In just a few days my eldest son will turn 18.
It’s got me wondering…
If I could go back in time and talk to my 18 year old self, what would I want to say?
I’m gathering some thoughts, a few at a time. Things I think I ‘know’. Things I wish I’d known.
Not so much for him, because I know that his experience will be different from mine. But for me – a little reminder of things that can help.
Here are the first few…
There is no rule that things ought to be a certain way. If you find yourself feeling cross or indignant, ask yourself what you think should be different. I’m willing to bet you’ll find a ‘should’ in there somewhere – a sense of entitlement to something, a sense that things should be other than they actually are. That ‘should’ is the source of the discomfort, not the situation itself. Life is messy and unpredictable. There are no ‘shoulds’.
Some things you can control, others you can’t.
What you say, what you do, what you make things mean – you get to control those. Other people’s behaviour, the weather, sports results – those aren’t yours, sorry.
Learning to focus on the things you can control and let go of the ones you can’t saves a lot of time, energy and suffering. Sounds simple. Takes practice.
That normal life, normal appearance, normal experience you may be imagining – it doesn’t exist. Generally speaking, people are a bit odd. Most of us feel like outsiders sometimes. We can all imagine that everyone else knows what they’re doing. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Forget trying to be normal. Go do something fun instead.
Figuring out how to do new things is messy. You will end up feeling (and looking) silly sometimes. There will be a lot of mistakes. This is ok. That old saying about omelettes and eggs is true. Things will break from time to time. You will break from time to time. That’s just how it works. Keep going. On the other side of all the brokenness is something worth having. You may just not be able to see it quite yet.
Human beings are natural storytellers. We tell stories in our minds all the time. Learning to recognise the difference between facts and stories is really helpful. When we get them confused we can cause ourselves and others a lot of heartache. Watch out for the word ‘because’. It’s often a helpful indicator that a story is about to begin.
More to follow. In the meantime, I’m curious…
What do you wish you’d known at 18?