Sound Advice to my 20 Year Old Self


Today on Facebook live with my friend Ben Union (available on Ben Union's Facebook page) I was asked the question: what advice would you give your 20 year old self?

Great question. I love these kinds of questions. It's the kind of question that makes you reflect in a way that isn't how we usually reflect on life, and it is momentary enough that it can be asked and answered very clearly and straight forward without much thought.

I thought back to when I was 20. What was I like? What was life like? It was 1999 and the worlds was afraid the whole infrastructure would collapse in Y2K. Remember? I was studying art and moved to Barcelona that year. A big part of turning 20 for me was the huge improvement of my mood. It felt like the grips of the depressing moody teenager has finally let go of me and I felt lighter and happier. I also remember writing a book, in prose, with 20 chapters, one for each year of my life. It was quite beautiful. Unfortunately, it was also lost to a computer crash that year. This theme of my life is probably a whole blog post on its own.

So, what advice would I have given my 20 year old self? I didn't realize it at the time, but I answered it with one of my own songs "Diamond In The Dust". "Just listen to your soul, don't listen to what other's say".

That would have been my advice to myself. As a 20 year old I was in the grips of what I was taught in church, school, by my role models, by my sisters, by my peers and by my friends. I was like the ball in the pinball machine getting tossed around between opinions and feelings, not knowing which were mine and which were other people's.
Everything I thought and felt was so incredibly different from everyone else I knew (and not in the cool eclectic way either) that most of the time I felt wrong and out of place. I felt wrong in the church because I was never good enough. I felt wrong with my peers because I was never cool enough. So many layered conclusions made me feel fundamentally wrong. Like there was something wrong with me.

I therefore listened primarily to others. I never trusted my own instincts, gut, intuitions or feelings, they were "wrong" anyway. And taking direction from the outside like that will never make you happy.

I'm not a big believer in "what if's" but I do believe that this one piece of sound advice would have served me well had I heeded it earlier in life. Because, at the core of things, there is only one person that knows what's right for me, and that's me. And only one person knows what's right for you, and that's you. And the adherence to other people's ideas of right, wrong and how things ought to be is a recipe for disaster. So I entertained that "what if" for a moment.

Learning to listen to my own inner guidance and trust my own instincts has been my life's lesson. And a priceless one. So would I have been the person I am today if I hadn't learned the lesson in due time, as I inevitably did? Probably not. There is a beauty to and a meaning with learning the lessons as we are ready to hear them, experience them. It's called the journey, it's called life. And would we really want to "cheat" and learn things ahead of time like that? Probably not.

To tell you the truth, even if I had found a ripple and popped back in time to deliver those lines to my 20 year old self, I would have probably found the concept novel, but failed to grasp it until now anyway... because of all of the life I had to experience in the time in between. And it has been quite the journey.

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