Listen To Article
I turned 36 this past Sunday.
If you are reading this and you are under 36, then you probably think that sounds old. If you’re over 36 then you probably think that this sounds young. There’s a great video from the creators of the Wiretap radio show that illustrates this point. It’s been circulating social media recently as the show was ending its run.
Maybe it’s because I saw it so close to my birthday, but whatever the reason, this video has been sticking to the backside of my brain. I’ve been thinking about my own past and the advice I would give my various selves. Here’s what I’ve come up with.
Dear 5 year-old Adam: Don’t worry that other people are better than you at things. People are always going to be better than you at things. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy doing them. You are creative and funny and good at so many things. Hold onto that for as long as you can, because soon you’re not going to believe it.
Dear 8 year-old Adam: I know you will, but I wish you wouldn’t quit piano lessons. You hate to practice, but someday you’d appreciate it. You are small, limber, and have no sense of your own mortality—keep climbing trees.
Dear 11 year-old Adam: Learn how to make friends. It’s not just going to happen. You have to work at it. When you reach out to someone, most of the time they will take your hand. So don’t be afraid. Your best friends will develop because you started acting like their friend before they knew what was going on. This trick will serve you your whole life.
Dear 16 year-old Adam: Your skin will eventually clear up. But it will be much longer than you think it should. Right about the time your hair starts thinning. But neither fact will stop you from getting dates. Fact: other people will be more generous with you than you are to yourself.
Dear 18 year-old Adam: You know that feeling you have, like you missed the meeting where everyone gets told what’s really going on? We all feel that way. And it never goes away. So you’ll need to figure out whose opinion matters to you because otherwise you’re going to spend the rest of your life trying to please a person called “society” that doesn’t really exist and is never satisfied.
Dear 22 year-old Adam: You are going to be with this woman forever. But she won’t always be this woman. Give her space to grow and change. She’ll eventually be different, but she’ll stick by you. She’s never going to change so much that she outgrows you. At least that is, if you keep growing too.
Dear 24 year-old Adam: Hold on. It will get better.
Dear 26 year-old Adam: You will someday get a job that fits you. It will take a lot longer than you think, but it will happen. Even so, you’ll always wonder if you made the right decision. You’re going to have to learn to live with the question. Or let go of it. It’s your choice.
Dear 28 year-old Adam: You will someday be able to have children. Getting there will be one of the most painful and formative periods of your life, but you will get there. Your kids will be glorious and they will make everything harder and brighter at the same time.
Dear 30 year-old Adam: Cut yourself some slack. Learn how to relax. Find people that you look up to and ask them to be your mentor. I know it may feel awkward, but it will be worth it.
Dear 33 year-old Adam: Go back and read the advice I gave you when you were 18 because you still haven’t figured it out!
Dear 35 year-old Adam: In fact, go back and read all the advice because you are still struggling with all the same things you always have been: making friends, feeling adequate, finding fulfilling work, being secure in love, letting go of pain. Whatever else you do: don’t forget that you are loved. Come what may, you are loved.
What about you, dear reader? What advice would you give your past self? Or if you’re over 36, what advice do you have for me?
birthday cake photo: Tela Chhe