What Advice Would You Give Your Fourteen-Year-Old Self?
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for The Scriblerians entitled, Failure Is An Option. Learning lessons the hard way must be much on my mind these days. There are many things I wish I had known ahead of time, so I wrote a letter to a younger version of myself. I’m putting it in a time travel capsule and hoping for the best.
Dear Fourteen-Year-Old Me,
If you’re reading this letter, then the time travel capsule must have worked. This is me—or is it you?—writing to you from 2016.
First, let’s improve our overall quality of life. Skip working at that computer consulting firm (the second one, not the first one). Total mistake. Oh, and invest every spare dime in Apple stock—the company, not the fruit. But I’ve said too much already.
Second, start writing now. Put all your stories in a drawer and wait until the world’s longest river starts a fire. You’ll know what I mean when it happens. But seriously, write every day so you’ll be ready with lots of raw material and the skills to polish your stories for publication.
By the way, your “Only Friends” policy towards guys totally works, so keep that up. But you need to get out more. Go to rock concerts against the preacher’s advice. Lightning won’t strike you down if you attend prom. Don’t listen to the legalists, and don’t worry so much about what people think about you. Live a little. Then write about it. Do you sense a theme here?
Let’s see. What else can I tell you without triggering the “butterfly effect?” (I can use that reference since I know you read Ray Bradbury.)
There will come a time when a Cuban American, a Jewish guy, a reality television star, and a grandma will run for president. Sounds like a bad joke, right? I can neither confirm nor deny that I made it up, but a political thriller with that plot could become a bestseller. Trust me. Oh, and publish it in 2014 for the best marketing opportunities.
When a storm named Rita strikes, stay home. Sorry, I hate to be so cryptic. Never say you’ll never live in Dallas. Don’t buy the Volkswagen TDI. Beg, borrow, and steal to go to the second Realm Makers Conference because you’ll always regret that you spoiled your perfect attendance record. Okay, that’s probably enough, and let’s hope it’s not too much.
Stay in band, work hard in school, keep reading everything that looks interesting, and stay close to God.
Lessons Learned the Hard Way
Don’t you wish you could write a letter to a younger version of yourself? What would you tell him or her? What hints would you try to pass on (without disrupting the space time continuum)? Would your younger self believe what you wrote or blow it off?
I tried to keep it light, but I do wish I hadn’t had to learn so many things the hard way. Who doesn’t wish that? Maybe humans aren’t able to learn certain lessons except through enduring the consequences of making mistakes.
The truth is that I had some lessons I needed to learn at the second computer consulting job. However, I regret that I didn’t start writing in a serious way much sooner. I chose to write epic adventure fantasy with lots of political intrigue built in. I have to say, the contemporary political thriller would have been big, especially if I had nailed the election results. Move aside, Nostradamus!
Imitating Good Examples
We don’t need hints from the future to know that we should use our time wisely. Occasionally, we hear of someone who provides a great example of the best way to live.
The Scriblerians are grieving the passing of their friend and fellow writer, Vanessa Morton. Their stories about her are inspiring and full of love. She seemed too young and bright to be gone so soon. Her friends definitely think she was one of those examples to imitate. Let us burn as brightly as Vanessa did, and live as faithfully, to the very end.
What advice would you give your fourteen-year-old self?
(I almost titled this post “Looking Past Thanksgiving,” a little tongue-in-cheek poke at Beth’s wonderful post from Tuesday.)
Over the last few years, I’ve come to dread December. Part of the reason is because I work part-time at a church and December can be like tax season for an accountant if you let it. Add to that the onus of decorating, purchasing gifts, parties, and travel and I find myself tired before the season has even begun. What should be one of the most hope filled, joyful seasons of the year has become something I’m beginning to dread. How messed up is that?
And I don’t think it’s just me. I hear people say things like, “I can’t wait for January 2nd.” Others get upset about coffee cup design at Starbucks. (Really?) Black Friday isn’t enough, now stores are opening on Thanksgiving, because isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? We’re thankful we have a day off work to go out and buy things?
OK, time to stop and reign in the cynical… /deep breath/
It doesn’t have to be this way, folks. Christmas doesn’t have to be a season of DOing. I can be a season of BEing.
Do you remember what Christmas was like as a child? The round-eyed wonder of the Christmas tree. Candlelight services. Family gathered around. Christmas lights.
What if we all took a step back this year?
Our kids (and grandkids!) don’t need as many presents as Dudley Dursley on his birthday! What if you gave your kids less? Good friends of ours give 3 gifts to their kids (because Jesus received three gifts from the wise men): something fun, something educational, and something spiritual. Or recently on Facebook, I saw an article suggesting 4 gifts: something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.
What if you didn’t send out Christmas cards? Or maybe this year you skip the Christmas letter?
What if you only put out a third of your Christmas decorations? Or none at all?
What if you didn’t schedule all those parties? Or maybe skip a few this year?
What if you decided not to buy gifts for everyone you know? Maybe give a card instead? Or tell people you’re taking a year off?
What if you took a break from Commercial Christmas like some people do social media? Instead of going on a Facebook or Twitter fast, what if you took a Christmas fast? Get back to the basics. What is most important to you at Christmas? Spending time with family? Going to church? Watching Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer? Do those things.
What if you replaced gift giving with memory making? Why not write a letter and tell the person why they really matter to you instead of buying them something? Draw a picture? Send them a throwback picture. Go caroling, sleigh riding, bike riding. Make a memory, don’t give someone something to collect dust. Be creative. Use your talents.
Do things because you WANT to, not because they are expected. Not because they’ve become a laundry list of traditions.
Here’s my challenge to you: Make a list of all the things you do for Christmas, and then go through and strike off half of them. Extra points if you get rid of 2 out of 3!
Simplify. Be the dentist and pull all the teeth out of the Abominable Commercial Christmas monster. You’ll be glad you did.
NOW YOU: On a scale of 1 (stress free) to 10 (completely crazy), how hectic is the holiday season for you? What can you cut out this year to make the season more fun and less run? What was your favorite thing about Christmas as a child?