Dear 22 year old Dave,
You probably don’t recognise me from all the way back there in the last century. I know I look a bit different – several less pounds and several more wrinkles, I’m sure – but trust me, I’m you. An older, hopefully wiser and certainly much happier you. I know you’re busy getting ready for your first overseas trip as an adult – it’s only a few days until you leave, right?
If you’ve got a few minutes, though, I thought you might like to hear what we’ve figured out together over the last thirteen years. Who knows, you might even find it interesting.
Try being yourself for a change
First things first, mate. If you don’t listen to anything else I’ve got to say, at least hear me out on this one. Please stop trying to be someone you’re not. I know it’s hard when your self-esteem is in the gutter and it seems like everyone else around you is smarter, better looking and have got their shit together, but do it anyway. They aren’t and they don’t. They’re putting on just as much of an act as you are – and it’s just as fake as yours.
The funny thing is that the popularity contest that was your school years doesn’t mean a thing once you hit the real world anyway. Out there, you stand and fall based on who you really are, not who you pretend to be – and actually, you’re a pretty great person underneath all the bullshit.
You’ll figure this out on your own eventually, but it’s gonna take a while. It’d be really nice for you and those around you if you realised it a whole lot sooner.
Stop caring so much about what other people think of you
There’s a lot of people in the world who take a perverse delight in bringing you down. You’re never going to satisfy them no matter what you do – so don’t bother trying to impress them. All that effort is going to wear you down, depress the hell out of you and won’t make one bit of difference to the end result. Pick a few mates and family members whose opinions you respect and listen to what they’ve got to say – but even then, don’t treat it as gospel.
Be happy with who you are, back yourself to make the right decisions, and things will turn out just fine in the long run. They already have. Other people will either respect you for your choices or they won’t, but at the end of the day it’s not them that needs to be happy with every single decision that you make. It’s you.
You really don’t need to plan so much
Yeah, I know that everyone keeps telling you that you need to be making plans. Life plans, career plans, travel plans, whatever. I’m here to tell you that you don’t. A vague sense of direction will serve you better than a detailed plan every time. Have a sense of where you’d like to go and some rough ideas of how you might get there, and then let life’s mysteries take you where they will. It took us a long time to work this out, but our life has been so much more rewarding since then.
Burn those long lists of destinations and career goals, ten year savings plans and whatever other crap you’ve got lying around in your top drawer that seemed so important when you were writing it. You won’t stick to them in the long run anyway, and all they’ll do is stop you from seizing the randomly brilliant opportunities that turn up along the way.
Stop being so damn miserable. Honestly. You’ve got nothing to really be sad about, so why are you walking around looking like you’re chewing on lemons all the time? Life’s pretty damn awesome when you choose to view it that way. Once you eventually do start doing that, you’ll wonder why the hell it took you so long to figure it out.
Laugh with people, not at them. Accept them for who they are and stop being so bloody judgemental. Be fun to be around – people will actually want to spend time with you then. Don’t take things so damn personally all the time, as not everyone is out to offend you.
Oh, and smile. Now there’s a crazy ass idea.
Maturity isn’t always a virtue
People have been telling you how mature you are for years. They’re going to keep doing it for quite a few years more, too. Teachers and parents would like you to think that’s a virtue and I know that you’ve managed to convince yourself of that now as well. Hey, guess what? Fast forward to 2011 and we’ll hear people telling us that we’re immature instead. Why? Because we eventually figured out that maturity can easily be a euphemism for boring if we’re not careful.
There’s a time for maturity, perhaps, but there’s also time to be immature … crazy … unpredictable … and just living like tomorrow is never going to come. The best bit is that there’s no age limit on doing this either – so when you do eventually get sick of being mature, the world will still be there waiting. Trust me, I know.
You don’t know it all, and you never will
Uh-huh, I know, you’ve had people telling you that you were smart your whole life. You were one of the brainy kids at school and coasted through, getting good grades in the classes you cared about (and getting kicked out of the classes you didn’t). You did much the same at university too, and somewhere along the way you developed this arrogant streak that made you think you knew everything about everything.
You don’t. My god, you really, really don’t.
Now that you’re finished your formal education, your learning has only just begun. What’s more, you’re going to learn about stuff that actually matters – the rest of the world, and your insignificant place in it. The fact is that the more you know, the more you realise there is to learn.
It’s going to be a rude awakening, but when you do figure it out you’re going to be a much more enjoyable person to be around. Being an insufferable git is unlikely to get you laid. Just so you know.
Get off your ass and start exercising
You never used to be a fat kid, so why do people now start calling Greenpeace when you take your shirt off at the beach? Save the bloody whales indeed. It’s not that hard to figure out really – a steady diet of beer, McDonalds and pies for a few years coupled with a total aversion to working up a sweat. Sure you try to laugh it off and pretend that you don’t give a shit, but you do. Of course you do. You can’t lie to me – I’m you, remember?
So stop being such a lazy bastard, buy some running shoes and get off the sofa. Stop playing online games all night drinking 2 litres of Coke to stay awake, and go for a run instead. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt like hell. And it’s gonna keep hurting for quite a while too.
Trust me, though, the weight falling off you is going to be a great motivator – and it’ll do some pretty amazing things for your self-esteem too. Those hot girls that don’t even make eye contact when you see them now? Yeah, that’ll change. Once you’ve been running for a while you actually won’t want to stop. One day you’ll even run a half marathon.
I’m sure you don’t believe me now … but you should.
That’s all of the advice I’ve got for now, mate. There’s a whole lot of other stuff that you need to learn too, but don’t worry – you’ll work it out. Life’s good like that. You should probably get back to that packing. You’re taking too much stuff, by the way, but that’s ok. You’ll figure that out eventually as well.
Enjoy your travels. I have a feeling you’re going to.
35 year old Dave.