Words of wisdom (from me to me)

On April 27, I turned 30, and it was just another day in the life.

Sure, I received gifts, a lot of calls and messages, and even a birthday cake (Oreo cookie, if you’re wondering), but a magic switch didn’t flip. I don’t feel any differently than I did at 29. There was no sudden crisis or realization that I’m getting older.

I can’t say I don’t feel any differently than I did when I was 20, though. I know I look different; I have less hair, for sure, and substantially larger bags under my eyes. My bones pop and sound like a symphony orchestra when I get out of bed in the morning, and I can’t pull all-nighters anymore. Heck, I can barely pull an all-dayer.

However, all in all, I’m doing pretty good, but there’s so much I wish I could tell the 20-year-old me. The last decade provided me with a lot of wisdom and perspective, and I wish I could pack it all into a data stream and send it back in time to that bright-eyed kid with long, shaggy hair who always wore a white ballcap. Back then, I was ready to take on the world, and I had an ego a mile wide. No one could tell me anything, so the data stream would probably be ignored, anyway.

If I could get in touch with that kid, though, I’d give him an earful. The first thing I’d tell him is that not everyone is his friend, and that’s fine. It’s better to have a small circle of close friends than an army of acquaintances. I’d tell him that close friendships require a lot of time and effort, and he must keep them nourished to keep them alive.

I’d tell him not to be so hard on himself. I’d tell him that mistakes will be made, and those mistakes won’t be the end of the world but instead will be life experiences meant to move you forward. There’s no reason to beat yourself up over them; acknowledge them, learn from them and file them in your memory. Move on after that. Constantly rehashing something in your mind does nothing but keep you a prisoner in your own skull.

I’d tell him to be more patient and understanding with others and with himself. Patience is a virtue I still haven’t learned, and I’d urge younger me to practice that skill. I’d also tell younger me to spend the decade working on a thicker skin; the world can be a cruel place, but most of what people say to you or about you doesn’t matter in the long run. I’d tell him to watch out for the signals and ignore all the noise.

I’d tell him that, shockingly, he doesn’t know everything, and he needs to absorb the knowledge and wisdom of those who offer it. I’d tell him to be more grateful for mentorships and for those who reach out a helping hand.

I’d tell him to be true to himself, and don’t spend any time pretending to be someone – or something – you’re not just to impress or please others. I’d tell him that you must build your self-confidence independently of what others say, and you must learn to be comfortable in your own skin.

Finally, I’d tell him that life is going to be pretty good, but he needs to put a few more dollars in the savings account each pay period … and maybe lay off some of the pizzas and sodas.

Anyway, 30-year-old me is ready for the next decade of life with all of its challenges, lessons and rewards. However, if 40-year-old me is reading and is ready to send current me a decade’s worth of wisdom, I’m all ears.