Great post on Reddit in a thread titled “Any Redditors 40+ living the life they imagined at 20? Why or why not? What advice would you give us 20 year olds that you wish you knew/followed?“:
To steal a line from the great philosopher Apollo Creed: “There is no tomorrow.”
Wishes/dreams are things that cannot wait. Act on them now. Right fucking now. There is never going to be a magical date when you will have a secure enough bank roll, a reasonable amount of free time, and few enough obligations to embark on your dream, whatever it may be. There is no “good” time.
It’s a fairy tail you tell yourself when you’re young. If I just had this much money as a cushion to start . . . if I just finish this one thing . . . once I get my family life situated, I’ll begin . . . ad infinitum. It will never be just right. You either have to suck it up and do it, risks be damned, or you have to take the easy path.
And, if you put if off once, it becomes exponentially harder to get started – you will always find a reason why your dream is impractical. There are millions of legitimate reasons not to pursue a dream – security, time with the people you love, etc. Those things grow as you grow older.
My son asked me last night why I didn’t stop being a lawyer and write for a living – which was my “dream” in college. I felt he was too young for the real answer: “Because your dad was a coward.” It’s moments like that in your later years that really ram home the consequences of the choices you make.
The advice I wish I had followed was that failure IS an option. It is OK to fail at something. It is cowardice not to try something because you fear you might fail. The good life is for the bold. In fact, the best advice I can give you is to FAIL. Get it over with and learn for yourself that you will still wake up the next morning, that you will figure out how to recover. And, once you have learned that this power you have given to the possibility of failure was a waste of your time, it will not be an obstacle. Failure is not the end – it is the beginning.
As practical advice, at 20, I would not be looking for that “safe” job – unless I was damn sure I wanted to be en engineer, doctor, or some other specific professional that requires a lot of upfront training. Take a couple of swings at the unlikely things — if you want to be a musician, NOW is the time to make a go of it. And, the same logic applies to just about anything anyone truly wants to try to be.
Another thing that turning 40 has brought home to me is: get fit and stay fit. Don’t come to 40 weighing 250. It feels like shit. Your life is diminished because of it. Give yourself a chance to enjoy life with your kids, people you love, etc. It’s not just shame I feel when I waddle around outside trying to kick a soccer ball with my boys, it’s also sadness. This stuff was fun when I was young, and I have fucking ruined it, now.
Last, understand what money is. All my life, I thought money was there to buy shit – shit that I needed and, especially, shit that was going to make my life cooler. At 40, I finally realized that money = freedom. You don’t see it now at 20, but you may end up on a path where you do not make much money. This is not a bad way to live your life. But, keep in mind, that no matter how small you live, it will still cost money: you will likely have to pay for food, shelter, and clothing. You will have to pay for healthcare in some way (or, I guess, just die). At least in the U.S., money gives you the freedom to tell that asshole boss to fuck himself (maybe not literally, since little good ever comes from telling of a boss). Money=choice.
I was going to bold the parts that stood out to me, but it’s all so damn good.