I came across this article about Stephen King’s letter to his 16 year old self, and I was struck by how open and honest he was with himself. For those of you whose clicking fingers are feeling kind of drowsy this fine Friday, he said
“I’m writing to you from the year 2010, when I have reached the totally ridiculous age of sixty-two, in order to give you a piece of advice. It’s simple, really, just five words: stay away from recreational drugs.”
He goes on to add a bit more to that, but that’s about the size of it right there. And it got me thinking: what would I say to 16 year old me? What one piece of advice could I give myself that would be of most use? I’d want it to be something that could be really impactful, and I’m going to avoid the snarky “buy as much Apple and Google stock as you can” sort of Back to the Future Part 2 lines.
As I thought it over, what kept coming back to me was another simple thing: Be more compassionate.
I know that might seem a bit strange, since it’s not like I’m the world’s most compassionate person or anything, but let’s just say that I’ve come along way. Growing up, I could be a pretty judgmental person. I would see people doing things or saying things I didn’t agree with, and so I’d make assumptions about who they were or what they thought. I was way too eager to stereotype, even though at the time I remember thinking I was pretty open-minded.
Something I’ve observed since: if there’s an issue that most of society has discovered is fairly universal, and you look at yourself and think you don’t have any issue with it at all? There’s a good chance you’ve got a much bigger problem with it than you think. Racism, homophobia, hypocrisy–you name it. If you think everyone else has that problem but you’re free of it, there’s your symptom right there. One of the best things to do in life is to be able to look at yourself openly and be honest.
16 year old me was bad at that, and it ruined a few friendships in later years. I did things and said things that still bother me to this day. Could I really have done/said that? Yes.
Anyway. It’s not like that was the only problem I had, and I’m sure I’ve got a slew of family or high school friends who would point out some much bigger ones, but today, that’s the one that came to mind.
So let me turn the question to you: what would you tell yourself?