Hello Skinny Dippers! I’m working on book stuff today, so my friend John Drake has kindly volunteered to step in with the next instalment of the Things I’d Tell My 20-Year Old Self series. John is my former writing partner, a fellow motorcycle & sex/dating/relationship enthusiast and one of the best dudes I know. I hope you enjoy reading John’s advice! Stay tuned for more dating updates, reviews & other goodies coming later this week!
During my last annual exam, my Doctor asked for clarification of my age as she flipped through my medical file. She laughed as I responded, “Do you mean in birthdays, maturity or mileage?” While I may not feel as sprightly at 33 as I used to after indulging in more than a few Old Fashioneds the night before, in my mind I am still 20 years old.
That was, until the trajectory of my life journey recently placed me in close proximity to actual 20 year olds, at which point I felt as wise as an owl and old as dirt. After being made instantly and viscerally aware of the stark contrast between the limited worldview of a vicenarian (20-something), I began to ponder if I was ever that immature and clueless, or whether current 20 year olds have just been pampered to the point of having far less intellect and life experience.
I may have found myself giggling like a schoolboy at the supermarket just last week when I came across a package of Hung Wang Asian noodles, however I also have RRSPs in the bank, I own a vacuum, pay my taxes on time and don’t have to be told to floss – all hallmarks of maturity in my books.
Just as I wouldn’t tell my six year old self that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, there is much that I would leave a mystery to thirteen years my junior John. I would most certainly leave out specifics; the who’s, the what, the where’s – all of the decisions I have made, even the poor ones, have taught me valuable lessons that I wouldn’t trade. What I would change however, are the times I hurt people I cared about or who cared about me, regardless of whether it was intentional or not. I would also like to set him up for a higher level of success, learning from my mistakes rather than from the School of Hard Knocks.
In that vein, I would offer my 20 year old self the following counsel, in no particular order.
The importance of honesty was instilled in me at a very early age. It was held in high regard, paramount in fact, among other honourable virtues like courtesy, ambition and cleanliness. While I have rarely been intentionally dishonest, we’ve all told little white lies or lied by omission. It may have been innocent, or possibly ignorant, but I know for a fact that I have inadvertently led more than one girl on in my life by not being honest about my intentions or where I saw the relationship going. One lovely girl in particular, who I considered merely a nocturnal recreation partner, unfortunately saw monogamy and likely matrimony in our future and I never did anything to convince her otherwise. Be honest with the people around you, but more importantly, be honest with yourself.
Don’t Waste Time on Fake Friends
Friendship is not easy and it is a two-way street. Even as you get older it can be difficult to discern which friends will stand the test of time, or which ones shouldn’t. When you are young your friendships are based on proximity and musical taste, but life gets far more challenging as years go on. I was convinced that I would have been the best man at my best friend from highscool’s wedding and yet by the time he tied the knot I wasn’t even in attendance at the ceremony. You will experience ups and downs. The friends who help lift you up when you’re down are the ones you want to surround yourself with. Your friends will become your family and your benchmark for success, so choose wisely.
Nobody Has It All Figured Out, Follow Your Own Path
Some people wait patiently until mid-life to freak out about not having their shit together, but on the eve of my 25th birthday I had a full-blown quarter-life crisis. Witnessing many of my friends lock down solid jobs, condos and investments had me reeling with self-doubt about following my unique and less financially lucrative career path. One such friend who was in attendance at that 25th birthday has achieved perhaps the most financial and material wealth of anyone I know. He recently admitted that he was miserable at work and was jealous of the freedom, experience and flexibility I enjoy in my work. It doesn’t matter how big your TV is or how many bedrooms you have, you won’t be happy if you aren’t fulfilled by your work. I’ve made a great salary and I’ve made peanuts, but I always followed my passion.
Respect Your Parents
Age and experience often bring perspective, which in turn provide context and greater understanding. But as my old man has said on several occasions, “Learn from other people’s mistakes, you won’t live long enough to make them all on your own.” You share common genetics and ancestry, learning from their experience and about your roots will serve you well in the future. Whether you learn a family recipe, not to put gasoline in a diesel car or that you happen to have a predisposition to certain health issues, listen to your parents’ lessons and respect the sacrifices they have made in order to conceive, raise and support you – through colic, childhood, adolescence and beyond.
Take Good Care of Your Body
Education is wasted on the young. Unfortunately, so too is the innocence and stupidity of youth.
Your body is by far the most amazing tool you will ever encounter but much like any appliance it requires care and maintenance. I wish I’d worn earplugs to loud concerts, I wish I had applied sunscreen more often, I wish I’d never tried smoking or eating fast food. These things don’t make an impact when you’re young, but they compound exponentially over time as you age.
Live Within Your Means
It wasn’t until very recently that I became even mildly financially responsible. I bought a sports car and a new motorcycle before I paid off my student loans, I used my credit card like an ATM and I took vacations I couldn’t afford. Long story short, I placed a higher priority on things than I did on experiences or peace of mind. If I was to do it all again with the information I have now, I would have been more frugal and enjoyed the simpler things in life.
The reality is that I could spout off advice until the cows come home, but I can say with complete certainty that 20 year old John wouldn’t have listened. He was invincible. Immortal. Unstoppable. With age, experience and opportunity comes pain, politics, cynicism, regret and self-doubt. Sometimes being an adult means carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. I wouldn’t want to trade places with my 20 year old self and I feel like I have a great deal of valuable information to pass on to him, but something tells me he could teach me a thing or two about perspective as well.
What would you tell your 20-year old self?