The Watcher posed an interesting question over at the Forum: What do you feel you know now about life that you wish you’d known when you were eighteen? There were several equally interesting responses. A snafu meant that my response didn’t get into the Forum, but here’s what I sent the Watcher:
1. My European parents raised me to believe that the most important thing someone could offer was education and class. I’ve learned over the years that the most important qualities in a person are decency and kindness, along with a sense of humor that includes being able to laugh at oneself.
2. To be liked, you have to be likable.
3. Math and science are possible, even if you have lousy teachers. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, there’s no reason for a lousy teacher to confuse you.
4. Don’t let school limit your education (which it will). Look beyond school to things that truly interest you.
5. Interested people are interesting. Bored people are boring.
6. Because I was the ultimate nerd, jocks intimated me so I treated them rudely. Aside from the fact that one should never be rude to anybody, I was just completely wrong: jocks are not jerks — or at least, not all of them are. Nowadays, some of my favorite people are jocks or former jocks who (in retrospect) were nicer then and are nicer now than the low-self-esteem crowd with which I ran back in high school and college.
7. When it comes to politics, labels come last. The first thing to do is to look objectively at the things that matter to you, both at a practical and a moral level. The next step is to determine what party both espouses those values and has workable ideas that achieve them. If I’d known that when I was 18, I would have registered as a Republican and not wasted my very first vote on Jimmy Carter.
8. If it’s not good, it will get better. I was at Cal when I was 18 and I was not a happy camper. The school was so very wrong for me. I stuck it out, got as good an education in the liberal arts as Cal was capable of offering, and went on to better things. Time and maturity are very good at helping us cope with things. For me, turning 30 was a turning-point, because I finally started feeling comfortable in my own skin.
9. It’s never to late to learn martial arts. If you haven’t started learning them by 18, don’t wait. Do it! The longer you wait, the less your body will cooperate.
10. Be open to new experiences. If you’re pretty sure it won’t endanger you, physically or mentally, give it a try.