Advice to my 17-year-old self

This year marks fifty years since I graduated from high school, and on April 10 my graduating class and I will be meeting on Zoom to get together and celebrate what we have accomplished in the past 50 years. In honor of that milestone, I wrote this post today:

Dear lost teenager:

It doesn’t really seem like fifty years since I was in your shoes. And yet as I look at this annual, as I look at everything that has happened since then, wow, it’s like we are two completely different people. What advice can I give you that would make any difference to you? Because all of the mistakes that you made—and you will make a lot of mistakes—helped mold you into the man that you are to become. So here are a few bits of advice I can cobble together:

  1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. And don’t be afraid to fail. Mistakes and failures teach you a lot more than successes do. At the same time, go through life with your eyes open. When you can, learn from other people’s mistakes, so that you can avoid the pain of mistakes as much as possible.
  2. Don’t be in such a rush to please people. Happiness doesn’t come from making people like you. The key is that you have to learn to like yourself first. And how do you do that?
  3. Take risks, and accomplish things. By accomplishing things you will feel better about yourself. And don’t do this so you can boast about it. Let someone else bring it up rather than having to toot your own horn, and it will make it that much sweeter. And if they don’t, at least have the satisfaction that you know what you can and can’t do.
  4. Find joy in helping other people. When you turn the focus off yourself and start realizing other people have needs that you can help with, there’s a satisfaction that you can’t find anywhere else. It sounds like a cliché, and when you’re seventeen, it’s hard to not think about your own problems first. But if you focus on helping other people with their problems, yours sometimes seem a lot smaller.
  5. Girls. They are just as nervous around you as you are around them. Don’t sweat it. Focus on just being friends. A friend is more valuable than a girlfriend. Trust me, it’s true that God made a perfect mate out there for you. For every geeky guy that’s out there, there is a perfect match that you will fall in love with. Someday. Chances are, you’re not ready for her yet, and if she met you right now, she might be scared off. So give it time. Make friends and be satisfied with that.

Best wishes. Stay strong. Get to know God better and you will be a happier man in the long run.