“If you could go back in time and give XX year old you some advice, what would it be?”
The majority of people would answer this question with one of three end goals in mind; To either create, change or stop particular things or situations from happening.
The thinking behind this is pretty straight forward. Taking, for example, someone who didn’t do too well in school. Going back and telling them to study and listen more makes sense. It will help them develop the skills and knowledge to hopefully get them the education they need to meet their goals.
Similarly, going back and giving some guidance on how to deal with bullies or avoid that kind of confrontation completely is 100% understandable too. For many, going to school, college or even work is torture due to some sort of physical, mental or emotional assault that is bombarded on them day in, day out. Going back and trying to help sort that out at an earlier stage or even mitigate it completely is more than understandable.
Despite this however, if I did get the chance to go back the only thing I’d tell myself to do differently is to relax, chill out and embrace every situation, both good and bad, as best I can.
Sure I could say something a bit more “meaningful” like telling myself to study more chemistry for my 1st year college exams (Turns out, 8% isn’t enough to pass), to not go so hard on the quad just before I broke my leg or to get out and play some more sports because I’d actually love it. I could maximise the opportunity to give myself a ton of information that would, maybe, help bring me closer to the person I want to be.
A common phrase that I love is “Hindsight is always 20/20” and looking back on a situation, any situation, will always lead to things that could have been done differently to yield better results or outcomes. Our lives are no different. We will always see and remember times where doing something different would have led to different results.
Reminiscing over the last 10-15 years, a lot has changed. Not only am I no longer living in Tullamore and planning on moving to Canada, the world around us has completely changed. The internet is a part of everyday life, “up and coming” sectors of employment have come and gone and even the way we live or day-to-day lives has turned up side down. On a personal level I am a completely different individual then I was at any stage as I grew up. I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the world around me and how people work.
Upon first inspection, this seems like a very strong argument FOR filling my past self in on some details of what’s to come. However, the fact that I now know the world has drastically changed and that I am completely different then I once was shows I should do anything but that.
When I was 12 years old I moved from primary to second level education. I had “real” classes and “real” work to do. I knew everything about everything.
When I turned 15 I knew the new work I had was “real” work and 12-year-old me knew nothing. I was now a fully functional adult.
The when I turned 18 I actually was a fully functional adult. I no longer lived at home, had school under my belt and was out experiencing the world. I had it all figured out.
Notice a trend? No matter how far along the path I am, it’s always possible to look back and realise that I didn’t really have as much of an idea about what was going on as I thought I did, and I KNOW I’m not alone in this. We all do it.
Considering what we know now, would you be so quick to let your 18-year-old self give your 12-year-old self some advice on what to do and how to act knowing that the “facts” you had at the time were all going to change anyway? I know I wouldn’t. What’s to say that 70-year-old you wouldn’t say the same thing about you now? It all could, and probably will, change again just like it did before.
This is the main reason I wouldn’t tell my past self much of anything about what’s to come! God know’s what will change down the line that will render the advice useless!
The path that I ended up taking without any advice from future Shane got me to where I am now. It carved out who I am, my strengths, weaknesses, loves, hopes and dreams. It created the world around me and the environment I’m in day-to-day. Sure there are things I want to improve on and get better at, but at the end of the day I am more than happy with having taken the path that got me here because it made me stronger because of it.
Thinking about this was driven by an article I read on a strength training website, Juggernaut Training, which was titled “Grateful for Everything, Entitled To Nothing“. It boils down to embracing everything that life throws at you, that includes the bad as well as the good. The truth is that a life filled with nothing but positives, easy streets and a lack of challenges is anything but character building. It doesn’t allow you to really determine what’s important to you, what makes you happy and what exactly you are living for.
It doesn’t allow you to see that when you put your mind to it you can achieve anything you want to. It doesn’t show you that just because something takes time to achieve doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. It doesn’t allow you to become the REAL you.
The truth is that we all are who we are because of the path that brought us here. Just like memories of friends help us develop relationships with people who are important to us, failures and pitfalls are a gift too because they give us the opportunity to grow, expand our minds and develop an opinion on the world and what we want to get out of it.
We are all the people we are because of the path we took. Making changes to that, be they big or small, could change where we ended up. Would you want to change that?
Instead, knuckle down for the ride. Understand that you don’t have to have it all figured out, that your opinions and views will change due to experiences you have. You will grow and develop as a person not only because of the ups, but also because of the downs.
So learn to Embrace the Suck. Be Grateful For Everything, and Entitled to nothing. Because doing so will allow you to become the best version of yourself.