High school graduations are this weekend in my home state. Many of these kids will be going to college, some to the military, others to work or travel or do missionary work. It was eighteen years ago, in 1999, that I and my cohorts graduated from high school. That was half of a lifetime ago. I’ve been legally an adult now as long as I was a juvenile. An incredible amount has changed in my life, and the world at large, since that Saturday May afternoon in the farming village of my youth.
What follows is a hypothetical letter to my eighteen year old self, mainly about things I wish I knew in my younger years that would have made my transition to the world of 2017 easier. Too bad I couldn’t do this for real, I’d tell my younger self to buy stock in Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla when they first came out 🙂
You have just graduated from high school and now the world awaits. I know you are looking forward to college much more than you did high school graduation. That’s understandable. For many people, high school is some of the roughest years of their lives. You definitely had your problems in school, but those are now past. Some of the people you went to high school with you’ll never have to be around again. College will be better in many aspects. You’ll get to pick what you want to study. You’ll have more say in who your friends are. The bullies and idiots will be in the minority. Besides, most people will be too busy with their own lives to harass you like you got it in high school. You may not think so now, but someday you will be thankful that you’re smart and nerdy. Within the next fifteen years, you will see so much science and tech advances that you will realize that, yes, nerds really do rule the world. No one is going to care that you weren’t a star jock or class president in college.
Speaking of sports, I know there were some aspects of high school football and band you hated. I know you didn’t like the summer practices at six a.m. or the macho atmosphere of the locker room. But be happy you got to play. Playing football on Friday nights is the closest you’ll ever get to being like a gladiator or warrior. Be happy you got to be in the school pep band. It’s the only chance you’ll ever get to feel like a rock star. Most thirty year olds don’t get to stand out or preform at anything. Even though you didn’t have a great social life in high school, be happy you went to a smaller school and had opportunities to be involved in many different activities. Most of your college friends and coworkers who went to much larger schools won’t be as well rounded as you will become.
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t work your dream job out of college. Most people won’t. In fact because of the technology advances I talked about earlier, many jobs will be taken over by computers and machines. So many people will be in that place where they’re working jobs they didn’t train for. It’s not a failure on your part, it’s just that the world is changing much faster than people even in 1999 could anticipate.
Also, don’t feel guilty if you struggle at dating. In the future, almost everyone will struggle at dating. Besides, you will see many of your classmates go through divorces and marriage issues as the years pass. Almost half of marriages will end in divorce. And in the future, many adults will forego marriage entirely. Surprise, so will you. But being single isn’t bad. It’s actually quite peaceful at times. Some really big achievers in world history never married or had children. You’ll be grateful you never got married. Trust me. You always had a hard independent streak in you. That’s only going to get stronger with age.
Don’t take the opinions of others too seriously. People in general can be quite dumb at times, so their opinions are almost never right. The only person you have to answer to at all times is yourself. Guard your integrity. Be a man of sound character even if most people around you are liars and cheats. Yes, cheaters do prosper. But people will not honor their prosperity as much as they condemn their lack of character. This was true in the past and will continue to be true.
You will have victories. You will have struggles and losses. People will come and go out of your life. But hold onto your close friends and family. Be happy you got to know your grandparents. They won’t be around forever. Be content and calm no matter what happens or doesn’t happen. You will change your mind and thinking about almost everything several times over during the next eighteen years. The only people who have their life philosophy set in stone at age eighteen are fools who are setting themselves up to be obsolete and out of touch with reality. Like I told you, major changes are coming. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you some of the things you will see before 2017. You’ll just have to see them for yourself.
Be happy that you traveled and were open to new experiences in your youth. The older you get, the tougher it will get to just travel or try new things. Continue to be open to new experiences. It will put you far ahead of most adults in your life. Speaking of adults, don’t just think that because someone has gray hair or more money that they are smarter or wiser than you. Many times they won’t be. Some of them were just lucky. And chance does play more of a part in your life than you would like. You like the thought that you have a lot of say in your own destiny. But in reality, you really have less control than you would like. Sometimes things just happen that aren’t your fault or because of your hard work.
Remember to relax and know that life is a competition only against yourself. Never compare yourself to anyone else. You can’t live their life and they can’t live yours.
Your 36 year old self, May 2017.