When Indeedably / Sovereign Quest posted this challenge,$ and after I read through the post, I was stupefied. Giving advice to your younger self allows you to be patronising, condescending and give you the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Flipping it around takes effort.
If life is a journey, then giving advice to someone who’s further along the trail than you doesn’t make much sense. There’s also nothing stopping you from doing it right here and now – like Doc Brown in Back to the Future, except he wrote the letter for Marty McFly – but still, you know what I mean. Any advice needs to be general in nature as you can’t get too specific about the future.
For advice to a younger self, I have my kids to practise on – although like all kids and people, there’s only so much they’ll listen to (a rough combination of shoot the messenger, “Dad, you’re so uncool” and me probably being out of touch).
Death doesn’t scare me, I’m fine with the idea of not existing any more. Getting old sort of does scare me when thinking about it. Not so old that I need some one to spoon me soup as I sit in an armchair and watch Countdown, but old like my old car that I scrapped the other week. Old like you can tell that it’s rusting all over, the rear wiper has broken off, there’s bumps, scratches and dents here and there and the insides are filthy.
So what advice for an older me; it makes me think of my own Dad. I occasionally gave him advice on a few things, (I don’t think that he ever listened) but I do remember advising him to try the University of the Third Age, going so far as to go out of my way to pick up a course prospectus. After months of doing little following his early retirement, the very next day he jumped into classes that made his life richer and marked the start of his own 3rd age in a way.
The 4 Ages of Life
A bit of digging around gives this for the 4 stages of life:
- First Age: an era for dependence, socialization, immaturity, and learning
- Second Age: an era for independence, maturity, responsibility, and working
- Third Age: an era for personal achievement and fulfilment after retirement, and
- Fourth Age: an era for the final dependence, decrepitude, and death
The first stage is childhood, adolescence. The second stage is the Prison Camp. The third is what we are all hoping for right? When money becomes something that works for you and give you the freedom to follow your own interests. I’m somewhere between 2 and 3 and I don’t like the idea of 4.
Presumably my future self will be further towards or firmly placed in the 3rd age – doing things because it leads to personal achievement and fulfilment sounds pretty good when the alternative in the Second Age is filling in the weekly progress tracker to check the deliverables against the plan at work.
Telling my future self to look after himself, keep up activities, hobbies, stay mentally sharp, try new things, exercise, travel, read, eat healthily and avoid stress isn’t going to help that much. Advice that simple is pretty stupid and I’m unlikely to heed it anyway.
What is more of a concern is my relationship with others. Particularly my wife and kids, they are a huge part of my heart and I think about them a lot and love and care for them. I would hate to think that in the future when my kid starts making life choices that I don’t agree with, that I disown them or let the relationship breakdown entirely or we live in a hostile symbiotic destructive relationship. That worries me. Nobody seems to want that but it happens very often.
As case in point is that my own mother has disagreed with everything I’ve said for years – even when I’m agreeing with her. I was no saint growing up but maybe I suffer from amnesia but I am not so resentful and bitter now.
Holding onto Hate
It’s difficult to know your own emotional state when you are in it, and I hope that when I’m older, I don’t hold onto resentfulness, bitterness and hate for the people that I love. So my advice to my future self is to let my kids make their own decisions in life and to be ok with it.
The Tim Urban diagram is a great example of one way to look at it and the twists and turns and choices I’ve made in my life aren’t the same as what my kids face themselves and the apparent right choice for me isn’t the right choice for them (and might not have been for me either but who knows?) My job today is to help mould the kids into better people than I am and in this letter, I’d ask myself the question, “Did you make me proud? And if not, “it’s still not too late.”