As I look down at the skin discoloration and new freckles on my sun-damaged arms and hands, I silently berate myself for not having stayed out of the sun or, at the very least, worn some serious sunscreen when I was younger. The harsh reality is, once you cross over that proverbial middle-aged number (I like to think of it as a moving target, but I know in my heart of hearts I have long since crossed it), all your old vices and bad habits come back to haunt you.
I remember back in the 1990’s there was a song by Baz Luhrmann called “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”. It was actually more of a speech put to music than a song (click here to listen). Nevertheless, it contained copious amounts of good advice given to a graduating class. It got me to musing, what kind of advice would my older-self give today to my younger-self?
The first one would be to wear sunscreen. Seriously! I remember in the summer months (and spring and fall whenever possible) in my youth going to the beach or the pool daily and absolutely baking every piece of my legally allowable visible skin. Sunscreen? That was for sissies. I would slather on a greasy mixture of baby oil and iodine (yes iodine to stain the skin darker) and bake front side and back side in 30-minute increments for hours.
I went on a girl’s trip to the Bahamas after high school graduation and proudly compared myself to the many local’s deep coco skin. I was darker than half of them. Hey 19- year-old self: Dark tans on white girls do not make you look sexy (no matter what Hawaiian Tropic tells you), it only helps insure a visit from the melanoma fairy later in life. Not to mention the loss of elasticity and wrinkles. Argh! Wrinkles!
Secondly, your parents are going to give you good advice. But only to a point. That is right, those annoying adult people who kept laying all those rules on you for all your teenage years? They were giving you good advice. They are two of the most important people in your life and will always be, even after they are gone. And they have already crossed over to their middle age. They get it. They lived it. Listen to their advice and respect them. However, do not let their advice rule your decisions completely. For example, I thought about a career in The Arts (read starving artist) when we had to declare a major for higher education. My father steered me towards business because he felt I would make more money and have more stability. Their job was to protect and help keep things secure and comfortable. If I wanted to do something completely adventurous or risky, they would not have been especially supportive. Hey 19-year-old self: Go with your gut. If you feel strongly about doing something outside the box, DO IT.
Third, do not be so shy and cautious! Okay, you are doing better these last few years since the painfully shy child you were in grade school. But I see it still holds you back. Do not be frightened to be bold. Speak up, reach out, take risks. The greater the risks, the greater the rewards. Remember when you were a freshman in high school and you excelled in Spanish class? You had the opportunity to be a year-long exchange student in Bolivia or Chile or some other exotic South American country, but you opted out because of some unfounded fear. That would have been one of the most amazing experiences of your life. And now you would not be struggling to have command of the Spanish language. Hey 19-year-old self, it is time to become fearless and forget that you were ever shy.
Fourth, do not get caught up with classmates or friends making fun of people or being unkind. We all have our personal handicaps. We are all trying to find where we fit in and how this world works. You are no more superior than anyone else on this earth. You may have better skills or opportunities or even beauty, but that does not give you license to be unkind or intolerant. Be a uniter not a divider.
Fifth, do not play with people’s hearts. Several men will fall in love with you in the future. Some relationships will be beautiful and some not so much. Most of them will end in an unpleasant way. You, most likely, will be the one ending it. Once you know the relationship is not working, be honest and up front. Do not play with his heart. He will love you and he deserves to be treated with respect. Make an effort to remain friends, if you desire. If you once really loved one another, he will always have a special place in your heart after the dust settles.
Sixth, eat healthy, drink less alcohol and stay fit. Sounds silly now, right? You look pretty damn good and you don’t have to worry about weight gain or any health issues. Guess what? Metabolism changes. Health changes. Suddenly you wonder how cholesterol levels can possibly creep up. And where the heck did those 5 extra kilos come from? Stay fit for life starting now and don’t miss health check ups. Hey 19-year-old self, you will thank me later.
Seventh, never say “That will never happen to me.” in your cocky littler manner. You have no idea what will or will not happen to you until you live your life.
Eighth, learn to be more patient. In the upcoming decades you are going to see massive changes in the way we communicate, in the way you do your job, in the way the politics shift. Everything that touches your life will change. For the only constant is change (no, it is not a cliché). This is going to require a lot of patience on your part. You are going to have to relearn and reprogram your brain and your lifestyle. Be patient, with not only your learning process, but with others as well. Learning new things will be fantastic and also frustrating. Practice patience.
Ninth, spend time around children and elderly. You don’t spend enough time around either. Start now. You will learn some amazing things from the raw truths spoken by both ends of the life-cycle spectrum. Hey 19-year-old self, you won’t have kids of your own, but you will have plenty to love in India.
Tenth, travel every chance you can. Get out there and discover the world. It will expand your mind, make you more tolerant of different beliefs and thankful for what you have. And yes, you are off to a good start.
Eleventh, do not be so hard on yourself. You will meet plenty of people who will do that for you. You are smarter, cooler, prettier than you think. Just be happy in your own skin. Hey 19-year old self, they are going to call you eccentric. Take it as a compliment.
Lastly, get involved. Make a difference. You have the power to make changes which will make our world better. Even if you don’t believe you can. You can.
You probably won’t take all this advice. I know you better by now than you know yourself. And trust me on the sunscreen!
Monday Musings. What woud you tell YOUR younger self? Have a great week!