I remember when I was a child and teenager and the wait for my birthday seemed like an eternity.
With each year that passed, though, that wait became incrementally shorter and shorter. As I quickly approach my birthday again, it feels like I just celebrated one last week.
I won’t say how old I’ll be, but I’ll just say it’s probably safe to call me “middle-aged” at this point.
And I’m realizing now how depressing that term actually is.
But that’s beside the point.
There are actually a few perks to getting older, obviously in addition to simply living to see another year. The best one I’ve found is also probably the most all-encompassing: I’ve done so much stupid stuff that I’ve had a chance to learn from at least a lot of it.
I think most of us who have reached this age (and yes, I’ll still leave that to your imagination) have at least some things that we’d tell our younger versions of ourselves given half a chance. I know I do.
Just for the fun of it, here are some of the things I’d tell my younger version of myself:
• Don’t be so anxious for tomorrow. You tend to miss a lot of good things when you’re so busy wishing for something down the road that you’re not present enough to enjoy what’s happening right now.
• There are a few people in your life whose opinions of you matter. Pay attention to those and don’t worry about everyone else. You can’t please everyone, and if you do, you’re not being honest with someone.
• Follow your gut instinct. If something feels hinky (pardon the technical term), it probably is.
• Just because you can get another credit card doesn’t necessarily mean you should. It’s way too easy to get in over your head with those little suckers.
• You can never be perfect. I know you’d like to think otherwise, but it’ll never happen. Just do the best you can, admit your failings and move on with life.
• Focus on what’s within your control. Things happen in life that you will have absolutely no control over. Don’t waste time and energy stressing about something you can’t change; turn that energy to something you can, even if it’s just your reaction to the situation.
• Enjoy school. OK, hear me out on this one. This is a huge and fascinating world, and school lets you explore some of its cooler tidbits. When you leave school, your focus naturally narrows somewhat to your chosen profession and your time to explore other areas shrinks. Enjoy learning about the other cool tidbits while you can.
• Tomorrow is not guaranteed. You may not have the chance to tell that person how much they mean to you. You may not have the chance to write that novel you always dreamed of. Don’t wait.
• Be happy. This may seem overly simplistic, and maybe it is. But life is too short to be miserable. Do what you need to do to be happy (obviously within confines of the law and morality); no one else will do it for you.
Sara McManamy-Johnson is the digital content director for The Lebanon Democrat and Wilson County News. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.