15 things I wish I would have known back when I knew it all

Don’t worry, this is not some boo-hoo my life sucks kind of thing.

This is not about regret. 

I am not young enough to know everything. ~Oscar Wilde

This is not about looking back and wishing that I would have done things differently in the past because I do believe that every experience both good and not-so-good has an important lesson to share as long as we’re willing to listen (and not constantly repeat them).

Now having said that, there are still quite a few days that I would love to hop into my Delorean time machine and smack around my younger self a bit for acting like such an idiot.

I thought I would take this opportunity to start organizing my thoughts so when that day finally comes I’ll be ready. . .

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15 things I wish I would have known back when I knew it all:

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1.) Who you were in high school is not necessarily who you will become

Back in high school everyone was assigned a role to play.  We were either brainy kids, art freaks, dumb jocks, band geeks, drama weirdos, goths, preppies, burnouts, or whatever other label they wanted to assign us.  For whatever reason the adolescent mind likes to create divisions and exclusive cliques so we can feel misunderstood and it’s us against the world.

Once we leave the self-contained fishbowl of high school, however, we discover that the roles we were previously assigned is not necessarily who we actually are. The hierarchy that we have lived under for so long suddenly collapses and we are set adrift.  The sooner you stop looking to define yourself, the sooner you will have the opportunity to discover who you really are.  Resist labels.  Resist pigeon-holing yourself into your comfortable little niche. Expand your yourself and your friendships. Never miss the opportunity to really connect with someone new even if they may appear to be outside your social circle.

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2.) Sooner or later you’re going to have to stop eating crap

I know that right now you can eat that giant Chipotle burrito after school and wash it all down with a pint of Ben & Jerrys, but eventually eating all of that stuff going to catch up with you.  Right now maybe you’re still growing, maybe you’re involved sports, or maybe you’re just lucky enough to have the metabolism of a racehorse but trust me this is all going to change soon.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day you are going to wake up and and face the fact that it’s not the dryer shrinking all of your clothes.

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3.) Your job is not your identity

Your job will come and go, but it’s not who you are.  When people ask what you do, it’s not the same thing as who you are are, or perhaps more importantly, who you want to become. You need to make a focused effort to find your passion and your reason for getting up in the morning. It’s not about earning a paycheck or being able to pay your cell phone bill every month.  It’s about finding out what gets you fired up.  It’s about finding your unique niche and your place in the bigger picture. Having a job may provide you with the money to pursue your passion, but a job is simply a temporary situation until you can find a way to make money by doing what you love. But first you have to find out where you passion lies.

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4.) Stop wasting your time playing  xBox and watching hours of YouTube

When I was growing up it was the Nintendo 64 and bad cable television, now it’s Playstation 3 and Hulu but the result is the same.  Time is precious and trust me, all that free time that you have now to fritter away staring at the screen you’re going to desperately want back someday.  Start and explore your passions now while you still have the time to make mistakes and reorganize.  Someday when you finally get married and have kids, you’re going to be kicking yourself for not making better use of your time.

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5.) The people you meet are more important than the things you do

Everything good that happens in your life will be the direct result of people you have connected with along the way.  Accomplishments are great, but it’s the relationships that you make along the way that will ultimately determine your level of happiness. You’ll discover that it’s the people you know who will get you that next job or that big break, and not what you know or the things you’ve done.  Remember to nuture your relationships both old and new.  Don’t wait until you need something from your friends. Always be the first and last to give something to the friendship even if it’s nothing more than a smile or a simple word of encouragement.

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6.) No matter how busy you think you are, don’t forget to follow your passion

Find your passion, and then make the time to pursue what you love to do. It doesn’t matter if you can dedicate eight hours a day or fifteen minutes a day to following your passion and creating your dreams.  What’s important is that it’s a part of your daily life. Focus on what really matters to you.  Do something to feed your creative soul every day. Don’t live your life on auto-pilot.  Get out there and push yourself a little further each day.

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7.) You will not meet the love of your life in a bar at 2:00 a.m.

Love will find you when it finds you.  It’s an irony of life that those who go out looking for love will never find it.  The more you try to pursue love, the more it will continue to elude you.  Nothing scares off potential mates like the putrid scent of desperation.

Instead of spending your time and what little money you have hitting the clubs, spend some time working on yourself so that when you finally meet this special person you’ll actually have something to offer them.

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8.) Take some time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go

Right now you are so busy that it seems absurd to even think about slowing down.  However, unless you’re being chased by a bear, blindly running around as fast as you can is only going to make you tired.  Don’t worry about what your parents or your friends expect you to be. Find out what’s really important to you and make sure that you are heading in that direction. You also have to realize that your priorities will change, and what may be important to you at 18 will probably not be the same things that are important to you at 35. Always be willing to readjust your course if necessary.  Life rarely turns out the way we expect it to.

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9.) Learn about managing money from someone who’s not trying to sell you something

Get a credit card to establish a credit record but leave it at home and lock it away somewhere far, far away from the computer.  If I could offer you just one piece of advice on using a credit card, it would be to never buy something that you can wear, eat, or drink.

Start saving for your retirement now even if you don’t think that you can.  Set up automatic withdraws into your retirement accounts because you are never going to feel like you have enough money to start saving. Don’t wait until you get a “real” job, get married, or when you have kids.  Believe it or not, you’re going to have even less money then.  Save something.  Start now.

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10.) Insure you crap

Unfortunately, we live in a society where people and their blood-sucking lawyers can take not only all the money you have, but also all of the money that you may earn in the future as well.  Shit happens. Be prepared.

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11.) Learn to play an instrument

Any instrument.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the guitar, the piano, the cello, or the kazoo — learn to play an instrument and then practice at it regularly.  There’s nothing quite like the instant feedback and satisfaction of creating music.  Even it’s just noise.  Play your music.  Sing your song. You are the only one who can.

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12.) Stay away from Jägermeister

Don’t be seduced by it’s lovely green bottle, exotic name, or idiotic friends who may try to convince you that it’s not the devil’s own juice.  Seriously. . . Worst. Night. Ever.

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12 1/2.) Never rent a wet-and-dry vac from a grocery store located next to college apartments.

Trust me, you don’t want to know.

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13.) Don’t join a gym

I know that right now you may think that you’ll go every day, work out for three hours, and not be the lazy coach slug that you are. . . but you won’t.  Trust me, the only thing that’s going to happen is that you’ll end up hating yourself even more when you’re sitting there writing out the check every month. In fact don’t buy any exercise device you see on TV or online.  If you really feel like you want to get back into shape, put on your shoes and run a lap around the block and the feeling will soon pass.

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14.) You are far more likely to regret the things that you haven’t done than the things you have done

Experiment. Get outside your comfort zone.  Don’t allow yourself to get stuck into a rut.  Keep the wheels moving and try to do something new every day.  It doesn’t have to be something big and dramatic, it just has to challenge you in a new way.  You don’t need to bungee jump or go skydiving.  You can simply read a book, take a class, explore your neighborhood, or talk to someone you’ve never met. Make a point to expand yourself in some small way ever day.

Having said that, I would still avoid Jägermeister at all costs!

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15.) Chances are you’re going to ignore all of this and do whatever the hell you want to do anyway

Even if you’re sitting there nodding your head in agreement, let’s face it, five minutes from now you’re probably going to be back on Facebook talking about who said what to who, and why that person is such a you-know-what.  I don’t blame you.  I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m probably still there.  After all, I’m the one who ignored every piece of good advice I received for the first thirty years of my life.  So I’m not about to sit here and point the finger at someone else. . .

But just in case I do get the chance to go back in time, I’ve already packed a backpack with this list, ten feet of rope, and a fifth of Jägermeister. . .

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Would you like to smack around your younger self?

What if I let you borrow the keys to the Delorean for the day. . .

  • What would you like to go back and say to your younger self?
  • What would you do differently and what wouldn’t you change even if you could?
  • What’s the best and worst piece of advice on life that you ever received?
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Comments

  1. says

    Great post, Drew! You had me rolling with laughter at 12 & 12 1/2!!! As always the best thing about your posts is that you touch on the truths of day-to-day life with such clarity and humor that it’s an absolute joy to read them. Keep up the wonderful work :)

    • Drew says

      Thank you for your kind words!

      It means a lot because sometimes I fear this site has has become a poor man’s version of “Diary of a Wimpy Whiny Writer” with me going on about the latest bit of nonsense that has been rattling around in my troubled little mind.

      Not to place all the blame on you, but It’s enablers like you that keep this site going. . . ;)

    • Drew says

      Thanks Rita and you’re right of course. If I’ve learned anything from watching “Back to the Future” forty-five times it’s the fact that going back in time is probably only going to screw things up even more. Besides if I hadn’t acted like a complete idiot in my youth-ier youth, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write this humorous bit of drivel ;)

      P.S. Love your monster avatar, the tusks are a nice touch!

  2. says

    The best advice I ever got was the day I got stuck on a ski lift for an hour. I was in my early twenties and I was with this other guy that was well into his forties. He had played professional baseball. But even though he had never made the Majors he said he had made the right decision. “It’s important to do what you want to do and the rest will come.” Right there, on that lift I decided to take another art class and start playing music again and start doing what I wanted to do. The only regret I’ve had is that I didn’t remember his name.

    • Drew says

      That does sound like great advice Mark, although getting stuck on a ski lift for an hour with a complete stranger had to be a wee bit awkward.

      Personally I think that “failing” doing something that you really love is far better than succeeding doing something that really sucks. I know because I’ve done a lot of the sucky stuff, and now I’m busy “failing” at something I love to do (at least most days). And even if the “rest of it” never actually makes it to my doorstep, I can still say that I have enjoyed the journey and all of the incredible friends I’ve made along the way.

  3. Sherri says

    Enjoyed your post – I would add: If you choose a direction, putting your heart and resources into it, and it doesn’t work out, don’t beat yourself up about it. Use it to choose a new direction and watch for the opportunities. Nothing is wasted if you don’t let it be wasted. This sounds simple and cliche, but it took me a long time to 1) not beat myself up for “failing,” and 2) open up enough to learn to see the opportunities.

    • says

      Great advice!
      We’ve been punished for “mistakes” at school for so long, that it isn’t easy to learn such thing as “mistakes” doesn’t exist actually! :) Everything is just a part of our way!

    • Drew says

      Thanks Sherri for stopping by and sharing your thoughts with us!

      I think you and Rita make a great point here that we are trained early on that not coming up with the correct answer the first time is something to be avoided. Far too often in school we have been told that there is a “right” answer and an “wrong” answer, which is fine when it comes to a subject like Calculus or Chemistry, but far less useful in a subject like history or literary interpretation.

      As most of us discover soon after leaving high school or even college, is that real life is far less black & white when it comes to judging our successes and failures. You’re absolutely right “nothing is wasted”. Every experience we have gives us something in return. We seem to have this instinctive need to automatically label every experience either good or bad. Instead we need to find a way to suspend our judgment and as you said, open ourselves up to see the opportunities. It’s only when we choose to close our eyes to these unseen opportunities that we truly fail….

      Thanks again!

  4. cheney m says

    Love it! This really made me smile! 18 to 30 is such a long journey (i finished it this year!) And I’d love to give my younger self some advice….or maybe just some reassurance that everything will work out ok and its ok to be odd!

    • Drew says

      Thanks Cheney!

      You’re right, 18 to 30 is an incredibly long and often baffling journey where very little turns out to be as advertised on TV. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that the 30-40 trek can be just as confusing (and even more frightening when you add in kids), until you finally stop trying to follow everyone else’s path other than your own.

      P.S. My younger self could have definitely used some reassurance as well as good smack in the head ;)

  5. says

    Hey Drew,

    Great post as always! Where do I start?

    I was just talking to a friend the other day about the traps we all encounter in school. We were debating how one’s personality is formed and the influence of social circles. Does our genetic predisposition drive us from a very young age into the circles we establish thereby reinforcing our personality traits or is there more chance involved and we only ‘stumble into’ our future friends, dictating how each one of us is then defined and labelled? It’s a nature vs. nurture question… or chicken and egg scenario?

    Either way it took me the better part of my 30’s to finally break away (at least a little bit) from who I thought I was and how I was perceived in high school. It’s not an easy process.

    As for the Jägermeister, I agree 100%! Can I also add Sambuca and Absinthe to that list?

    Ps. Thanks for adding #11. My dream to be a rock star sadly ended at about 19 years old when I came to the realization I was no Eric Clapton and I was never going to be. Although I still have my equipment and pick up the guitars sporadically, I’ve played very little in the last 10 years. I think it’s about time to dust off the old guitar and frighten the neighbours with my singing. :)

      • says

        Ha ha thanks Rita. I’m not too worried though actually. My neighbour is the guy who can’t sleep unless the BBC news or radio talk show is on so I wake up every night with this low, monotone rumbling going on in the flat below. I’m sure cranking out a little G n R, Paradise City or Ozzy and Crazy Train with my atrocious singing voice will just balance things out a bit. ha ha

        yup Drew. It’s definitely not an ideal education system. Nevertheless, it’s the only one we’ve got and as it’s been developing over the centuries, it’s going to be near impossible to make any major shake ups. Everything is so intrinsically linked with so many other variables (economics, politics, systems in an outcome driven society, flawed elements of human nature etc) that its like the UK (NHS) National Health Service. It’s huge, unmanageable, and outdated and everyone wants change but no one is willing to make changes. “Change is bad!” :)

    • Drew says

      I always thought that its a bit ironic that back in “teacher school” we were taught to resist labeling or pigeon-holing our students into categories because we would end up treating (and teaching) these students differently even if it was only subconsciously.

      Then of course, when we are actually thrown into the world of academia, we are handed a grade book and a stack of state-mandated proficiency tests that are ultimately used to put our students on the right “academic track” (i.e. honor students, college bound students, average students, and send-them-to-trade-school-and-hope-for-the-best students)

      And that’s just the academic labels we slap on them. I won’t even go into the social labels that their classmates assign them. It’s no wonder that we have no clue how to define who we are and what we stand for once we are finally released from this institutional hellhole. No one’s ever asked. We’ve simply been assigned labels all our life by our teachers, parents, friends, and we’ve simply accepted them for the most part.

      P.S. Will add Sambuca and Jägermeister’s bastard cousin Absinthe to the list — Pure evil one and all ;)

  6. says

    I’m gonna disagree with number seven, only because 15 yrs later, me and the hubbs is still going strong. But I’d guess that I’m the exception, not the rule.

    My biggest regret #11. I wished I would have learned an instrument. Guess I still could but life does not allow it.

    • Drew says

      Hi Dana!

      I’m always happy to be proven wrong (#7) especially when it turns out well :)

      It’s never too late to learn to play an instrument. As long as you don’t plan on entering any musical competitions, sometimes just approaching a level of mere competence is good enough.

      It’s not as much about being good (thankfully) as it is about having fun and creating something, even if it’s simply melodic nonsense that the world hasn’t ever heard. Being a writer, so many projects can take months if not years to complete, so for me it is nice to have a creative outlet like music that is right there at your fingertips anytime you may need it.

      As Rita notes, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be yours….

  7. says

    Not a day goes by where I don’t dream of being able to explain to past-me that what you learn in class is just the beginning of your education and that his classmates who “get it” don’t just have some magical pool of talent that he lacks, but they’re the ones who went off and started doing side projects, figuring stuff out independently, and tracking down the guidance of communities that had figured it out in the past and were willing to share their accumulated knowledge with us newbies.

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