May 2015 Column Winner

What would you tell your younger self?

Jeff Mullin, Enid News & Eagle

If you could, what would you say to your younger self?
The professional networking site recently asked their users just that, in regards to both work and life.
Among their responses were: Being qualified is good, but it doesn’t entitle you to success; none of us are as clever as all of us; and, body language speaks volumes.
All perfectly valid points, but off the mark, to my way of thinking.
So without further ado, I would like to present a much, much younger me. Hey kid, nice plaid pants and platform shoes.
“Make it snappy old man, I’ve got work to do.”
Ah, the impatience of youth. You’ll live to regret that.
“How so?”
The more you hurry through life, the faster it goes.
Work, family, social obligations, all are important, to be sure, but you’ve got to take some time to enjoy your life.
Before you know it, you are going to be my age.
“What, 107? So I should stop and smell the roses, right? Give me a break. Save your clichés. I’m too busy trying to make a living. Can we make this quick, I’ve got to go get a haircut.”
Yeah, about that hair. Enjoy that, too. It won’t last.
“Now you’re just trying to scare me.”
No, if I was trying to scare you, I would have told you about the fact that someday you won’t sleep through the night without having to get up and pee; you won’t be able to get up out of bed without something hurting, somewhere; you will groan every time you get out of a chair and you will walk into rooms without being able to remember why you walked in there, more often than you will care to admit.
“Nah, that’s not going to happen to me. I take care of myself.”
Oh, is that what you call taking care of yourself, a Diet Coke and a Twinkie? Anyway, be nice to people, particularly older people. Don’t treat us like we are somehow less than human because we are no longer young. We are just like you, only our “Best by ...” date has long since passed.
“Come on, give me some practical advice. I can almost hear my arteries hardening, or are those yours?”
Very funny. You want advice? OK, here it is. If you are presented with a choice between working and spending time with your family and friends, always choose the latter.
Your career is important, to be sure, but not near as important as your personal life.
Never let the former get in the way of the latter.
“That’s easy for you to say. You’re retired, living it up on the golf course or at the senior citizen’s center playing canasta or some such.”
Yeah, I wish. Actually I don’t. The older you get the more you tend to appreciate everything, even your job. The day will come when the phone won’t ring, the texts and emails won’t come, and nobody will need you anymore.
“Texts and emails?”
Never mind, you’ll find out soon enough.
“So tell me what I can expect as I get older, great wise sage.”
Spare me the sarcasm. OK, here goes. Life will occasionally tee you up and drive you into the deep rough. How you cope with life’s setbacks not only will define your character but will determine your future happiness. Oh, don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of good times, but for the most part you won’t appreciate them at the time. You will, in fact, take them for granted, just like you do your hair and your ability to bend over and tie your shoes without your body snap, crackle and popping like a bowl of Rice Krispies.
“That’s because I am so young, right?”
I was going to say young and stupid, but we can simply leave it at young. Your marriage will become deeper and richer through the years, that’s one thing to look forward to, though as you age your daily conversations will evolve from whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ear to loudly reminding one another to take your daily medications.
“You kill me, old man.”
I’d like to, but that would be suicide. But now that you brought up the subject, death will become, not exactly a friend, but a companion of sorts as you age. You will lose loved ones, you will lose friends. You will spend way too much time at funerals. And you will increasingly carry with you the knowledge that the reaper is dogging your footsteps, as well, just waiting for the appointed time.
“‘Hey, pops, you are depressing me. Tell me something good, Old One, give me some hope.”
Oh, you young sap, just look around you. Life’s a great ride, as long as you love and are loved. The rest of it is just window dressing.
“So am I going to be rich and successful, sexy and sophisticated and happy beyond my wildest dreams?”
Rich? No. Successful?
Moderately. Happy? I direct you to my previous admonition about loving and being loved. So, yeah, you’re going to be happy. And as for sexy and sophisticated, just look at me, what do you think?
“I think I’m going to be sick.”

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