just fine. And really everyone else is fine. Keep that top of mind lest you start to judge.
- Focus on a healthy body and mind because you will make healthier choices as a result.
- Don’t take flute, take guitar lessons instead!
- Your skin will clear.
I also chatted with my daughter about this for her insights, and asked her if she felt her Dad and I had given her any good advice. She acknowledged she picked up life values she has carried with her into adulthood. We agreed, however, that advice has to be artfully delivered, and adolescence is not as optimal a time for parents to give it.
What I KNOW about advice now is it is rarely intentionally given or received, but more often intuited through observation and experience. Wisdom, too, is innate if a person has someone listen to them long enough that they can draw conclusions from their own well.
SO WHY NOT NOW?
Maybe my hankering for the list came with some sense of longing for change or growth. I recognize I hear about someone else doing something interesting and fret I’m not doing something interesting, too.
But as I look at that list, I’ve realized that, although there are several options beyond my reach or interest today, there are others I can still aspire for now and in the future. So perhaps my younger self is calling out and challenging me to grasp the youth I still have, and to remind me that opportunity exists so long as I’m breathing.
If you could swoop down and tell your 17-year-old self a thing or two, what would you tell? Or would you even try? Is there anything on that list you’d like to reach for now?