Last weekend I took my 19-year-old second cousin for a hike along one of my favourite trails on Vancouver Island, the Coast Trail in East Sooke Park. Along the way we chatted about life, school, photography, what he wants to do for a career, travel, and what we both want to be when we grow up (because I’m not sure I have that figured out quite yet either).
I told him that if I could go back and do it all again at 19, I would have travelled more when I had the chance. I wouldn’t have spent money on a brand new Jeep, would have stayed home longer instead of moving out with various boyfriends, and would have done a different university degree.
But would I really have been better off for it if I took my own advice at 19?
Maybe. Or maybe not.
We can’t do everything perfectly and expect to end up in a place of happiness. Life is about failures and mistakes and learning from them. Sure, maybe I’d be in a better financial position if I didn’t buy that Jeep or take out student loans so I could live with a boyfriend… but not being able to afford things now has made me learn to save and downsize, and to learn to live with less and be okay with that. And even though breaking up with said live-in boyfriend was devastating at the time, I learned a lot about myself and became emotionally stronger because of it. Though my present self wishes I would have done my bachelor’s in exercise science and gotten into the writing program sooner, I may not be where I am today and have the secure job I do if I didn’t graduate with a humanities degree.
“You shouldn’t chase after the past or place expectations on the future. What is past is left behind. The future is as yet unreached. Whatever quality is present you clearly see right there, right there.” – Bhaddekaratta Sutta
I’m a firm believer that everything that has happened in the past happened for a reason, and was never going to happen any other way. There’s no point in dwelling on it and feeling regret, as the past cannot be changed. As the Buddha says, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
So what advice would I give to my younger self?
Don’t worry about those failed relationships — everything is going to get 10X better and you’ll meet someone amazing, I promise. You are much stronger than you think. Keep up with this running and fitness thing you’ve started, but do it because it makes you happy and is good for your body and mind, not because you feel like you need to look a certain way. Quit worrying so much in general — it’s not going to do you any good. Learn to stop and appreciate happy moments in life instead of rushing through them and moving on to the next thing. Savour time with family and friends. Take more walks in nature. Be nicer to your parents. Have more compassion. Keep reading and writing.
If you could go back to being 19 again, would you do anything differently? What advice would you give your 19-year-old self?
Thanks Amanda for the link-up 🙂