The best advice I have to give – welcome to Future You
I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass
It’s taken an entire lifetime, but I’ve finally discovered the perfect advice. Literally. If you follow this faithfully, which, of course, means you have to remember to do so, you’re pretty much guaranteed not to make mistakes.
I follow this advice myself, when I remember to. It’s what I would have listened to when I was a teenager, which is my best recommendation, given I didn’t listen to too many people at that point in my life.
This is the first part; this is the part that’s mine:
Welcome to Future You. I’m telling you this as Future Me, living proof, because I’m here and I’m real. Future You will happen.
What do you want for Future You? Do you love her? Do you love him? She is your child. He is your child, despite the fact that he, that she, is your elder.
Everything you do, she will remember. He will remember. Every choice you make, she will be living with. He will be living with. So – what do you want for her? What do you want for him?
You need to want everything for Future You. You need to want the best life has to offer. And you have to do it for yourself. You cannot do it for anybody else. You can’t do it for your parents. You can only do it for yourself, for future you. So what do you want? What will it take to get what you dream about most dearly? Figure that out, point yourself in that direction and start walking.
Remember “Just Keep Walking?” (http://ipinionsyndicate.com/just-keep-walking/)
This is the second part, the part I borrowed and made my own:
You have to live for yourself the way you would want your child to live. You have to make decisions the way you would want a child of yours to make them.
If you are about to do something, imagine for a moment that a child of yours (hypothetical or not) was about to do the same thing. If your hair stands on end at the thought of your child doing what you are contemplating – there’s your answer.
You are no less precious than any child you could or will ever have and you deserve as much as that child, at the very least.
I promise, if you stop to think before you act, you will never make a mistake, or at least, nothing too bad.
The trick, of course, is slowing down and also, wanting to give yourself a chance to think about it. Truth is, sometimes we want to do it anyway. Sometimes we want to take that leap off the cliff or into the pool full of chocolate, despite the consequences. Sometimes anger or despair or grief will lead us to make knowing choices little different from lemmings leaping off a cliff (although the lemmings don’t know any better). Unlike the unfortunate lemmings, we actually do know better. We just don’t care.
One thing to consider about these moments is that future you will care. Remember, Future You gets to live with every single choice you’ve ever made, and gets your memories, too. So that leads to part three, and many of us learned this in kindergarten:
Stop, look and listen.
It’s how they taught us to cross the street, but isn’t that a lot of what life is anyway? So, stand at the curb of your life. Look to the left. Look to the right. Listen carefully. Is a car coming? Will you be mowed down if you take that step? Or will you get where you’re going? Give yourself the time to make a good decision, to make the right decision for yourself. Sometimes just that moment’s pause will be the difference between crossing the street safely and getting caught like a bug on the car grill of life.
Or you can turn your brain off, plunge off that curb and walk mindlessly straight into the oncoming traffic. If so, good luck with that.
Finally, I will tell you all I have ever expected from my children:
Try to be a good person. You know what that is, and you know what it takes to be one. Go forth and do so.
Try also to be happy. Nobody else knows what you need to be happy but you; this is another thing you will have to do for yourself. It’s simply not something you can do for anybody else.
If we’ve made arrangements to do something and you you can’t make it, call, so I can stop waiting for you and go do something else. I do have a life; last I noticed, I was not furniture. I exist even when you are not watching.
This is dedicated to everyone who learned all this the hard way and to those would just as soon not repeat the mistakes of others. Never fear, you’ll still make your own, but you just might survive them.