....there is a few things I would have done differently. Don't get me wrong, I have had, at the very least, an interesting life. I had many adventures I never planned for and circumstances I could have never predicted. It's been an Indiana Jones movie with non-stop plot twists and turns. That being said, hindsight being what it is and all, I thought I would pass on my words of wisdom to the youth of today. Not that they will likely listen to me anymore than I listened to my parents but it's my two cents for what it's worth!
The first thing I want to say is, old age happens fast. It seems so far down the road when your twenty and have your whole life ahead of of you, but you wake up one day, straining to read the print on the newspaper and your joints creak as you roll out of bed and you realize that the future is here. Your not decrepit and you have many vital years left, but by now you have made some choices in your life that will affect how the rest of your days will play out. Here is a list of things I wish I would have paid more attention to in my younger years.
1. Savings. Every kid should be given the book to read "The Wealthy Barber" when they get their first allowance. It should be mandatory reading in grade school, hell they should just tattoo it on your chest! I started earning money when I was eleven years old. I had paper routes, graduated to babysitting, then waitressing etc and so on. If I had just saved ten cents from every dollar (leaving me a whopping 90 percent to spend) I would be a millionaire right now and not worried about being homeless in my old age. Just ten percent of any income I received, should have been automatically banked and let the magic of compound interest do it's job. I was a foolio, I thought a white knight would rescue me and marry me and take me off to his castle where I would dine in splendor night after night. It didn't happen and I have no plan B. Start saving when you are young, you will thank yourself one day, trust me!
2.A job with benefits. My dad pressured me to join the Military when I was young, touting things like, free uniforms, health care, dental plans, retirement package etc. All I heard was he wanted me to work for minimum wage where total strangers could yell at me all day long and I would be one of the faceless masses with no voice of my own. Ok, I probably still wouldn't join the military but I wasn't listening to the message which was, job security and a good benefits package. I have been self employed basically my whole life. I have never had a paid holiday, never had health benefits, have nothing that looks like a retirement package and no job security. That is a scary place to be, needless to say, I haven't had a ton of holidays in my life and there will be no retirement for me, I will have to work until I drop in my tracks.
To be honest I'm not sure I could have chosen a career in my youth that would have stimulated me and that I would have enjoyed working at for 50 odd years but I could have sat down and thought about it a bit more for sure. My advice on that, is think of things you absolutely love in life. What fascinates you, what drives you, what would you do for free because it gives you joy or a challenge. Now find yourself a career that allows you to do that every day. You may have to go to school to get the appropriate training but at least you have a goal and you know the path to get there. Trust me , that's half the battle!
Too many people just go through life figuring it will come to them someday, their dream job will just fall into their lap. Maybe it will, maybe it won't, better you put some effort into being on the right track. Many people also get stuck in jobs they hate and have no room for advancement in and feel trapped because now they are too old to start over. Really think about how you are going to make a living, how you are going to make your mark in the world.
Don't kid yourself, we all have to do something, it might as well be something you like and are good at. Do you really need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a BA in some obscure subject that in the end won't qualify you to even flip hamburgers at McDonald's? Yes an education is important, but try and spend your money on something that will give you a tangible return. You won't get those years back, make them count for something. And don't count on winning the lottery, you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning ten times!
3. Taking better care of my health. Wow, where do I start here?
Well I never had a dental plan, so looking after my teeth was expensive and often put off. Lets just say I really regret that now.
I started smoking at eleven years old( I know, I know, terrible!) however, as any reformed smoker can tell you, it's a lifelong addiction once you start. I'm now paying the price with reduced lung capacity which limits my physical activity. Just don't start and drinking alcohol is highly overrated as well. There are better things to spend your money on, your really NOT cool when your stupid drunk and being an idiot. The brain cells you save will thank you down the road.
Suntanning. I was the queen of tanning. I loved having a golden tan pretty much year round. At the beach from April til September and in the tanning booths the rest of the year. Now I have ugly age spots, scary brown spots, and wrinkles in places there shouldn't be. I could have done all the things I did, I just should have sat in the shade, covered up more and avoided getting burnt.
Exercise. I just kept putting it off, thinking I would get in shape one of these days. Well I probably still could but it will be a huge struggle at my age and I feel it every day that I am not in shape. Every joint hurts, it's hard to do anything, bending over to tie my shoe can be an effort some days. Get regular exercise every single day! No excuses unless you want to spend the second half of your life in a motorized wheel chair. Change it up, dance one day, ski the next, go for walks after dinner, ride your bike to work, stretch often, take the stairs, just get off your ass, every. single. day! Avoid vicious contact sports. I've met many millionaires that can't climb a set of stairs because of high school football injuries...just saying...
4. Be a better friend. You know you can't take it with you, right? If you spend your whole life working hard, always making excuses why you can't do things with your friends because your too busy, one day they just won't be there, they will have moved on. Your friends are your most precious commodity in life. The laughs you share, the comfort you receive when you are down are priceless. Take the time to really listen to people, give them a hand when they need it, be a shoulder to cry on, or be the person that cheers them up. You can't do everything by yourself, your community is your lifeline, treat it with respect and love. Be as good of a friend and neighbor as you would like to be treated in return.
5. Meditate. Or something that looks like it. Once a day turn off everything that distracts you; the TV, the computer, video games, the ipod, whatever. Take some time to sit quietly and let your own thoughts come to the surface. Learn to recognize when your instincts are telling you something, they are always right, but if you live in a world where you are constantly bombarded by external stimuli, you won't be able to hear your quiet inner voice that is trying to tell you what you need to know. Pay attention to the signs that the universe is sending you.
6. Love yourself just the way you are. Don't ever hold back on doing something just because you don't think your good enough/skinny enough/smart enough etc. Just do it, you are fine just the way you are, have that experience, dance like no one is watching, laugh ... A LOT, especially at yourself, don't take things so seriously. Being a kid/teenager is hard, small things seem to matter so much, the length of your pants, how you wear your hair, spots on your chin... none of that will matter in a few years, let the drama roll off your back, you will get through this and it will not matter in the grand scheme of things. This is just a phase, it too will pass and life has many exciting things in store for you. Besides to be really honest, no one is really watching, they are too worried about what people are thinking of them.
7. Learn how to make things from scratch. We live in a very convienient world these days, pretty much anything you need, you can buy at the store already made and ready to go. But what if something happens, a natural diaster or war, something that prevents you from just running out and buying what you need. Learn the old ways, you might never need them, but if you do, they will save your life. Man lived without electricity, plastic and a meriad of other things for thousands of years, don't become so reliant on the grid that you are helpless if it disappears.
8. Be grateful! Every single day, take a few moments to stop and just be grateful for what you have. Count your blessings..literally! example: I am grateful for the sink full of dirty dishes because it means I had enough to eat tonight. Even things that seem like a negative can be a postive when you look at things that way. Just remember, no matter how bad you think you have it, there is someone who wishes they were in your shoes, that they had your opportunities in life.
9. Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. It doesn't take much to put a smile on someones face and the repercussions could last all day and affect the hundreds of people that they run into. Doing something nice for someone else is the best way to feel good about yourself. Giving to others is the gift that always gives back.
10. Keep a journal and write peoples names on the backs of photos. Your memory is not as great as you think it is. More than anything in the world , I really, really wish I had kept journals all my life. I have had a very interesting life and now I can't remember half of it. I look back at my grade school pictures and can't name more than one or two people in them ( mind you I did move every year of my childhood, maybe it's different if you spent many years with the same kids) but still, there are people that will pass through your life for a short time and they will make an impact. Thirty years later you will want to look them up on facebook and you won't be able to because you will have forgotten their names. If you keep a journal, you will be able to go back years later and read what you were going through at the time and you will love the stories and the memories and have the names that go with them!
Plus it's a cool thing to hand down to your kids someday. Why? Because you will not listen to a word I just said, you will do things YOUR way and when you get older and have kids of your own, you will look back on your life and say...If I had it to do over....
..and maybe your kids might learn from your experiences!
What things would you change if you had your life to live over?
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