Twenty something self, I speak the truth from kindness. So far life has been easy for you.. You’ve gotten by on natural talents and charm, but in the future you will have to work harder and smarter. You have good dreams and ideals, but it will take time to turn your bravado into tangible actions that others can see and affirm. The people around you are a mirror, giving you feedback on what you put out there. Sometimes you are impatient and proud and not that self-aware. Listen to your frustrations. Reflect on where you find energy and keep moving toward what makes you feel alive.
And Tony asks what we might tell ourselves of twenty years ago. In that spirit, here's a short missive to my self, age 22:
Apparently we now have the capacity to send letters back in time to our former selves. Rather than pass up the opportunity to give some unwanted advice, I thought I'd mention a few things that you're going to learn over the next two decades. I hope I won't sound like a college commencement speaker, but you might find this information useful.
- Things aren't going to turn out like you think they will. If I know you (and I think I do), you've got a very firm set of ideas about how you're going to live your life. You've convinced yourself that your ideals are not only morally important, but achievable, and you have no desire to compromise those ideals in any way. You're going to wind up compromising those ideals. Rather quickly in fact. It's not that you become cynical and give up, but that you will begin to realize that you're only a very fragile and fallible human being in the end, and just as subject to failure and self-deception as everyone else. You're probably actually a bit more susceptible than some in fact, because you're so fucking sure you're right.
- Things are going to turn out a lot better in some ways. One of the things you'll learn pretty quickly is that you are better at some things than you are at others. The good news is that, unlike a lot of people, you're going to be in a position to cultivate your talents and use them productively. You might not get to be everything you want to be, but you will get to be something that you will be glad to be.
- You need to take yourself less seriously. God, you really are a killjoy sometimes, you know that? I mean, you and I both know that you've got a goofy side, but you keep that fairly well under wraps for the most part. Be more of a goof, even when things are really serious. Because recognizing the underlying absurdity of the whole thing will help keep you sane.
- Love people, not because they live up to some standard you've set for them, but because they're there to be loved. It's easy for you to be judgemental, even as you fail to see your own flaws. Be kinder about the flaws in others, and more forgiving. As you learn to recognize your own fallibility, you'll be more tolerant of the foibles of others. Don't kill yourself trying to be perfect, but don't expect others to kill themselves trying to be perfect for you.
There's probably a lot more I should say. And the truth is, I haven't learned these things nearly as well as I should have by now. The good news in the end is that there are a few people in this world who will love you, even though sometimes you're a fucking asshole. Try to remember that when things seem bleak. Sometimes it's the only thing that will keep you going.
Scott (42-year old version)