My nephew Sam is a junior at Los Gatos High. He was given an assignment by a teacher to ask a few older people in his life to explain three things they wish they’d been told when they were 17. What a great assignment! Wish I’d thought of it when I was teaching.
What would you write for a teen to read today regarding what you would have liked to have been told when you were that age?
Here is my effort.
Things I Wish I’d Known When I Was 17.
- Patience. For a very long time I wanted what I wanted – right now. Over the years I’ve come to realize that what I wanted did come to me, and the waiting for it made it better. Further, if I’d been given what I wanted when I wanted it, things would not have worked out as well. I wanted a motorcycle the first time I was given a ride on one when I was 15. Every day. Every year. For five years. When I was finally able to purchase one it meant as much to me as it should have in the first place. I’ve been enjoying motorcycles for 47 years now. I wanted to fall in love and be married to a wonderful woman. I fell in love a few times, and was briefly engaged when I was 21. How wonderful (now) that the girl broke it off, realizing we were both too young. Four years of little success later, I gave up and decided I’d my life around being single. I met Susan the next week, and we’ve been married for 42 years.
2. What you want is OK. I grew up in a family of five where nobody really shared the interests I was passionate about. I was into sports – nobody else was. I was never encouraged in my athletic endeavors, and was often actually persuaded to stop. I was into cars and motorcycles, while the rest of my family was casually interested. I spent a lot of time either thinking or day dreaming, depending on your point of view. I read every car and motorcycle magazine I could get my hands on, “wasting” thousands of hours.
Early in my college years I chose to become a junior high English teacher, which was not what my engineer parents had wished for me. And yet, the daydreaming built the creativity and interest in writing that led to a wonderful 31 year career as a teacher and a few decades of getting things published here and there. Then I moved on to a job I invented, or daydreamed, in the motorsports business. All of the information I’d stored in my head for all those years became a career asset every day. That has led to the creation of a book on motorcycles, two books of essays on cars and motorcycles, and three novels. They all sell as e-book downloads from Amazon, and all of them rely on the education I gave myself while others were urging me in more traditional directions.
I knew what I wanted, and it would have been comforting to have someone tell me that it was OK and possible and would happen in time.
3. Kindness. Like many who lack the confidence they should have, I relied on sarcasm as a crutch to get me through. In my first career as a teacher I was very protective of my classroom and my curriculum, and any administrator or teacher who disagreed with me or wanted to intrude on what I was doing had to not only be proven wrong, but emotionally destroyed if possible for their hubris in disagreeing with me. In my second career I had many responsibilities but little actual authority, and I had to get things done by simply being a nice person. I realized after some years that I was just as successful being kind to people as I was when I was a tyrant.
Be patient, be kind, and trust in the perfection of your own dreams. That advice would have helped when I was 17. Would I have listened? There’s an interesting question!
David Preston firstname.lastname@example.org
Proud to be the uncle of Sam Lewis! 052714