Monday, August 15, 2016

Stop Giving Meaningless Advice To Your Younger Self

At the end of last week, I was chatting with my daughter's swim instructor. He said it was his final few days of lifeguarding/swim lessons because he was headed to college as an incoming freshman. I thought about what it meant be 18 and to have four beautiful years of being an adult without being a grown-up stretched before you. I was tempted to offer parting words regarding that freedom. But then I remembered how annoying it was to be on the receiving end of forgettable advice from people long removed from college life and how the people who gave said advice always sounded old and washed up. I didn't want to sound old and washed up, so I held my tongue. 

I loaded the kids in the car and drove to the grocery store and then it hit me - the advice, while a universal truth, was more for me than for him. Just because something is universally true doesn't mean that it can be evenly applied. 

Because here's the thing, you go from being a young thing on a college campus to being a mom with a mini-van walking through the grocery store saying, "Don't touch" and you aren't even sure how it happened. 

I'm old enough to be past my 15-year college reunion but still don't feel old enough to be a mom. I've worked enough years that I've earned my chops, but I still don't feel "legit." I'm still waiting for someone to call me out on being an impostor of my own life. 

No matter how sage my words, my 18 or 20-year-old self  wouldn't have the perspective or life experience to appreciate their "wisdom" yet. Words are just words until you've had enough sun or clouds to feel their heat or stand in their shade.   

That college freshman who's never lived away from home needs to learn that what she does today impacts who and where she'll be tomorrow. Not because she's unfamiliar with the idea but because she needs to discover it, not conceptualize it. Her habits and defaults need to become ingrained and entrenched. She needs to refine her second nature, her truer, unedited self. 

Don't think that your 50 or 500 or, heaven help us, 2000 words will change who she is or who she'll become. Time and repetition do that - not a soap box. 

She's not ready for what you have to say yet. Not because she's wet behind the ears but because your words haven't had time to ripen. 

Advice to your younger self is, as the inartful like to call it, navel-gazing. Navel-gazing is for the self-absorbed; introspection is for those who desire growth from inward reflection. 

Don't tell your perky young self with the stars in her eyes what your cynical self now knows to be true. Let life wear her down and build her up; save the speech. 

Give that advice to the person you are now and to the one you want to be next Thursday - that's the person who needs it most. 


  1. 15th reunion....cough, cough.

    You've always been wise beyond your years. I love your perspective in this article. I really, really love it.

    1. I didn't say that I went to my reunion, just that it passed! Meet you for our 20?