"So if you could go back and do it again, what would you choose differently?"
I gave him a few platitudes. Most of this young mans questions are good. At 22-years old, he's thinking through scenarios that were off my radar at that age. Even now, in our everyday discussion I can readily sense that in many ways he's more mature than I, and in others less.
I attempted to answer the question; couldn't think of another career path (physical therapy with personal training on the side) that would be better suited for my talents and inclinations. Teaching would be nice, maybe some day.
The young man comes from a supportive family with kind and intelligent parents. He has the grades and the standardized test scores and the work ethic and the personality and the various experiential learning to impress ANY admissions board. Success is practically guaranteed. I'm sure he doesn't understands how blessed (some would say lucky) and talented he is. These more meaningful words should have been communicated.
-Commit to a community. Fall in love with a geographical area like it's a person. Choose to serve that community well for all the days you are given to dwell it. Some areas are surely better than others, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Being needed and needing others is more important than you think, for them and for you.
-Do what you can to not spend a quarter of your life sitting around getting to and from work. Sure, books on tape are good but focused or relaxed reading on the couch or in the back yard is far better.
-Follow your passion? I'm not so sure Lady Gaga. Sometimes you're not going to feel passionate about what you must do to honor your commitments and pay the bills. The work (pain in the ass) parts of work are good for you.
-Accept uncertainty. Doing your homework and walking forward with caution and care is no substitute for the fact there will always be relevant developments that we don't know or understand. The cost of things will go up and the car will need repairs. Other than that, change is constant and little is truly predictable.
-Live below your means. If you want to even have a chance at a low stress, semi-sane existence where you can find joy and see the beauty that's in front of you, find a way to live below your means. There will never be enough money or time. The shiny finer things will always get old and sooner than that they will be old to you.
Take these for what you will, the thoughts of a 38-year old who does terrible with accepting uncertainty, but is content with weight training in his basement and roasting marshmallows with the various kids who end up in his backyard. In the finances game he wins small and loses small. He drives a '98 Subaru, for Pete's sake, and takes great pride in using an old car but because of other life choices couldn't do much about it if he didn't.
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Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread of my daily need.