What Is a Life-Changing Realization You Wish You’d Had Sooner in Life?

The cal­en­dar date may be arbi­trary, a quirk of his­to­ry that could have been otherwise—but it’s no coin­ci­dence, I think, that New Year’s pro­duces a reflec­tive mood, a time of look­ing both back­ward and for­ward, espe­cial­ly in those parts of the world cur­rent­ly held in winter’s chill and dark, await­ing the thaw of spring. The turn of the Gre­go­ri­an cal­en­dar seems to beg us to pro­duce some sober wis­dom amidst the rev­el­ry of the hol­i­days: to account for what we’ve learned, rumi­nate on inten­tions, take gen­er­al stock of our per­son­al stores.

It’s also a time when we con­nect with our younger selves (many of us hav­ing just spent a few days vis­it­ing par­ents, home­towns, and child­hood bed­rooms). Those younger selves can seem cal­low and naïve in hind­sight, and though it’s hard­ly any use liv­ing with regret, we might wish with some degree of rue that we could have han­dled some things better—and applied the hard-won real­iza­tions of the present much ear­li­er. It’s a com­mon enough sen­ti­ment, han­dled per­fect­ly in The Faces’ “Ooh La La.”

I wish, for exam­ple, that I had learned how to med­i­tate years before I did. It might have saved my young, moody, impul­sive self a world a grief. (But then again, with­out that grief, would I have ever learned to med­i­tate?) Recent­ly, a MetaFil­ter user revis­it­ed a post from 2013 that asked the ques­tion (“What is a life chang­ing real­iza­tion that you wish you’d had soon­er?”) to the inter­net com­mu­ni­ty at large. The respons­es ranged from the fair­ly gener­ic (“it’s okay if you don’t want to be friends with your exes”) to the per­son­al, spe­cif­ic, and col­or­ful. See a sam­pling of the answers below from both the orig­i­nal 2013 thread and the recent 2017 repost:

Love leaves scars. And that’s a good thing. We want to be per­ma­nent­ly affect­ed by the ones that we love. Oth­er­wise, it’s not real­ly love. And like any oth­er scar, it begins as a painful wound, goes through the peri­od of laud­able pus dur­ing which you drain out all the bad stuff, and then, even­tu­al­ly, heals to a pain­less but vis­i­ble scar.

This seems kin­da sil­ly, but a cou­ple of years ago I real­ized that I am under no oblig­a­tion to fin­ish a book that I don’t like. As a read­er, that was such an epiphany! 

The most impor­tant and dan­ger­ous tool in the lives of aver­age peo­ple is com­pound inter­est.

Behav­iour is dri­ven by emo­tion, not ratio­nal thought: instead of try­ing to force myself to do things by berat­ing myself, I get my emo­tions in order first by syn­the­sis­ing the feel­ing of hav­ing already done it. My pro­cras­ti­na­tion has been rad­i­cal­ly reduced, and I’m freer to get on and do the things I need to do.

Take oth­er people’s head injuries seri­ous­ly. Some­one who’s just had a blow to the brain is not qual­i­fied to judge whether it is “no big deal.” 

Hon­or the parts of your­self that are elu­sive and mys­te­ri­ous and maybe unin­tel­li­gi­ble to oth­er peo­ple. Whether that means embrac­ing an iden­ti­ty like “queer non­bi­na­ry trans woman” or becom­ing more com­fort­able with cry­ing and not know­ing why or not hav­ing opin­ions and answers at hand… Prac­tice not know­ing. 

I’m par­tial to these offer­ings because I find them mov­ing, fun­ny, or con­ver­sant with what­ev­er mea­ger wis­dom I like to think I’ve acquired after much tri­al and error. But what about you? As 2017 winds to a close—a year fraught with more stress and anx­i­ety than most—which answers leap out to you? Or, if you’re brave and feel like shar­ing, what would you like to pass on to your younger, more bum­bling self if you could go back and have a sit-down with him or her? Please pass along your thoughts and wis­dom in the com­ments below.

via MetaFil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Will You Real­ly Achieve Hap­pi­ness If You Final­ly Win the Rat Race? Don’t Answer the Ques­tion Until You’ve Watched Steve Cutts’ New Ani­ma­tion

“Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Bet­ter”: How Samuel Beck­ett Cre­at­ed the Unlike­ly Mantra That Inspires Entre­pre­neurs Today

Watch “Alike,” a Poignant Short Ani­mat­ed Film About the Endur­ing Con­flict Between Cre­ativ­i­ty and Con­for­mi­ty

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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  • wew says:

    Ron­nie Lane, not Rod Stew­art, sang lead on “Ooh La La.” Stew­art was very crit­i­cal of this whole album and made per­son­al attacks against the oth­er band mem­bers.

  • Fast Patrick says:

    Stuff I’d tell the six­teen-year-old me:

    1. A bit of con­fi­dence and good cheer goes a long way.

    2. Take impor­tant things seri­ous­ly but not TOO seri­ous­ly.

    3. Make plans and have goals, but be open to inter­est­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

    3a. You are allowed to fig­ure out what to do with your life out­side of the fam­i­ly mind­set.

    4. Home­work is a good thing.

    5. Deodor­ant instead of anti-per­spi­rant.

  • Josh Jones says:

    Ah, thanks. Cor­rect­ed.

  • Rohan says:

    Noth­ing mat­ters, just be hap­py.

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