Saturday, March 4, 2023

Some Advice from the Future

Here’s an interesting question to ponder: If you could go back in time and have a one-hour conversation with your 20-year-old self, what would you say?

For me, the urge would be strong to criticize the 20-year-old me. I’d want to yell, “You’re going to quit drinking before you turn 30, so you might as well do it now and stop making a fool of yourself. You’ll save a lot of grief over the next decade.” Or I’d say, “You have to stop being so selfish. Stop taking advantage of people. Stop skipping so many 8 a.m. classes. And start saving some money for retirement! Age 65 is gonna sneak up on you!” I’d probably add this bit of advice: “You’re going to have a major conversion experience and enjoy going to church a lot, so do it now rather than at age 28, which also will save a lot of grief.”
However, if I somehow could go back in time, I wouldn’t waste my breath saying those particular things. Why? Because I know it wouldn’t do any good. When I was 20, I already heard those things (except with a bit less specificity). Friends and family members routinely encouraged me to be more responsible and stop partying so much. But it went right in one ear and out the other. If the 65-year-old me had the ability to lecture the 20-year-old me, I’m certain the 20-year-old me would reply, “Stop hassling me, old man. And if you want to do something useful, how about buying me a beer?”

If I could speak with my 20-year-old self, maybe taking a more positive, encouraging approach would be better. I’d say, “You shouldn’t wait until your mid-30s to try your hand at writing. Then in the 21st century, your newspaper columns won’t have quite as many grammatical errors.”

Nah, that wouldn’t work either. When I was 20, I liked to read, but after a C-minus in English Composition 101, the idea that I someday would enjoy writing seemed about as likely as the Red Sox winning the World Series. 
The only effective thing I could do if it were possible to have a conversation with my 20-year-old self would be to help that dopey kid get rich. First, I’d say, “In a couple of years, the mighty Baltimore Orioles will be leading the Pittsburgh Pirates 3 games to 1 in the World Series. At that moment, bet everything you have on the Pirates. Then, a few years later, Villanova will be facing the mighty Georgetown Hoyas in the NCAA basketball finals. Bet everything you have on ‘Nova.

“Then, some years later, The UConn Huskies will be in their first ever Final Four, and going up against mighty Duke in the finals. Bet everything on UConn. Then, in 2004, the Red Sox will be losing to the mighty Yankees 3 games to nothing in the League Championship Series. At that moment, bet everything you have on the Sox. Oh, and while you’re at it, buy some stock in a company called Google. No, I can’t explain what that means. Just trust me.”

If I actually gave those sure bets to my 20-year-old self, I’m pretty sure he would ignore it at first. That’s because I’ve never been into gambling. But I’m hoping that by the time UConn faced Duke in the finals, my now 42-year-old self would say, “Hey, that weird old man was right!” 

Then, just maybe, he’ll heed my most important advice of all: “Kid, the only things that really count in life are faith, family, and friends. Focus on those, and you’ll be a happy man. But also, don’t forget to bet on the Sox in ‘04.” 

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