Ericka over at Sweet life has a post on the Ten Things She Would Tell Her Younger Self. And on this day when my first child is born, I’d thought I’d play along with this meme, too. So, if I could go back and give my 18-year old self 10 bits of advice it would be:
[NOTE: I actually wrote this post a few days, ago, but scheduled it to post this morning, knowing I'd be at the hospital with my wife all morning, and unable to put a new blog post up today.]
1) Don’t get hung up on what other people thing of you (or, more accurately, what you think they think of you), and don’t try to live in such a way as to seek the approval of others. Do what makes you happy. Always.
2) Start saving money now — start up a 401K right now. Start putting money in it. Keep putting money in it. Make sure as you advance your career, maximize employer contributions to your 401K; it’s literally free money. The magic of compounding interest works much, much better when you start at 18 than it does when you start at 30.
3) Join the Army right out of high school instead of waiting 5 years — You’re not ready to decide what you want to be for the rest of your life right now. In fact, you don’t even have an inkling that you’ll eventually become a professional writer. Plus, college is hard and it’s expensive. It’ll be a lot easier (and easier to afford) once you finish your enlistment. But make sure you join. You’ll be more proud of your service to your country later in life than you could ever know now, and it’ll benefit you for the rest of your life in ways you don’t even know yet.
4) Get that extra degree now — Since you’ve made the decision to join the Army before going to college, when you do get out and do head off to college as a 22 year old freshman, go ahead and enjoy your time in school. Get that undergraduate degree and then go ahead and transfer to a new school and get that graduate degree. Between your GI Bill and the Hazlewood act, it’s covered. You just need to earn enough money to pay your rent and buy some beer. And enough to keep contributing to that 401K we set up a few years back. College is fun, and you should enjoy it to the utmost. This is your time to do it.
5) Stand up for what you believe in — it’s so easy to think you’re a Liberal when you’re a kid. All of your professors are liberals, most of your classmates are too. But examine what you believe deeply; think carefully on the lessons that mom taught you. You believe in personal responsibility, you abhor abortion, the welfare state, and nannyism. You may not know you’re a Conservative yet, but you’ll figure it out soon enough. In the meantime, do not be afraid to challenge your liberal professors’ liberal ideology. Call them out on their biases.
6) Get involved — Yeah, I told you college should be fun, but you should also do more than drink beer and play Foosball all day. Forget the social fraternities. Get involved in some political campaigns, volunteer more.
7) Remember when we had to decide between taking Racquetball and Golf as a PE elective at Baylor? Take golf instead. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. It’s a game we’re going to play and enjoy for the rest of our life. The earlier we learn to play it, the more we’ll enjoy it.
8- We’ve got horrifically bad knees in the future. We just didn’t take care of them like we should of as a young man. If there is anything you can do to alleviate or prevent that from happening, please do try.
9) Before you start working full time after college, take a summer off — Get a motorcycle (a comfortable cruiser, we’re going to be putting in some long miles), and take three full months to just ride around and across the country. Yep. 25 years later, we still love and ride motorcycles. Later in life, once you start working and have a family, you won’t be able to just take off and vagabond your way across the country. Do it now. Bring a sleeping bag and a tent. And just ride. Sleep under the starts in the Arizona desert. Take a plunge in the hot springs of Arkansas. Ride the entire Pacific coast highway. Relish this time alone on the road seeing the country, with not a care in the world. Oh, and take a camera and take lots of pictures.
10) Don’t drive yourself crazy looking for love — don’t worry, it’ll eventually find you. In the meantime, just enjoy the ride. Oh, and always, always, wear your helmet (just in case).