What’s something you know now you wish you had known at 22?

DT - 22We’re all born amateurs at life and we get better at it as time goes on. What’s something you know now that you wish you had known when you were 22? (If you’re 22 or younger, what’s something you wish you had known five years ago?)


Tim’s Answer: I wish I had known that as I embarked out into the world and tried to start a career, the great challenge I’d be facing would be from within my head, not out in the world. There are two things to understand here, the “in my head” part and the “out in the world” part, and I didn’t understand either nearly well enough.

For the “in my head” part, I had no idea about the concept of two competing forces inside of me (what I’ve been calling the higher being and the animals), battling for control. I thought the battle was me against the world, and by completely missing where the real battle was, I was totally unprepared to help the right side win. I was an amateur on that battlefield and I was beaten soundly for a bunch of years as a result.

Meanwhile, I had the “out in the world” part all wrong as well. I saw the world as huge and daunting and over my head, and I took it as a given that luck played a large part in how things unfolded. But the truth is, if a reasonably smart, reasonably talented person goes hard for what they want—if they ignore the odds, scoff at conventional wisdom, stomp on irrational fear, and internalize that there’s no such thing as luck, only patience and persistence—then the world is no match for them. For a person like that, the world is easy.

The challenge is to be “a person like that”—that’s the hard part. Fully conquering this is still very much on the to-do list for me, but at least now I know where to direct my energies.

Coming out of college, I thought I was a superhero entering a gladiator pit. The thing I missed was where that gladiator pit was. If I had understood this as well then as I do now, I would have done a lot of things differently.

Oh, also—I wish I had known then that if you push the little tabs in on the ends of a Saran Wrap roll, it holds the roll in place when you pull on the plastic. I just learned that recently and it would have saved me a lot of annoyance if I had known it back then.


Okay your turn. Answers can be multiple paragraphs or one word, heartfelt or silly, personal or universal—doesn’t matter. Just write something!

NOTE: The comments right now are default sorted by “newest.” If you’d like to see the most upvoted comments, you can change the sorting to be by “best.”

  • Cody Rohlf


  • Laura

    I wish I had known at 22 that if someone doesn’t call or text you back or doesn’t make an effort to hang out, that means they’re probably not that into it and you should just move on!

    • Swellcatt

      PREACH! Though my brain still makes me think differently when I’m in the situation…UGH

    • Alicia Hurst

      Another side of that coin is that they’re probably too into themselves or consumed by some shit in their own lives to notice. Or, that chemistry is important, and there’s nothing bad about either of you for not having that strong bond that keeps people in touch with each other through thick and thin.

    • Tanuj

      This post bring me to an interesting question/dilemma that I sometimes face. What should I (or any one in general) do when I (or they) feel that to maintain a friendship with someone, I am the one who puts in a greater effort?
      What happened is, that, one day I realized that this was the case with a few of my friends. So, ultimately I decided to sort of balance and tone down my extroversion towards people.
      As a result, I notice that, I am still friends with everybody, but yeah, as expected, I hang around lesser.

      Enough said, the real question which I want to put and have been wondering is that: Is it okay to have friendships/relationships where you are the one who has make a greater effort?

      *Note: effort seems to be a bit of a stronger word here than I intend. friendships do not actual “effort” as such, but for lack of a milder word, I hope you get the essence of my thought.

      • Sam

        I think it’s okay to a certain extent. There’s always going to be slight unbalance and ever-changing power dynamics in any relationship (plutonic or romantic). It’s when the scales are consistently and perceptibly weighted on one side that perhaps you have a problem. A wildly imbalanced power dynamic breeds some really negative emotions on both ends over time–bitterness, resentment, disdain, condescension etc…

        • Tanuj

          Yeah, I would agree. And I guess, that is what I did. It just doesn’t feel like if the power dynamics as you call is skewed in the long run.

        • Tanuj

          Yeah, I would agree. And I guess, that is what I did. It just doesn’t feel right if the power dynamics (as you call it) is skewed in the long run.

      • LaurenR81

        My two cents: How do your friends make you feel when you’re actually hanging out with them? I am an overworked person and the WORST planner in the history of the world–if my friends didn’t call me to spend time together, I would probably see them 60% less than I do now. BUT when they make the effort to reach out to me, I do try hard to reciprocate that effort. I am always extremely grateful to see my friends, and let them know when I see them how much I love them and how special they are to me. If you’re having to do all the contact, make sure you’re spending your effort on people who really appreciate you and who know what an awesome friend you are. And don’t stop being extroverted! Relationships of all kinds have an ebb and flow–if you are experiencing a waning with one group of friends, maybe this will be the perfect time to meet some amazing new people so you feel re-energized!

  • I wish I would have that great sex does not equal love–that it can equal that in time, but not right off the bat. That one messed me up more than once..

  • PianoLady

    That getting good at anything isn’t a matter of luck, fate, or so-called “talent” — it’s hard work and discipline and the willingness to objectively and critically monitor your own output (or, what psychologists call “deliberate practice”) until you’re an expert at your chosen field, whatever that might me.
    This would’ve saved me hours upon hours of fruitless piano “practice”, aka playing the same thing over and over the same way without really getting better, as well as fruitless envy and self-pity and daydreaming about how great my life would be if only I was Person X.
    Fortunately I learned this lesson around age 25. And I’ll say one thing — the fact that I struggled with it so many years makes me a darn good teacher now. 😉

    • GuitarBoy

      If playing the same thing over and over again wasn’t the right way to practice and get better, what did you eventually was the right way?

      • PianoLady

        What you need to do is play something over and over again BUT with a strategy in place to ensure that it gets better each time. For example, one strategy I use a lot in my own practice is to pick a small section (maybe four to eight bars) and keep playing the section until I score five “points”. A good play-though (i.e. no mistakes) equals one point. But there’s a catch: if you make even ONE mistake, not only do you not score a point, you LOSE one you’ve already earned.
        It’s amazing how much faster the human brain learns information when a bit of on-the-spot pressure is tossed into the learning process.

        • Dave

          SO true. Playing psychological tricks with our minds is often incredibly effective.

      • Kimberly

        I think her key word in that was “the same way” – repetition doesnt necessarily make you better; it’s repeating a process but perhaps doing it a different way each time that helps you progress. You can memorize a song by repetition, but it doesnt mean it sounds good – the nuances of pedal and keystrokes are what brings life to the music and makes you a better player. That was my take-away from it anyways….

    • Mitchell

      This is basically what I tried to say, except much more concise and articulate. Thank you for your articulation 😛

  • Steph

    I wish I had known the world wouldn’t end if I didn’t meet other people’s expectations of me. I spent so many years trying to please everyone, while I was miserable.

    • Sasha

      How can someone ever really stop caring about other people’s expectations? If you figured it out, I’d love to know how you did it…

      • susan

        It sometimes just happens. In my case, I was interviewing for a “promotion” that would have involved a lot of corporate reporting and ass licking. My mentor asked “why do you want this, you love what you do now and you’re good at it. ” He took a can break and I suddenly felt my father’s corporate ambitions lift off my shoulders and fly away. My mentor was right, and I had a fulfilling and autonomous career at the “grunt” level when I would have absolutely hated the politics of Home Office stuffiness. Home office left me alone to develop my skills in the direction I felt worked best, and I became well respected in my field. If I had tried to please my late father and go for the “promotion” I’d have done 20 years as a mid-level bureaucrat. (now that I was over 40 by the time this happened :))

      • Kate

        For me, I think we often think about other people’s expectations and imagine what their reaction is going to be, when sometimes when we actually do what we want and not what they want us to do, their reaction is actually not as bad as we thought it was going to be. For example, my dad is fairly conservative, and although I am an adult, I got a big tattoo and didn’t tell him. I thought he was going to freak and be really disappointed in me (because you always have an inner part of you that doesn’t want to disappoint your parents). When he finally saw it, he checked it out, said, “Cool.” and that was it.
        I think it takes practice. Just do what you feel is right for you over and over again and soon you begin to not care so much what other people think. They also begin to have less expectations for you because they know you’re going to do what you want anyway, whether they like it or not.

        • Sasha

          Thanks guys!! 🙂

        • Amy Zhang

          I think people also begin to respect you more, even while they shed their expectations. And that’s pretty cool, too.

          • Kate

            I agree. I usually like people who are comfortable being themselves, rather than people who are trying too hard to please you.

      • Terry
      • drP

        Frequently practice doing harmless but slightly weird things purely because it is not what people expect. That way when you actually should do something you want to do you care less about people’s opinions and it is easier to do. For example take your shoes off on the underground or sing a song you like while walking down the street. Try to enjoy the fact that you feel more comfortable with your shoes off or that you just like singing the song. Bonus points if you can learn to enjoy dirty looks or frightened stares. Works for me!

        • SirT

          Hahaha amazing….

        • I’ve given up caring about weird looks. I crank the tunes in my car and sing really loud! I don’t care who’s watching!

          • M.B.

            Hahaha I do this too.. the look on people’s faces in the car next to you.. it’s pure gold.

      • Lindsay

        For me, it’s not about the ability to stop caring about other people’s expectations. Rather, it’s about coming to an understanding that you can’t really control the way other people react, judge, and/or respond because the way other people think can be influenced by so many external factors or previous life experiences that we know nothing about. I have found two tools to help deal: 1) Spend some time on your own self-confidence. It’s a good way to find your inner courage, to discover there is nothing to fear from a lack of approval, and to learn that someone’s lack of approval is completely separate from (and shouldn’t influence) your own self worth; 2) Think about it again… are you worried about other people’s expectations, or are you really projecting your own disappointment? Have you discovered that you have let down your own expectations of yourself? No problem! What can you do to identify and meet some of your own expectations? Take baby steps and the time to really savour the challenge, your hard work, and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you meet your goal!

    • Eric W.

      Too true. Spent the first few years bending over backwards trying to please people, at the cost of my emotional (and occasionally physical) well-being. Life has gotten way, WAY, better since I just stopped doing that (credit to the mammoth article)

      • Same here! The mammoth article was eye-opening for me. I’m a photographer, and there was a new side to my work that I’d been experimenting with for months, but was afraid of what my friends and family might think if I shared it publicly. So that article was the push I needed to share that new work without fear or shame, and I’ve been in a much better place since.

    • Swellcatt

      Good one! 🙂

    • Amaya R. Aldabe

      Same here

    • Truliner

      Same here. When I started doing more things that I like (dancing and writing fiction) I noticed that people either don’t care or they give positive feedback. After taking the first step you realize how stupid your mammoth is and that it doesn’t know shit about anything.

      • Amy Zhang

        Haha yes, this is what I have to tell myself a lot. “All of my worries are made up, I don’t actually know if they’re true. So why don’t I see if they are?”

    • Christian Brix

      Wish I had read this before I posted my own reply, as it’s pretty much the same.

    • Amy Zhang

      Yes. This. I was like this until I was 22, actually–and breaking free of that was so refreshing and also kind of crazy at the same time. One week I said, ‘I’m going to be a chef!’ and the next week it was ‘I’m going to e a poet!’ hahaha. Just the sheer realization that I could do anything I wanted, as long as I took care of myself, was enough to send me careening through all of the possibilities.

      I still have to work to throw off that feeling a lot–even when I’m getting up in the morning. “I have to get up before 10!” But why?

    • Anna

      Me too – at 41 I’m still struggling … but getting there slowly 🙂

  • failure

    I wish I had known the career path I wanted to do. So that I would have time to follow the steps that help me to go into that direction and reach the first pit stop to that path. I can’t see myself at the first pit stop now. no matter how hard i try.

    • Kimberly

      I hear ya. It was impossible for me to finish college when i was younger because I had no goals or vision of what I wanted. I couldnt figure out how other people did it – half the people I knew didnt know what they wanted either. I wasted 3 years, spent a ton of money for nothing. 30+ years later I’m back in school with a ‘better’ vision of what I want, but it’s still morphing. I think it’s ok to ‘not know’ – if you have even an ‘idea’ – go for it! Even if you dont get there, you might find another path in the process -and that’s ok too. I have a ways to go with my school and no idea what I’ll do when I’m done, but it feels good to be learning something that interests me. I’m trusting that life will offer up a crumb and show me the way to go as I trudge along. In the meantime, I’m learning to network and explore options – things I might never have done before if I hadnt even started. Hang in there. My mom went to law school in her mid 40s and has her own practice. Find your inspiration…

    • Amaya R. Aldabe

      I wish I had known that the carrer path I took wouldn’t matter that much.

      • Travis

        From a 22 year old, what ended up mattering more…? I’d like to know sooner than later if at all possible.

        • Amaya R. Aldabe

          Honestly, I don’t think I have a career path as such, and I’m not sure I ever will (or want to), but I’ve had (and still do) many many good jobs, and most importantly: I have a lifestyle I love, I work in my own schedule, do ok money-wise, like almost all my work (you can never like every part of your job), and have time to do other stuff I like and will never get paid for doing. So, that being cleared up:
          At least to me: doing my best no matter what kind of job I got, because I helped me get better ones -having a good name has been the best asset in my professional life, people know I’m reliable and creative and hard working (not trying to brag, just to explain my point); giving myself the opportunity to take jobs that didn’t seem “logical”, but I wanted to do (they got me closer to stuff I liked, as it turned out), I’ve worked in things that don’t seem to go together AT ALL, but they ended up being quite helpful to enrich each other; not declining jobs out of fear of not knowing how to do stuff, believing I can learn and develop skills, and at the same time not lying about it to the people that give me the chance to take up those jobs. Doing lots of little stuff for people whose work I like, mostly for free: it has landed me very good working opportunities afterwards. I spend about 10-15% of my working time in this “promo-pro bono” work. Also, devoting about 20% of my time to organizing, taking it really serious, it has worked marvelously (that’s a new trick, but worth every second)
          And keeping a curious, open mind, willing and actively learning all kinds of stuff, just because I like learning. Hope it makes some sense!

  • Amanda Cirtwell

    I wish that I had known how big of a douche my ex-husband would turn out to be. I’d go back and tell myself on my 22nd birthday (4 days after I started dating him) that it was a bad idea.

  • Jen MacLean

    I wish I had realized there’s a difference between what I want and what I feel I should want and that the latter often masquerades as the former. Going after what you think you should want doesn’t make you happy – quite the opposite. Oh, and it also leads to a huge amount of student loans.

    • Jed

      And it’s so interesting to me to see how many people try all of their lives to be happy with what they think they should want.

      • Jen MacLean

        Interesting = Tragic.

    • Jake

      Sometimes it’s hard to decipher between what you think you should want and what you actually want though. Any tips for telling the difference between the two??

      • Elea

        That’s an important question! My first reaction was “when you really want it you’ll know it”, but how lame would that be. Also not completely true I think.

        I think its really easy to tell when it comes to unconventional things like “I want to be a professional magician” or “I want to be a butterfly trainer”, because those choices don’t really overlap with more “rational” choices. I don’t see any parents trying to pressure their kids into those jobs. But what if you like numbers and want to be an accountant or a doctor? How to tell if you really really want it or if you are a victim of what you think you should want?

        I’m not sure, but I think the answer lies what you think about when your working. Are you thinking about how to solve a particular problem, do you get excited talking about your work or studies, do you get up in the morning looking forward to class or work? When you are studying or working, are you absorbed by the material? I think those are good signs. If you are mostly thinking about goals in the future though, like all the great places you’ll get to go for your job, I think that is not such a good sign. I really liked this TED talk by Daniel Kahneman, talking about the difference between experience and memory that I think speaks directly to your question: http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_kahneman_the_riddle_of_experience_vs_memory?language=en

        • I found that when I was doing what I really wanted, I went to sleep happy and woke up happy. Even when I was doing grunt work and working long hours, I was happy. I just wanted to be there.

        • Mitchell

          What about when you don’t know what you don’t know? I find that I’m one of those people who has intense interest in some things: I like science, but from experience I’ve found I’m not destined to be a scientist; I like reading books and writing short stories, but I don’t think I’m going to be an author, at least one who can make a living; I like playing music and performing on stage, but I don’t see those choices, again, that I could make a living off of (perhaps that’s just the voice that says I should live according to expectations and norms).
          In a nutshell, I have interests in things that I do and my studies right now, but I feel like their more hobby interests, so to speak, as opposed to serious pursuits, and I haven’t found yet what I love and am good at. What do you do when you haven’t found what you love?

          • Dr. W-GAF

            Thirding this comment. I’m currently in college right now, still undeclared because I’m not quite sure exactly what I want to do. I feel like I have little passions in many different subjects but not one true love interest that stands out to me.

            My mindset right now is to just try different things for a short period of time. To actually experience it, not just research it and guess how it turns out ( I do that a lot). For example, if you’re into performing music and live near a big city, perform on one of the popular boardwalks and see how that turns out. I was thinking about doing this recently too with playing guitar, just need to build up courage lol and plus discipline myself to practice and memorize many different pieces.

        • Amy Zhang

          Right! Love the every day experience, the nitty gritty details. Having an overarching goal is fine (and possibly necessary?) but loving the everyday is more important.

          It’s the journey, not the destination. Don’t worry so much about the destination, just try to have a good journey 🙂 Cheesy as that may sound. I have to remind myself of this a lot.

      • Jen MacLean

        If this was an actual dinner table situation, I would have just either hugged you or high fived you for this…or some awkward combination of both. This is a huge challenge for me, and apparently for others too. I honestly had no idea. I’ve mentioned this before and have received such strange and confused looks. The responses to my comment have been so validating. It’s kinda amazing.

        As far as telling the difference between the two: no clue. It seems more difficult as time progresses. Like following the Shoulds (that’s what I call them – super creative, right?) requires that you lie to yourself. The more you lie to yourself, the more you believe it, right?

        I know I went the wrong way because I feel empty – like I’ve missed out. And there are big chucks of my life that I don’t even remember (not drug or alcohol induced!).

        We have to learn to listen to our hearts. How is another question all together.

      • Addis Regassa

        How to decipher, you say? Hmm…if only there was–wait a minute! Lucky for you, you’re in the right place. Resident WBW writer Tim Urban has just the article for you.


        Specifically, the part about Authentic Voice is key to answering your question, but the rest is equally as good and only augments it.

    • Guzel

      That is so true!

    • cathy

      This is a big one for me. Distinguishing between the two is a gray area sometimes, and I have been making big decisions lately that others deem weird, because it isn’t the norm. Now that I realize there isn’t anything wrong with what I want, it has opened me up to realize there isn’t something wrong with me. I am working on “being me” and me isn’t such a bad place to be.

      • Jen MacLean


    • Vysakh S


    • Bailiuchan

      THIS. And I’ve only just know had the courage to stop this train and go the the route that I actually wanted to go at 22, many, many years later. I’ve never been happier, but I am seriously lacking confidence, which is unlike me and exceptionally annoying. Unwanted opinions are thrust at me, and I feel exhausted having to remind myself that others are projecting because they have little to no basis on which to form an opinion about me. Being that I don’t want a conventional life for a woman (marriage, house, 2.5 kids, and whatever), I get hit a lot with BS about what I should and should not be doing. I do hear that it takes time to feel more comfortable in my skin. I guess I’m just thrilled that I actually am following my instinct, which honestly, has never let me down in the past.

      • Jen MacLean

        Have you read The War of Art? It’s somewhat focused on the creative pursuits, but it really speaks to the reasons behind lacking confidence and even the unwanted opinions of others. It’s a super-quick read, and I found that it validated much of what I’m feeling. Give it a look. And good for you! It takes such courage – constant courage!

      • Amy Zhang

        Mm yes. I’m a lady and I want kids, but I hate how we’re expected to have them. Having kids is a serious decision–they will consume a large part of the REST OF YOUR LIFE. I think some people put more thought into getting their tattoos than having kids, which is stupid.

        So kudos to you. And know that I’ll be just a teensy bit jealous–you get more time to focus on yourself and your own goals when you forego the kid route. And you save so much money!

  • Philipp

    I wish I had known that people more successful than me were not in any way superior to me. And that people less successful (oh boy, whatever this means) are not inferior to me. We are all basically the same. Assholes are assholes and nice people are nice people. Some sleep late every day, some have millions of followers and huge businesses. If I had known that I wouldn’t have made a fool of myself when I met people I looked up to (or which work I admired) multiple times and not been a jerk to people who are really cool but had different goals than I did.

    • Jed

      So true! People are people, and everyone has to choose a different path that they will focus on.

    • I learned that when I met some of my sibling’s friends from an Ivy League law school. Some were cool and some were real dicks. I immediately gravitated to the cool ones who didn’t care that I was loving my life as an apprentice in a skilled craftsperson job.

    • TrueTeller

      If I had known that I wouldn’t have made a fool of myself when I met people I looked up to (or which work I admired) multiple times and not been a jerk to people who are really cool but had different goals than I did. – THIS!!!

    • TrueTeller

      If I had known that I wouldn’t have made a fool of myself when I met people I looked up to (or which work I admired) multiple times and not been a jerk to people who are really cool but had different goals than I did. – THIS!!!

    • Kathy Kitchin

      GREAT comment! Just wanted to tell you that it meant a lot to me–thank you.

  • I wish I’d known that being excellent and successful at the Important Things in Life – my career goals, my romantic relationships, requires steady, dedicated and ongoing hard work. It sounds silly, but because I (mostly) skated through HS and college, doing very well academically with minimal effort, I emerged into the Real World feeling like, so long as I chose the right paths, life would be a breeze. And, at first, it was – I came out of school right at the beginning of the internet and walked into a very pleasant early career. I fell in love at 19 and married my (now ex-wife) in my 20’s, without ever having to look for love in the real world.

    And then things got harder, and I didn’t have the tools to deal with it. I’d never learned good study habits. I’d never learned to prioritize my time. I’d never learned to balance work with down-time, and I’d never learned that every hour spent raging against the necessary drudgery of modern life (as opposed to just taking care of those silly things) was an hour I was not nurturing my most important relationships.

    Being smart is not enough. Being talented is not enough. Being in love is not enough. You have to learn to commit yourself and work hard to turn those advantages into something real and lasting. I feel like that might have been an easier lesson to learn at 22 than at 40, though I can’t imagine 22 year old me would have listened…

    • Tim Urban

      Yes. Often, the modern parenting strategy is telling the kids again and again how smart and special and superior they are, which sends the message, “You’re already endowed with success, congrats!” It’s not that there’s no place for self-esteem building, but it serves the kid much more to get them obsessed with the concept of putting their heart into things they do to become great at life.

      • I don’t put this one on my parents, actually – they weren’t overly effusive with their praise, and they encouraged me to work hard. I just didn’t encounter any truly serious challenges until adulthood – the things that were asked of me as a young man (school chief among them) were simply not challenging in a way that forced me to learn good habits. I was lucky: born a white male with an aptitude for academics in the 1970s in a lower-middle-class rural family, grew up in a very small pond, met a wonderful woman at nineteen. I just didn’t understand how to *do* anything with those advantages.

        • Dana

          So if I have kids who are white and upper class and smart and have a generally cushy life by nature, what am I supposed to do? Simulate some diversity…?

          • Dave L

            Rather than simulate I would suggest you stimulate with diversity. I advise very wealthy families on governance and one of the cornerstones is philanthropy. The giving of time, talent and treasure to charitable endeavours exposes younger family members to a wider range of people and their issues.

            • Jessica

              Awesome, Dave.

            • Great point! I have seen that in action with my nieces and nephews. And they benefited greatly from those experiences which challenged them the most. They come out the other side with humility, respect and understanding. Not to mention a better appreciation for what they have, earned or given.

            • Emily N

              Good point, Dave. In my opinion, Dana, if you can provide comfort for your kids, you absolutely should do that (that’s one of the goals of being a parent, right?), but they also need to know how lucky they are. Interacting with people who haven’t been as lucky — and being a part of helping them make their lives a little easier — will help the kids understand struggle even if they don’t have do deal with a whole lot of it themselves.

          • Matt

            I know I’ll have to deal with this with my kids as well. They’re young now so I have some time to figure it out. But I think there’s two things that are important.

            The first is simply to explain privilege. To let them know that a fair amount of what they have and where they are stationed in life is unearned. I don’t mean unearned in the sense that it’s not deserved, just in the sense that they have advantages – both in the form of resources/experiences and in the form of hurdles that others will face but they won’t – that they did nothing to attain.

            The second is to find ways to challenge them (there’s got to be something they’re not naturally gifted at) so that they can get a sense of how others might have to struggle to get to where they are and so that they can feel how rewarding it is to overcome challenges.

            • Dana

              But I worry that a young kid wouldn’t really be able to understand the concept of unearned privilege and that they’d just feel ashamed or that they’d done something wrong…

            • Andrea

              I wonder if, instead of explaining privilege, there is another way. Experiencing contrast has always been, for me, a place that I learned deeply and intrinsically without shame or other subtle discouraging feelings. Experience, for me, has been the best teacher.

            • Julia

              I think it’s good to make sure your children have what they need, and maybe a few extras. For those parents fortunate enough to have the resources to literally provide whatever their children ask for, I think it puts you in a tough position. The natural instinct is to give them everything. Especially if you feel guilty about being absent, or didn’t get some of the things you needed or wanted growing up. But I think it’s all about balance. Even if you have the money to buy your child every video game system, for example, it really isn’t necessary. As your children get older, you can also require that your children “earn” the things they want that go above and beyond what they need. Either through chores, or community service, and as they get older, perhaps a summer job, or excellent grades in school, whatever seems appropriate based on the child. The easy thing is to give your child whatever they want, especially if there is no financial barrier. I think the hard part is teaching your child the value of earning things for themselves, especially when it isn’t forced upon them through financial circumstance, but I think it is an extremely valuable lesson.

              I had a professor in grad school that actually had her ten year old son make a budget for his allowance every month. He had to buy anything that was outside of “necessary.” So if he knew he had a birthday party he was going to, he had to budget how much he wanted to spend on the gift for his friend based on his allowance. Ten may be young, depending on the child, but I think this is a good way to set up a value system of money for your child, especially if you have the finances to make something like that work.

            • I completely agree that the idea of revealing financial privilege in a delicate way is a huge part of parenting well and helping your children become compassionate adults (and not turn into utter assholes). I’m curious though about how other people on this board feel about the less-discussed assets that it seems most of us in this conversation possess in abundance, but haven’t truly worked for – i.e. intelligence.
              I hate to admit it but in my late 30s I’m only just realizing now that a) I’ve had it ridiculously easy in terms of my capacity to learn and my trust in my brain’s ability to just figure it out and
              b) I myself have not actually done anything at all to earn that capacity, nor am I particularly involved in it. It was all pretty much handed to me via the genetic lottery.
              How do we cultivate an appreciation for this resource, or the advantages that it gives us (and more than likely to our children), and impart some sense of responsibility and empathy around that? I’m not yet a parent, but this seems relevant to include in the privilege convo…

            • John Pope

              Thank you Amy. Intelligence is the privilege I’ve never heard anyone else bring up though I’ve often thought about it. It’s an unearned advantage and there’s no way to redistribute!

            • Anne Elizabeth Rainbow

              Agree! But I would absolutely say that if I had to choose between a particularly intelligent child, or a particularly kind child I would go kind every day of the week.

            • Pepperice

              Yep. But it’s not mutually exclusive. And I think that kindness can be taught. I realised the other day that there are two things I want to teach my kid: To be kind, and to think. If he can be and do those two things, then it won’t matter really how intelligent he is, how “good” he is, what he ends up doing. If everyone was kind and everyone thought about things then the world would be a better place (IMO.)

            • vitoria

              The thing about being born intelligent is that the brain’s capacity to learn and apply knowledge is shaped and enhanced by the quality of nutrition a child receives, physical experiences (environmental interactions), exposure to ideas, and modeling on peers and adults. Although children of privilege may have a home field advantage in these areas, it is not impossible for society to promote them for all children.

            • Penny Zerkle-Younce

              I think that opens the nature vs nurture conversation; three children all raised in the same household by the same parents with the same advantages or lack thereof — all three totally different in philosophy, intelligence, in everything. With all things being equal in the household, are are the three children so vastly different?

            • Matt

              I totally agree with the Andrea and David’s comments that it’s difficult (maybe impossible) to explain privilege to adolescents. You want them to be aware of what they have but not to feel guilty. Learning to recognize contrasts and nurturing empathy seem like great ways lay the foundation though. Thanks y’all.

            • plainsmart

              Send them to a camp that does service projects. Expose them to a broad range of lives & life experiences. Be friends with people unlike yourselves. Read. Mostly, I think, it’s getting away from your typical life with an attitude of service, appreciation & adventure. If you’re a city person, get out in the country. Travel to another state if you can. Exposure to new ideas, people, lifestyles.

            • wobster109

              I feel like it’s important to teach the kids to think of the other person. If they’re feeling ashamed of privilege then they’re still thinking about themselves. Replace that with “how can I make this other person’s life better”.

            • Matt, one way to challenge them is to make them commit to something for a set time period, and require them to fulfill that commitment. An example would be signing up for a soccer team. They may find they don’t like it but they are committed to the team and the other players. That means practices as well as games. This teaches commitment and accountability. They can decide to never set foot on a soccer field again, after the season ends.

              Or they can sign up for scouting for a school semester. Just something with an end point that they can relate to.

            • Anne Elizabeth Rainbow

              I think you would really like some of the compassion work that is being done – greater good @berkeley, james R doty (if you can listen to an interview with him he explains himself very well), and paul ekman. Essentially, anyone who is reading this has won the “ovarian lottery” by not being born into abject poverty, how we teach compassion to our privileged selves is important as it is associated with higher happiness levels. Such a curious phenomenon that beyond a certain level of wealth, happiness levels in some countries actually appear to drop…

            • Rupa

              At 22 I wish I knew that it isn’t about a happy life but a meaningful one. All of the talk about happiness in the last few years from the Happiness Index to Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project and all of the “am I happy enough” discussions we’ve all heard or participated in have caused me to ask the question: Is happiness the end game? I’ve realized that for myself it can’t be. However even now, I struggle to know how to build a meaningful life within the structure of everyday. I wish that was taught to me earlier and it was taught to our children today.

            • Anne Elizabeth Rainbow

              I think you would really like some of the compassion work that is being done – greater good @berkeley, james R doty (if you can listen to an interview with him he explains himself very well), and paul ekman. Essentially, anyone who is reading this has won the “ovarian lottery” by not being born into abject poverty, how we teach compassion to our privileged selves is important as it is associated with higher happiness levels. Such a curious phenomenon that beyond a certain level of wealth, happiness levels in some countries actually appear to drop…

          • I’m honestly not sure. In my case, I think it might have been helpful if my parents had pushed me into supplemental college courses or something when I was in HS – I went to a small public school where I (and my nerdy friends) pretty much set the curve. Being challenged more academically might have forced me to learn those good habits. But maybe not.

            I did have some adversity – I and my friends were often bullied (nerdy kids often were – it was the 1980s – probably still are to some extent). But dealing with that seemed somehow easier – I knew that was a product of my environment, and that while the Homecoming King pouring a shake over my head in the lunchroom seemed terrible in grade 10, that shit would not fly post-HS. That adversity shaped me, sure, but not in the way I probably needed it to do.

            The thing about privilege is that it’s sort of impossible to grok until you’re brain is mature enough to really feel true empathy. I didn’t feel privileged – my family wasn’t rich, I wasn’t cool, etc. I couldn’t understand how good I had it. But I think empathy can be nurtured – volunteerism is a good tool. Community service. Helping those less fortunate. Working at food banks, soup kitchens, with the elderly in hospice – that’s something I do now (still not as much as I should) that I think would have greatly aided me as a young man.

            I don’t want it to seem like I am/was a monster or a bad person, or that I’ve lived a useless life thus far. Those things are very far from true – I’ve had a wonderful, lucky life. But I know I’d be closer to where I’d hoped with better habits, and I know my marriage would not have fallen apart if I’d put in the work it needed.

            • plainsmart

              I like to read & watch programs created by diverse people telling it their way. The Arts are fabulous educators.

            • Kevin

              I wish I knew at 22 that only I can define what happiness, success, friendship, love and fun means to me. I also wish I appreciated and judged the people in my life based on more substantial qualities like kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness.

            • chendaddy

              I can confirm nerdy kids were still bullied quite frequently in the 1990s. Anyone want to confirm the 2000s and 2010s?

              And yes, I also harbor a lifelong resentment because of it that has long since lost its usefulness, if it ever was useful.

          • Dana


          • marty

            LOL. Did you mean adversity 🙂 I wonder if you don’t have to simulate adversity, just hold off on some of the benefits you already give them, perhaps making them work in some way for them.

          • I have family members whose kids have been brought up in pretty cushy environs. But every one of those kids has had to do community service, in poorer, less advantaged areas, including post-Katrina New Orleans and Mississippi, Africa and Haiti. They all know what they’ve been given, and they almost all continue to contribute positive things to society. You don’t have to stick your kid in a crackhouse and tell him to survive for the weekend to teach them values and adversity. Oh, and the private schools they went to? Had very diverse student bodies because the schools understood they were preparing them for the real world. A good number of those kids had great financial aid packages that allowed them to learn and compete with advantages similar to the rich kids, who were already an ethnically diverse bunch.

          • Linda Christopher Watson

            No, it comes thru to them based on your reactions. Not on the diversity. But I grew up in San Diego~

        • Amaya R. Aldabe

          I agree: not my mom’s and granny’s fault. I just got along well in school. I was encouraged to work hard and that’s what’s helped along… but really, school did not prepare me for work. Although… i had a great time

        • Mina

          Hi David, do you mind posting your original post again? I think it was deleted? Thank you!

          • Wow. Not sure how or why that was deleted – I certainly didn’t do it. I wish I could, but it was long and I don’t remember it verbatim. Maybe a moderator can figure out why it was deleted?

        • chendaddy

          My parents had a similar philosophy on praise. The first bit of praise I remember ever getting from them was congratulating me on getting high school valedictorian (or maybe I’m just ungrateful and have a bad memory). While that taught me how to get by on self-confidence, which I think is invaluable, I think it stunted a lot of personal and professional relationships I had later because I was always critical and very awkward about handing out compliments.

          Luckily, you don’t have to be your parents. Like with anyone else, you just have to recognize what they did well and what they could’ve improved.

      • Matt

        I sometimes think that the “smart & special” criticism of boomer parents is overblown, or at least that speaking dismissively about participation awards misses a more fundamental problem underlying that parenting approach – the desire to shield children from ever experiencing discomfort. I know my parents meant well, but to this day almost all of the procrastination problems that I face result avoid difficulty and discomfort at all costs, hiding out in the dark playground instead.

        As a parent now myself, I continually have to remind myself to let my kids experience adversity so that they understand that it is an inevitable part of life and learn to deal with it.

        • Tim Urban

          Great point.

          • American2345

            Hmm…I wonder if it is the case that we American parents are so terrible and we are finally realizing it, or whether, alternatively it is a characteristic of our cohort to constantly berate our own parenting? I hear this drumbeat constantly: “we overpraise, we overprotect, we suck, etc., etc.,” And yes, to some degree I am sure that’s true. But I also think we have become neurotic, and we think TOO much about what we are doing to our kids. We look around and see horrible, weak, selfish young people, but guess what, when I was young in the 70’s, there were just as many horrible, weak, selfish young people. We were THE awful-selfish generation back then. It was all over the news. If we are going to go on and on about this, can we be a little kinder to ourselves and maybe talk about the pressures that make us feel like our children will be crushed if they experience failure (such as the horror show that applying to college has become), or very real lack of time and energy one has at home (because two income families are a must) to dig in our heels and demand that the kids clean the bathroom (3 hours) rather than just doing it ourselves (20 minutes)?

            • Caroline S

              Haven’t read all of the above but just a quote from Paul Auster (not exact, but almost) ‘anything good that I am and that is Whithin me comes from that early, unconditional love my mother gave me’. There’s truly a point in our comfortable youth and adolescence giving us problems now, but we shouldn’t overlook that it it’s also a great source of power for/within us.

        • Jed

          One of the hardest things for me, as a young person that has just recently begun to taste what the real world is about, has been coming from a deeply religious family that thought “If you just ask God for it and give him 10% of what you earn, you’re golden!” I missed out on so much of actually learning that you have to put a whole lot of effort into things to make them better or make them work. Especially as someone who never learned good study habits or problem solving techniques until I had to start answering to paying (and expectant) clients, the notion that I didn’t really have much to do with the hands on side of living a successful life was crippling in the early stages of my independent life. God will send you a wife, God will give you a career, God will direct deposit into your bank account, etc., etc..

          • plainsmart

            Possibly why “none of the above” is the largest response to belief questionnaires?

        • Jason

          Agreed. Comfort is what so many of us have been taught to attain in life, which often leads to us actively seeking the path of least resistance. Particularly for those born into fortunate circumstances, the path of least resistance is endlessly secure; it endlessly projects well to others viewing our lives at a distance; and it can become endlessly dissatisfying, when we look back over our shoulders.

          • Jason and Matt – I completely agree. I feel like the constant quest for “comfort” (which might as well be the constant quest for oatmeal or milk-toast) has shaped an entire generation. We as humans are less willing to risk any kind of hurt or loss or even loss of face and so are crippled in situations that require sacrifice, true work, humility. The frantic race to remain comfortable can never be anything but endlessly dissatisfying (fantastic phrase Jason) because even if you meet the goal and are “comfortable”, you’re still just comfortable. It’s like the crowning achievement is a house in the suburbs eating food you already know you like watching TV that doesn’t challenge your ideas in any way and knowing with certainty what you’re doing tomorrow. How utterly horrifying is that?

            • Matt

              Amy, that hits close to home. The problem of course, is that it’s only utterly horrifying in retrospect. Day-to-day, it’s just fine (but not satisfying). My friend and I refer to this as being “fine and terrible.”

              Bringing things full circle back to the fantastic work that Tim is doing here, after I read his recent post about spirituality, I thought that maybe being fine and terrible makes sense given that it mirrors our existence (fine: how can we really complain given the amazingness of a gabillion factors aligning just right to produce the sentient piles of atoms that we are; and terrible: we ultimately are just insignificant piles of atoms living out our blink-length existence in an infinitely-vast universe).

            • Oh FINE AND TERRIBLE. That sums it up, doesn’t it? Wow. Holding on to that one.

            • You know, I once read a phrase that has long stuck with me. Adventure = discomfort. If you care comfortable, you aren’t on an adventure. You are probably on a vacation. AS an ER nurse, I see tons of harm done by those who only seek comfort and never adventure. There are a whole host of physical and psychological maladies that rise from seeking only comfort and pleasure.

            • Gretchen

              What sort of maladies?

            • I was thinking specifically of type 2 diabetes and obesity at that time, but the majority of addictive behavior can be attributed to a person’s desire to seek pleasure and avoid discomfort as well. Take a look at the statistics and see how much illness and poor health can be strongly linked to overeating, smoking, drugs. Remember, hypertension and heart disease are strongly linked to smoking and obesity.

          • A lot of this discussion on the attainment of comfort as a primary driver for most people has focused on parenting, which is certainly one important lens through which to view this topic. I’m also just generally interested in exploring the topic of comfort seeking behavior in adults: How damaging is this behavior? How intrinsic is it? How much should we fight it? And, perhaps most compelling to me, what are some good strategies for fighting it?

            For example, I keep telling myself that I am going to go to Mexico for a couple of months and study at a language school and learn Spanish, which, if I ever actually do this, will probably be a great experience. It will also be uncomfortable. I won’t have my husband or my dog or my normal routine, I’ll get lost all the time, I’ll only know how to speak like a 4-year-old. So, I keep putting it off, making the kind of to-do list that the Instant Gratification Monkey loves (“learn Spanish, get more comfortable traveling, etc…). I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way it will ever happen is if one part of me physically forces another part of me to do it. It will basically be like plunging myself into ice water. I won’t want to at all, but I’ll just do it anyway. I’ll probably cry, and it will probably also be great, and I’ll be so happy I did it.

            Is this how it goes for everyone else, too?

            • Louis A. Cook

              Yes. Identical issues with similar desires.
              I have the most success when I put some kind of inflexible deadline with consequences in the mix. This is often hard and or long to accomplish (for me). For example, I wanted to build a greenhouse for years. Like learning another language, a greenhouse can open a lot of experiential doors… just horticulturally rather than culturally-culturally. In early 2013 I started a bunch of different citrus trees from seed. This spring , I put them in pots so big that they can’t come back inside for the winter, and will die without a greenhouse. I’ve watered them and kept them free of pests; cared for them regularly for 2 years. It’s going to be 34 degrees here in Philadelphia tonight, and I am poised to finish my greenhouse by the end of the weekend. It’s not a coincidence, it’s the fruition of a diabolical 2 year emotional torture plan designed to produce a greenhouse or make me hate myself. Even if I don’t finish in time, and my trees die, I have the frame all built and the rest of the materials in-hand. I’ll certainly have a greenhouse by next year.

        • Kristina

          I am a parent of 2 young children, and I always swore I wouldn’t be one of those overprotective parents, “shielding from discomfort,” and to be fair to myself, I do let them fail sometimes and am trying to be really conscious about the importance for their future growth. But what I didn’t realize when I was 22 (and not yet a parent) and judging other parents from afar is that there is a strong biological drive to “protect” those kids, and so I will find myself in the moment in situations when I’m torn to know what to do, to let them fail or to keep them safe, and especially in split second decisions, it’s often not all that easy to know which choice to make. It’s an animals-authentic voice-higher being battle and it’s pretty chaotic up there! Makes me more compassionate to parents who seem overly protective; it’s a strong unconscious drive to do so, and to let your kids fail on purpose so they can learn life lessons is actually going against what your animal voices tell you to do!

          • TB

            I would ask that you reflect on how much of your “over-protective” actions are to protect yourself. What is easiest for you? (I have 3 kids and choose that one often). What kind of parent will others think I am if I don’t respond? What will my child think of me if I don’t save them right now? Remove yourself from the equaltion and always ask “what is in the best interest of my child?” Not just right now, but tomorrow…and tomorrow’s tomorrow when your child will be a parent. And yes, as with most things in life, the right choice is the one that takes more effort and courage. You sound like a caring parent. Thank you for everything you do.

        • Ric

          wow do I agree with you matt….. its sort of a side effect of our current society where we try to make everything “equal” and “safe” and “fair”…. that isnt how the world works and its that reality that makes the ups so special and the downs so bad

          • It’s like professional sports leagues trying to create parity. Parity doesn’t exist in reality.

            • FormerLinguist

              Word fact: in many languages there are no separate words for the
              semantic concepts of ‘parity’ and ‘equality’. They have only a single
              word to express both – and even more general – concepts of, say,
              ‘balance’. Depending on which language one speaks, one might quite
              possibly have no separate concepts at all of
              equal capacity and equal rights (see G. Lakoff). So saying “Parity doesn’t exist in
              reality” might mean something else entirely to that person.

          • plainsmart

            I think letting children experience the real world (not deadly stuff) of disappointments, fears, etc & helping them get through it is more caring. No one can prevent the downs, but we can all learn coping skills, stepping stones, what to let go.

        • BeSeven

          There are no words for how much I agree with this comment. Suffice it to say that no one has ever been more right about anything!

        • Tom

          I am a parent myself and also a magnificent procrastinator. But to be
          honest it is a terrible thing to be and makes you suffer and miserable, at
          least I feel like that. Actually, posting right now is me procrastinating;
          however knowing that, I am pretty much pedantic about getting my child through
          the uneasy parts of life and making hear learn and experience that good mainly
          comes from hard work and is not a naturally given thing. Reading all the
          related posts, one could imagine that WBW parents with procrastination issues
          and the awareness are probably trying to protect their children from procrastination
          issues as sort of an extended concept of care and protection from discomfort,
          at least this is my natural feeling. When I have to be hard on my kid trying to
          make her achieve something by honest work or fail on the path there, my instant
          feeling is not like poor kid, but more like, that lucky kid, hard work will
          come much easier for her than it did for me.

        • Amy Zhang

          Take this with a grain of salt, because, as the self-esteem movement showed, there’s a lot about humanity we don’t know–psychologists now think that having self-compassion is more important than self-esteem. It’s the realization that, hey, I’m not the best at this thing, or maybe I’m awful at this thing, but that’s ok, because everyone has flaws and I am a part of everyone. It helps people bounce back in healthier ways than self-esteem (which can backfire sometimes, as I think you know).

          Just thought you’d like to know and evaluate this for yourself.

          • Elisma(SouthAfrica)

            Completely agree..

      • Terry Greathead

        This is a great point, but there is still a balance to be achieved. If you go overboard on the negativity then your child is going to think “It doesnt matter what I do, I will never meet my parents expectations so why bother”. As a parent I often find myself saying “Good job” to my kids, but then often that is followed by “But…” “I think you could still do better if you try a bit harder” or “do you really think you did your best”. You do your best as a parent to not screw up the future life of your kids, but it is not easy.

      • Brady

        I agree that it’s much better parenting to praise kids for accomplishments instead of innate talent, but, for me, it wasn’t that simple. I was raised in a hyper-intelligent family–my grandfather won the national debate tournament in high school, my sister has a Ph. D. in biochemistry, my brother graduated with the highest GPA from Yale and now has a Ph. D. in philosophy, etc. When growing up, I was told that I was the smartest of them all, and this message actually pushed me to apply myself to an almost ridiculous degree; my thought was that extreme hard work and extreme talent, in combination, would result in a world-changing life. I’m now in my senior year of high school, and am applying to Yale. However, the stress that I put on myself (taking 6 APs in one year, learning concert-level piano pieces, getting a perfect score on the SATs, learning six languages) ruined my life, making me depressed and constantly angry at the world. I’m only now learning the lesson on the opposite extreme of yours, David–there’s nothing good about pushing myself so much that I sacrifice my own quality of life.

        Of course, the answer lies in the middle–I was just wanted to provide an unusual contrast that limits the concept that more hard work is always better. Also, sorry this made me sound like an asshole. It’s difficult to communicate how hard I’ve pushed myself and not sound like such.

        • wakagi

          I do have a similar life experience, though perhaps not as extreme as yours, since I had no older siblings to live up to.
          Over-forcing myself brought me to constant anger, hatred, and depression. I came to the same conclusion as you: that there was nothing good about pushing myself so much.
          However, only shortly after deciding to stop pushing myself so hard (perhaps about four years) I discovered that I became so lax that I had started accepting my own insincere, unsatisfying performance. I wondered at what had happened to me… and then began to push myself harder again, except pushing myself has become extremely hard now.
          What I am trying to say is not that you should keep pushing yourself this hard. By no means. What I am trying to say is be careful. Go ahead and relax, but don’t relax too much. Don’t “force” yourself to be average because you might end up discovering that it’s not what you want from your life.

          • b2163595


        • somekid

          Hey, Senior year of high school isn’t too late to be realizing this at all! I’m a senior in college and I still have trouble letting go of my desire to achieve and surpass those around me academically. I think you’re lucky you’ve realized this so soon. It means things will only get better from here!

        • George

          I’ve had a similar experience, with my parents causing me to push myself too hard because of their regrets in their own education and their belief in me.

          I wanted to be a mechanic in my mid-teens but my parents decided I was too intelligent/academic for that line of work and so pushed me towards mechanical engineering. That, coupled with attending a successful grammar school (does America have grammar schools?) who provided the illusion that going to university was the only option if you wanted to be successful, caused me to do a master’s degree in automotive engineering. And would you believe it, I found it hard work! Something I’d not really experienced in academics up until then. I pushed myself very hard throughout the 4 years because my parents gave strong indication I should try until I fail (which they didn’t think I would), rather than quit because I wasn’t enjoying it. This had a similar effect on me as it did you; I got depressed, shut everyone out of my life, and unconsciously started doing less and less recreational stuff like sport, because when I wasn’t working I just wanted to do nothing; lie in bed, watch tv, and avoid other people.

          I think David is right in that you need to learn to work hard at some point, but you also need to learn when to quit. All that hard work should be directed at something you’re sure you really want; something that will make you feel accomplished and proud when you achieve it. It takes a lot out of you and what you’ve achieved needs to replace that to make you feel fulfilled as opposed to empty. Unfortunately when I received my degree classification I felt absolutely nothing in terms of achievement, I was excruciatingly underwhelmed. Is this what all those years of focus and perseverance and putting all my energy eggs into one basket has culminated in? I’ve seen that same question etched onto more than a few olympian’s faces while standing on the podium (maybe not the EXACT same question).

          Anyway, the point of my long ramble about myself was that quitting something, or reigning in the momentum you’ve already built up towards a certain goal and starting again with something new can take more courage than working hard. So what I wish I knew when I was younger was that when you start building up momentum towards a certain life goal, try to make sure it’s something that will pay off, intrinsically, in the end, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses if you realise it won’t.

          • chendaddy

            I think the problem with that is, when you’re that age, you can’t possibly know if something will be worth it in the end. That’s really the paradox of this exercise. You have the opportunity to tell your 22-year old self something that you would never have discovered if you had already known it at 22.

            It really seems the best you can do is tell someone to explore and be fearless and unafraid to fail.

            And don’t buy a motorcycle. Unless you’re going to race it professionally or flip it for money, don’t buy a motorcycle. That advice always applies.

            • George

              Yes I agree with that. Explore, in all aspects of your life, without fearing failure is possibly the most important thing to teach your children. If that’s the only thing my kids learn from me I think I’d be happy, as they’d learn anything else of import through their own experiences, which is by far the best way to learn anyway.
              And I probably will buy a motorcycle. Got to explore and be fearless, after all.

            • chendaddy

              Haha, if you’re only going to take one piece of advice between explore/be fearless and not buy a motorcycle, I think you certainly made the right choice.

            • George

              My dad having competed in motocross and owned road bikes most of his life, and having a nasty fall on a track, I feel I do have a better understanding than most on how dangerous it is. An old friend of mine also lost his dad to road biking when we were around 17.
              I wouldn’t buy a bike lightly, but then I wouldn’t give up something that can evoke passion in me lightly either. Choosing to be safe and reserved in my 20s as opposed to fearlessly exploring motorbikes is something I’m confident I’d regret in later life.

        • M.B.

          Interesting comment Brady.
          I experienced a somewhat similar situation, except my siblings were not extremely intelligent. My parents always told me I was the smart one, and had to do well in school. It would go on to the point that if I’d score 100% on a test that I actually put some effort in, they’d say “Well, with your brains we expect nothing less.”

          That partly drove me to the complete opposite side of what you did, I never applied myself to anything as I figured there was no point to it anyway, that I could never live up to my family’s expectations. I started acting out because I was frustrated, which caused a lot of problems for me and my parents. Nonetheless, i’m not pointing my finger at them, I think they meant well.

          The past years I’ve actually learned the importance of managing my time, REALLY applying myself to things and simply enjoying life. You seem very wise for your age, I wish I was that wise back then. Just relax and don’t take “successes” in life too serious.. just do something that you love and it will work out 🙂

        • chendaddy

          First, though you may already realize it, your parents don’t say that to put pressure on you. They say that because they’re proud of you.

          Next, there is a balance, but it doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing all the ambitious things you’re doing. It just means finding things that bring more joy and passion into your life. That could be friends, relationships, travel, reading, creativity, sports, anything you’re doing not just to have on your college application but because it stimulates your imagination.

          Of course, it’s tough to do all that, plus your academic pursuits, and still find time to eat, sleep and take a shit. Luckily, when you head off to Yale or wherever you end up next Fall, you should have more independence than ever to decide your schedule and priorities for yourself.

          I didn’t do nearly as much in my senior year of high school as you’re doing, but I took six AP classes, was in all these ridiculous clubs, and slept less than four hours a night. It was one of the toughest times of my life, but I got valedictorian and into a great college, and yes I also feel douchey saying stuff like that, but being able to look back on that instills you with a great confidence to know you can overcome adversity and be that good and even better. Plus a lack of regard for run-on sentences.

          One last bit of advice, since you seem like someone who hasn’t experienced a lot of formal failure: don’t ever be afraid to get it wrong and fail. Not the end of the world. Just a new beginning and a chance to improve.

      • DeeDee Massey

        The beauty I see about this thread is how self-reflection turned into a concern for future generations, wanting to pass on sage advice for their benefit, since we can’t (yet) time-travel back to our younger selves and pass back the advice to them.

        I had my first child when I was around the age of 22. I wish I would have known then not to worry so much about my children’s futures and how well I was doing at parenting, whether I was protecting them enough or too much. My children turned out amazing. And even though they are grown, parenting doesn’t stop when the child turns 18; it is a lifelong responsibility and honor. My children need me less and in different ways now, but I still have an opportunity to learn from any “mistakes” I might have made and continually strive to be a better parent to them.

        I had all the knowledge at 22 that I needed to press on with life. Changing anything back then would alter the person I am now, and I’m not completely dissatisfied with her. So, I press on living with no regrets and the knowledge I need now. What I choose to do with the knowledge is what matters. For instance, I’m out of plastic wrap, but I checked my aluminum foil and right there on the carton, it says to press the “end locks”, squeeze the carton, THEN tear off a sheet along the blade. I’m pretty sure similar instructions have always been on plastic wrap, but I just never bothered to notice. Point is, all along I’ve had all the information I needed at my fingertips but haven’t always used it. Old habits die hard though, so for a while I will probably forget and continue to jerk the plastic wrap off the roll into a sticky bundle.

        By the time I’m 88, perhaps I will have grown as a parent to my 66 year old kids, as well as mastered the art of as plastic wrap dispensing. I don’t want to look back at my 44 year old self and have any regrets then either.

        • Sheila Varga

          I was 22 when I became a mom, too. If I could speak for my naive self, I’d tell her: GO BACK TO COLLEGE AND FINISH WHAT YOU STARTED! Then I’d let her know that LOVE ISN’T A LIFE GOAL. I thought that the end all, be all was to be married to a guy you’re madly in love with, have three kids and own a nice house. Then he left me with the three kids, a mortgage payment and no job/work experience/degrees to start over at midlife. Yeah, really bad planning for your future.

          • DeeDee Massey

            I get ya. It’s always a bonus to do things to make ourselves more individually self-sufficient. Nobody plans for crappy things to happen to them; most people tend to assume the best in other people and for situations. I’ve never gone into any relationship thinking “OK, I’d better do XYZ in case this person turns out to be a douche-bag.” Now, I try to balance my idealism with realism without becoming cynical. As the old saying goes, “hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” We can’t control the crappy things other people do, but we can do whatever necessary to remain intact, come what may.

            By the way, Sheila, not to compare you with others or diminish your situation, but lots of people WITH degrees and advanced skill sets are struggling with breakups and mortgages and unemployment. Many of them, as other Dinner Table guests have expressed, wish their 22 year old self would have enjoyed life more, instead of going to college. Some are wondering where did all their efforts get them if they are not finding job prospects, while they’re strapped with student loans?

            I would suppose from your statements that your college-age years were spent in the ways you felt were important, like spending time with your children during their formidable years. It sounds like you made honorable choices; perhaps someone else did not, and their choices adversely affected you. That sucks, royally.

            I DID get degrees and I’m highly skilled, but I want to attain an advanced degree. This time, though, instead of going for a generic major just to have that piece of paper to make myself more marketable, I’m putting a lot of thought into where I want to go with advanced degrees, and only if the effort is worth it. I won’t make the same mistake that my younger self did and just go to school for the degree. I do cherish my learning experiences and I benefited from my education, but I could have been more deliberate in fitting my education with my career goals. Moving forward, I’m going to really make it count. I might even “re-invent” myself, as soon as I figure out what I want to be when I grow up. 🙂

            It’s useless to look back with regret. Let’s look forward with determination.

            • Sheila Varga

              Very wise words, DeeDee, thanks! I’m an English major planning to get my master’s and (hopefully) become a professor. I’ve been a freelance writer for the last 5 years, but having degrees increases your pay rate and opens more prospects. I certainly would have “partied more” as a 20-something had I known life would be this challenging, but I actually was extremely happy with my new husband and growing family. I don’t regret any of the decisions I made. It’s those hurdles I jump now that mold me into the kind of person I am– one that’s determined to make the best of the situation. J.K. Rowling said “sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to have a solid foundation in which to move up from.” Couldn’t be more true in my case.

            • DeeDee Massey

              Why must we as humans so often have to “hit rock bottom” or otherwise learn things the hard way?

              Personal example: I’ve just started participating in Highland athletics and I made a rookie mistake that put me on the bench for a while. That’s even despite going into it with the attitude that I’m going to try the “easy” and mature way and absorb via Vulcan Mind-Meld all the wisdom from my fellow, veteran athletes. I know how to do a proper hook grip now, that’s for sure.

      • Eileen O’Brien

        I remember being at a talk given by a psychologist last year who said that rather than saying to our children “you’re so clever”, saying instead ” you work so hard “. In the first instance, the child thinks their ability is innate, so they did well in a test because they’re clever. But if they encounter a tricky maths problem, for example, they give up quickly because they’re not smart enough to figure it out. In the second instance, however, they believe they do well in exams because they work hard, so when they encounter that tricky maths problem they know they have to stick with it and try to figure it out, and eventually when they do, they have a much greater sense of achievement.

      • Kayla

        I think i might politely disagree with you statement. You may consider me biased as i am still in high school, and i, therefore, am still greatly subject to my parents own use and or lack of praise. i do think that people often underestimate the importance of praise and its impact in a child’s life.
        if i were to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses, i would name art among my greatest strengths, and if i were thinking back to my most common memory i associate with the beginning of my love for art i would remember the time my mother told me that, although my brother could draw pretty lions, i was much better at coloring them in then he was. I feel like, in my life, it is easy to recognize how my “rewards” have shaped me into a better person. Like the time i first got honor role; nobody had ever told me i was smart before, and then suddenly i felt i was capable of achievement, and my standards for myself had been raised.
        To me, at least, it also feels easy to trace the negative consequences of too much criticism. like when my parents were checking over my sentences and my mom would tell me how awful my spelling was. it didn’t feel like something i could fix, it felt like something that was wrong with me, and instead of working harder, i have always accepted it to be among my weaknesses.

    • Adam Wiegand

      David Nett: Are you, perhaps, me?

      • Dragonfly

        Or me? 🙂 … well, the female version

        • Shagirl


          • Oh, gosh. I dunno. Maybe? Are you all wearing a Star Wars t-shirt right now?

            • Best. Reply. Ever.

            • Dragonfly

              No, but my light saber is always nearby…

            • M.B.

              Thats hilarious 😀

            • Navi

              Whoa… I am…

            • DeeDee Massey

              Who raised you to wear a Star Wars t-shirt to the Dinner Table?

              You may be excused to change into something more presentable, like a MP&THG t-shirt.

          • fey

            or me?

    • AllisonErin

      Agreed. And also, that because everything requires hard work, you’ll need to make decisions and prioritize – you can’t have everything. I wish I’d known how to prioritize better, and how to focus on the things that truly mattered to me (and not to others).

    • Amaya R. Aldabe

      Totally agree. I wish I had developed better self-regulating skills.

    • Brian Ross

      Oh wow, you just described my feelings/experiences perfectly, David. Good post!

    • Lindsay

      Thanks for sharing that, David. You’ve communicated many of the thoughts I’ve been experiencing lately. For most of my life, my happy-go-lucky attitude has served me very well… but much of that was due to the fact that I had few commitments and responsibilities, so it was very easy to make big changes (like moving to a new place or changing jobs), make quick decisions based on emotions, and to have little worry about how my life would unfold. Now that I am older, I feel a responsibility to my family. I like this responsibility, but it has forced me to realize that I was missing certain life lessons that might have provided me with additional tools to meet adult life head on. Some of the issues you mentioned resonated with me: study habits, time management, work/life balance, etc.
      Despite the fact that my way of life is not exactly as I would like it to be, I want to do my best to achieve my career and life goals within my current circumstances. It has probably been the biggest challenge of my life, but I still feel hopeful that my commitment and hard work will turn into something real lasting.
      Having said that, like you, I can’t imagine my 22 year old self would have paid any attention 😉

    • Sara S

      Thanks for this post David! This is where I am in life rıght now. I realıse that being smart, talented in loved being loved ısnt enough! But ıts never to late to change old habıts, old way of thinking. You have your whole rest of your life in front of you! Realising ıs a huge start!

    • Fantastic Mr Hank

      This happens to be one of the biggest traps that young men will fall for (so good job for bringing it up) – the first “great” love, Very hard to avoid tying yourself down with the first nice piece of ass you get in life, and it’s no big secret, at the first sign of you falling hard for a girl, everyone (older and wiser) around you will warn you to slow it down, but a man in love will rarely listen nor pay any attention to the tell-tell signs of future troubles, this single phenomenon had destroyed half of my friends’ lives thus far, they lost their houses, cars and visitation rights because they were too blinded by ‘love’ when they were 22. I just happened to dodge my bullet when mine decided to cheat on me with my best friend who at least had the decency to tell me the very next morning.

      There really are plenty of fish in the sea, after I dropped my first would-be life-ruiner, I went on to weed out more imposters for the next 10 years or so before I met the true love of my life and married her.

      My wife would go on to help me get rid of all my debts and bad habits and later gave birth to 2 beautiful girls who are absolutely the apple of my eye, I thank god eveyday I had enough sense to drop that first girlfriend of mine.

      Young men, listen to me, you are worth the wait!

      • Well, I don’t regret falling in love young or marrying that woman – she was/is an amazing human being and we had 13 wonderful years together. I just wish I’d paid more attention, that I’d understood love itself was not enough, that attentiveness and hard work and constant gardening of that relationship was necessary, even when everything seems stable, even after a dozen years or more. I don’t feel I was blinded by love, I just feel that I didn’t understand that love itself is not enough. That misunderstanding bit me in the butt in my first relationship after the divorce as well.

        • Fantastic Mr Hank

          Hmm, that’s a different issue altogether, I’ve neglected my family for sometime while ‘pursuing my career’ as well, it’s very tough to strike a perfect balance between work and family, over the years, I’ve finally learned that jobs come and go (no matter how important and promising they might seem at the time), you only get to see your child’s first day of school once – so this is what I do now, when in doubt, I just choose my family.

        • nvd

          This clarification only makes your post resonate more with my experience. I am 30. I married by soon to be ex-husband four years ago after an eight year relationship; he was 16 and I was 18 when we got together. As I think about it now I wonder what exactly could I have known then that would have prevented my being here today (had I even believed “it” and the poor sap who was telling 18 year old me)? It’s true, as you say, love is not enough. I think my similar experience of skating through high school and college and doing very well academically may have clouded that realization. But at the same time I knew hard work and commitment was required to have what you wanted it was just usually the case that the amount of work and degree of “hardness” was much less for me compared to my colleagues. I guess maybe just being more self-aware and communicative would have helped steer me away from this end. But there is also the factor of making sure another person is committed to you in the same way as you are to them. I know many times throughout our 12 year relationship I “checked in”, if you will, to be sure we were still on the same road, going the same way and every time we either were or made adjustments to get back on together. Maybe it’s knowing that you can’t always predict or think you know someone’s decisions/actions, even if all the “checks” you do come up positive. Knowing this probably wouldn’t have prevented this (for me) but may have made it easier to take.

          Anyhow, thanks for being so candid. And thanks for this forum, Tim! It’s great to be able to communicate in this way with the amazing wbw community, as I think you very aptly defined us. Thanks also for this specific question. It made me think about this whole divorce/relationship process in a different way.

        • wobster109

          Beautiful. It speaks to your maturity that you and your ex still maintain mutual respect for each other. Sometimes in a divorce one person is the villain, but not always.

      • Jane K.

        Hm… you know, no personal offence meant, but I’m pretty sure that even at 22 I knew that a man referring to a woman they loved as a ‘nice piece of ass’ was probably a bit of a red flag.

      • Did that guy continue to be your best friend? If so, I’m just curious why “she” cheated on you and “he” didn’t? I’ve often wondered how people choose with whom to stay involved when this happens. I guess it depends on how strong each relationship is. I haven’t been in that position but I wonder if someone would always be paranoid about their Significant Other cheating again, would they, if they dropped the SO and developed a new relationship, always be afraid the best friend would get to her, too?

        • Fantastic Mr Hank

          LOL! Wow, I haven’t talked about this with anyone in ages, funny I would bring it up here.

          Well, the reason I said I dodged a bullet is because I really did, as I got older, I learned that some girls are just broken for whatever reason, long term therapy might be able to “fix” them eventually, but until then, they are just not fit for healthy relationships.

          This one is an absolute nympho who loves to fuck, she simply couldn’t help herself. I knew this later on because long after we broke up, she would still come around periodically to hook up with me when she was in relationships with other guys. I nip that in the bud eventually and told her to get lost basically, and still, years later, long after she had gotten married and had kids, she somehow tracked me down, came to my house and tried to seduce me into “one last hurrah” while her kid was sleeping in the backseat of her car! All because her husband was out of town. You see? It could’ve been me!

          My best friend on the other hand, I was totally fine with. The incident didn’t affect our friendship at all, at least not to me. I just put myself in his shoes, and I realized it must’ve been pretty difficult to resist a girl coming on to you full force especially when you are drunk, plus, he basically fessed up the next morning immediately after he woke up I presumed, I probably wouldn’t be as “noble” as him. The funny thing is, he’s the one that became paranoid with me since that happened, probably because he thought I was plotting revenge on him or something, he hardly ever introduced me to any girls he’s dated since then, there was a girl he dated for over 2 years whom I’ve never even met!

          I didn’t come out of that relationship unscathed, however, that relationship did introduce some trust issue for me later on, unfortunately. But oh well, what you gonna do?

    • Krusty Shakelford

      On this note, I wish I could tell myself that intelligence is not a sign of maturity.

      • MeretO

        For me (I’m 58), a sign of maturity is pausing before speech and action. Taking time to see if my initial response is in keeping with signals from my inner compass. Hearing (or feeling) those signals often takes time and a bit of space. Knowing about pausing, and then actually taking a moment–not saying or doing whatever HERE & NOW–signals maturity for me.

    • Gokhan Arslan

      I can’t agree more. I learned how to read and write at 4. I took an IQ test in the elemantary school and scored pretty high compared to kids my age. My parents didn’t reckon being modest is a good idea so I was always under the spotlight. In class, in family gatherings, in parties with my parents’ friends etc. All these flattery built a giant arrogant douche, me. I was well above average successful academically throughout my whole education. This successes also assured me that I am very smart and I could be anything I want. This arrogance costed me people because I couldn’t keep myself from implying to them how inferior they are to me when it comes to intelligence.

      Now I am 26 and have been working for a German company in Turkey. I have been in the company HQ in Germany for more than a year. When I received a task I was literally turning into a slave to the IGM before even knowing him (or more accurately, her?). That’s because I believed I was soo “smart” and could easily pull it off, so why not check the events in Stuttgart on the weekend? My coworkers couldn’t believe how undisciplined I was, I even got a couple of warnings from my boss to finish the assignments faster (Unlike me, Germans never hand the wheel to a stupid monkey btw). Then I figured how important it is to learn how to use time and prioritize. I wish had learned this lesson way before 22.

    • Whanata

      As a person that just started university and got a new job, it really hits home how intelligence does not triumph over hard work and effort. I see a lot of my people who I deemed smart and intelligent fail at university due to their belief in excelling without study. I don’t believe much about my ability in intelligence and hence try to compensate that with extra studying and volunteering. As a young person, I believe my parents heavily influence my thinking of how I should study. At a young age I had to juggle many commitments, and as I later grew up in high school, I could balance my study with other extracurricular commitments and hanging with friends. Although I commend my parents with these things, I cannot say I am close with my parents. Looking at the comments below, I have to say that it is true, parents should not shield their children too much, but in my case do not make it to a point where the child cannot talk to his/her parents about anything personal. Talking about something personal becomes a sign of weakness in front of my parents.

    • Carley

      I can’t even tell you how much I relate to this. Glad to hear I’m not the only one, and that there is hope I might be able to overcome it. I realize how lucky I’ve been that things were always easy for me in high school and college, but I’m still trying to learn how to work hard and make things happen for myself now that they’re not easy anymore.

    • Trina

      David you have described what I have been trying to articulate for some time now. I have been trying to tell ‘young people’ in my organisation that thing for some time now. I see it especially with young women, they think that because they are “nice” or “pretty” that the work they do is beyond reproach. It is difficult for me as a woman who is now nearly 40, seeing young girls making this mistake. I have tried taking a few aside and talking to them about it, some listen, some just see me as a ‘grumpy old woman’ who is bitter about not being young anymore!

    • Ott Kingisepp

      Haha, i just finished my post and then started reading yours. There’s a lot of the same stuff 😉

    • Cliff

      My wife and I get along pretty well, and I don’t see any signs of that changing — especially since we’re both pretty relaxed, anti-drama, “me-time” people. Aside from that, this sounds just like me. That includes the married at 20 part; I just got lucky to find someone who can put up with me.

      I’m still fighting those bad work habits and trying to take things like mowing the yard in stride. Though to be honest, I just want to pay someone to mow & clean so I can work on home improvements and side projects that are more worth my time & will-power.

      It’s a major goal for me to teaching my kid(s) that being smart is a huge advantage, but isn’t enough. It’s more important to focus their energy and put those smarts to work. They might not like it when I push them to work harder, but I know they’ll be happier without the compulsiveness, without the procrastination, and using their brains to accomplish something (whatever that may be). Even if I never manage to break myself of it, maybe I can keep from passing it on to them.

    • Wambui

      This sounds just like me, sans the falling in love and getting married part. Although I’m only 23, and just got out of a relationship with someone I thought was ‘the one’, so maybe we aren’t too far apart on that end.
      Like you, I’ve never had to put in much effort to be good at stuff, school and all. I’m still working at my first job post-college. At first it was easy and fun, I was a star. The youngest full-time employee and moving up the ranks faster than people who have been at the company for a much longer time. But now, two years down the line, it’s no longer about how talented I am and a lot more is expected of me. I’m starting to see all my ‘breeze through tactics’ become ineffective. I’ve never had to forfeit down-time, I’m the worst postponer when I have to, which ends up in me losing ALL my time in the end. I know if I get my act together I can climb mountains and all but the part of me that is so used to taking everything lightly is fighting like a gladiator. I’ve been planning to take a long break to go on a backpacking trip. Whether this is just me running away from responsibility or I really have been bitten by the wanderlust bug I dunno. I think I’ve got a ‘Quarter-life crisis’ coming on. (Maybe a Wait But Why post on this one day no?)
      22-year-old David might have listened, maybe seen a faint similarity between your words and their situation. I know I have, thanks!!
      Oh and 5 years ago I wish I knew the high school social scene was not a life and death situation!

    • Kat

      Wow, I felt like it was myself speaking to me, so much that I got surprised when I read “now ex-wife”.
      I am exactly like you were, David, only that I’m still 25 and already learning to listen and accept, as well as trying to think less and less that I’m oh-so-smart-and-so-talented. Our stories are so similar: I also met the “love of my life” (at 17 though) and was going to marry him 2 years ago.
      I think that our parents have a big responsibility here, but of course we also have to learn to forget that and change… Though while I’m trying to improve my attitude and apply the lessons you already learned, I still can’t stop thinking that if my parents (especially my father) were different I wouldn’t grow up with this personality of mine. (Again, I promise to get over that little by little).

      Thanks for sharing!

    • Steven Reed

      That was beautiful, thank you for sharing.

    • Michæl Haggerty

      I never saw being in love as an advantage, at least when the feeling isn’t mutual. It usually just hurts more than anything.

    • Justen

      It’s kinda freaky to read this David. I have an engineering degree, an MBA, and a law degree (barely), and I’m really struggling right now because I don’t know how to apply myself. I never miss an opportunity to teach my kids about applying themselves and practicing what they want to excel at even if they are already good at it. Something I’ve never done.

    • Robin M

      I’m 22 right now, and the situation you describe hits close to home. I just finished uni with relative ease and rolled into a job in Academia straight away? I’m living together with my girlfriend whom I met 5 years ago in the first year of my bachelor’s and everything just seems to go so…great. I’m indeed afraid of not being able to handle the real challenges when they arrive. Or in other words, I don’t feel ready for the ‘real world’.

      • Robin – I think the fact you are aware of the potential pitfalls speaks volumes about you being ready for them. You’re a fair sight further along than I was, at any rate. Just, pay attention. Give each moment its due. Work hard at the things that matter to you, even when everything seems fine, and let the things that don’t matter go. I wish I’d done that.

    • Oliver_Jones

      As a 14 year old, I can se this happening to me if I am not careful. 22 year old you can’t hear this, but thanks for helping me.

  • pedicoq

    I wish I knew 5 years ago to write as well as I can do it today.

  • Bob

    I wish I had known that my parents knew how the world works WAY better than I did. Sure, they weren’t as up to date on current pop culture issues as I was, perhaps causing me to think they don’t know much. But really, most everything my parents tried to tell me to do or steer me in the direction of doing, was the right thing. And I seldom did it. I shot myself in the foot so many times. It took a while to recover. Also, I wish I knew how unhealthy sugar is for you. I wouldn’t have eaten quite so much.

    • RyderMama

      Man… If I had a dollar for every time I wish I had taken my parents’ opinions and advice more seriously… I’d have a lot more dollars. At 22, I thought I was WAY older than I actually was!

      • James Marple

        As I said to Bob – I am sad to say this, but in many ways my experience is the mirror image of yours – quite the opposite

    • James Marple

      Sad to say, my experience is the mirror image of yours – quite the opposite

      • Bob

        When you say the opposite, do you mean that you DID take your parents advice? And it was bad or something? I’m curious . . .

        • James Marple

          Like I just said to Lou… “My parents meant well (they still do) and did the best that they could
          from the perspective of their own world-view. However, when you are
          brought up to believe in the strict factual inerrancy of Scripture aka
          The Bible… and you take all your parents advice; follow it; fully
          subscribe to it… then age 28 it finally dawns on you that it is not true after all….

      • Lou

        Does this mean that you ignored your parents’ advice and prospered as a result? Or that you did take it and suffered as a result…?

        • James Marple

          My parents meant well (they still do) and did the best that they could from the perspective of their own world-view. However, when you are brought up to believe in the strict factual inerrancy of Scripture aka The Bible… and you take all your parents advice; follow it; fully subscribe to that until dawns on you (with absolute horror) at the age of … 28…. that this is not true…I think you can join the dots from there

    • Alicia Hurst

      These days, I get so happy to hear when people respect their parents and feel they did a good job, which is somehow my positive response to what is really jealousy! 🙂

      My 22nd year was like the end of a Claritin commercial when I realized that I could be free from my mother’s lack of intellect and incorrect, close-minded world views. My mom stopped me from doing some things that would have been important for my development. When people point to how I am now as proof of my parents’ success, I tell them that it’s more fair to say that I am who I am despite them, not because of. So I’m the opposite – another thing I wish I had known was that my parents *didn’t* know how the world works!

    • JP Atiaga

      I respect that of course, but my experience was the opposite. My parents have done a ton of good things for me, which I’m really thankful for, but my life decisions have worked a lot better my not listening to them, just to myself. Even when I’ve made mistakes, lots of them, I’ve felt better to learn from those mistakes when the decisions were mine. For example, I wanted to be a pilot, but my parents didn’t allow me. 15 years later I still want to be a pilot. But when I got married, my parents didn’t support my decision and a big trouble was made out of it. 5 years after that, my marriage is awesome and we all spend time as a family.
      I think the only way to grow is, yes listen to your parents, but follow your own intuition. Sometimes it will match with your parents’ opinion, sometimes it won’t. That’s what has worked wonderfully in my life so far.

    • Fantastic Mr Hank

      LOL! So true Bob, I used to fight with my parents on just about everything, in hindsight, just about everything they said was right! Now if I can just get my kids to understand that…

    • WW

      I think this really depends on the person and the parents. If they grew up in very different conditions, it would hard for them to give optimal advice. I also think that in many situations, there are a limited number of right choices, and thousands of bad choices. My parents often learned what was *not* a right choice, but that did not give them the knowledge to advise me on what *was* a right choice.

      • Bob

        As I read responses, I see that you’re right. But the question was asking me, what do I wish I knew, and I have slowly realized my parents knew a lot more than I gave them credit for. Of course there are plenty of stupid/mean/shitty parents out there.

    • Tom Hanks

      That’s one of the things I’m coming to terms with. When I was younger, I always thought that my parents were clueless and they had no clue to what was actually occurring. But somewhere along the line I realized that they DID know what was going on. In fact, they were more aware than me. They were once teenagers, they were once in the position I’m in. They also have 30+ years of experience over me. To this day, one of my biggest regrets is not listening to my parents sooner.

  • Greeny

    Since I’m 13 years old, I can’t really say what I should had known when I was still in 4th grade.

    • Threefingr

      Godspeed, Greeny, as you get to know the world. You’re already wiser that I was at 13.

      • Fantastic Mr Hank

        I know! He’s already on a blog typing away for the rest of us to read for god sake 🙂

        • Jeremy Lin

          content based site* 😀

    • I can’t help feeling like being involved in a community like Wait But Why will do you a world of good. I’m glad to see you here, Greeny 🙂

      • Charlie

        I second that. I wish I had been part of the WBW community at 22…

    • Nicole H.

      I think it’s great you have the opportunity though, to read the thoughts of others here at the dinner table and consider these conversations as you make your way through the world.

    • Tim Urban

      “I’m just beginning to know more about the world.” Ridiculously wise thing for a 13 year old to say. At 13 I legit thought if someone had made me president I’d have been able to pull it off fine.

    • Carl K

      I predict in 5 years Greeny is WBW’s first intern running errands on the WBW complex. “More coffee Mr. Urban?”

    • Felix

      I’m 25, at your age I only thought about video games, basketball, girls (just starting), playing with my Digimon and Pokemon toys, you being here reading through all of this at this age, I cannot even imagine how much good would be for you if you implement any of the stuff you are reading on this specific post to your life.
      All of these stories/advices posted here, are extremely helpful for anyone, take them in consideration for your life!

  • Katherine

    I wish I had been more true to myself. I’m glad I figured it out now at 28…some people never figure that out.

    • Milli

      HOW did you figure it out?!? I’m trying, but I think it’s easier said than done…

  • I wish that I had known about the spiritual life and not religious, how free you can feel when you are aware that you have control of your thoughts and feelings,

  • Kathy Kitchin

    I wish I had known that “being smart” does not equal “destined for a great job.” In other words, I wish I could tell myself ten years ago that it is absolutely essential to spend those four years gaining a marketable skill; the fun and games can come later on in one’s twenties or thirties.

    I wish I had known that it is never, ever wise to depend on someone else for my own happiness. An SO, friend, or parent cannot provide lasting self-satisfaction.

    • Taylor

      I second this in a serious way. You should never depend on external people or forces for your happiness. You should also never ever depend on the others for love. If you always let someone else provide love for you, when that goes away, you won’t know how to love yourself. You have to love your self first–that’s the crucial foundation for being loved by someone else. Learned this one the hard way…

    • Lisa

      Yes, exactly!

      And, as someone who got straight A’s, I wish I had known that after college, grades matter VERY little. In this “knowledge economy” where anyone can make themselves sound smart, specialized knowledge, experience, and measurable accomplishments matter much more than grades. Find someone who will let you intern for them and get real experience. Classroom success doesn’t always translate into job offers.

      My friends and I call this theory, “There are no A’s in SUCCESS.”

      • Amaya R. Aldabe

        Sooo true. I was an A student. Then became a teacher and spent hours trying to convince stubborn worried parents that my C friends were doing SO much better than A students in the same class.

        • Tom

          What do you mean? Your friends who got C’s ended up doing better post-school in the real world than your friends who got A’s??

          • Amaya R. Aldabe

            Yep. Promise. At least, as of five years ago. I’m talking about 7th to 9th grade, here, I don’t about the rest of school life. The two big A getters in my class… well, I’ve been a bit of an underachiever after college. And the other one, changed careers like 3 times, and then dragged her thesis for the longest time. The Bs and Cs (i’m not sure of equivalences, we had a 0-10 system, I’m thinking about the guys who had 8s)… ended up doing what they wanted, having good grades in college and getting really cool jobs.

      • And at the end of college, the As I earned got me the exact same diploma as the people who barely scraped by. Life lessons and real world experiences are so much more valuable than book learning, which is really just a starting point, I feel.

    • Michael

      These are all the things I wanted to say. I’m 24, so I am still very much in the process of learning both of these. They keys to both success and happiness lie within myself, which is stressful but also empowering!

    • Flowtoriousness

      Parents constantly fed me the “you’re so smart” stuff, and I didn’t have to work very hard to get good grades in K-12 school, so I don’t remember hearing much about “just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you don’t need to work hard, have a plan, etc.” Went to four-year college on grandparent’s dime with no particular plan upon graduation. Showed up to my department’s graduation ceremony and was one of maybe four students. All the other people who had majored in my subject had also, for some reason that was lost on me at the time, majored in something else more marketable. Discovered fondness for teaching while working as a substitute and as a private tutor. Two years later I entered a Master’s program in another not-easily-marketable field. Family and friends asked me what I was going to “do” with the degree. I told them I was planning on figuring that out as I went along. After getting experience as a teaching assistant, I decided after the first year to apply to Ph.D. programs. Now about to complete my Ph.D. in hopes of landing a tenure-track professor position.

      I took a meandering path that I’m sure more practical-minded parents would never have encouraged, and I wonder how I’ll approach this issue with my future children.

    • Tyler Coffin

      I completely agree, but I would also add that a “great job” can be a job that you make great – and also that different people define “great” in many different ways. Some people loved their liberal arts degree and are able to find meaning and satisfaction in (or in spite of) low-paying careers. Others really value success in the business world and should get those marketable skills.

      Basically, the connections between smarts, happiness, college degree, and career is very fuzzy. I would be wary of drawing bright lines around or between any of these things.

    • Tyler Coffin

      I completely agree, but I would also add that a “great job” can be a job that you make great – and also that different people define “great” in many different ways. Some people loved their liberal arts degree and are able to find meaning and satisfaction in (or in spite of) low-paying careers. Others really value success in the business world and should get those marketable skills.

      Basically, the connections between smarts, happiness, college degree, and career is very fuzzy. I would be wary of drawing bright lines around or between any of these things.

    • Kathy Kitchin

      Thanks for making me feel better on a crappy day, guys. It’s great to know I’m not alone.

  • Erik

    I’m currently 21, so at 16 I wish I had known that what’s important to a person at a specific time may not always be that important. Playing baseball was basically the only factor in my college selection. I play at a school I don’t even really like that’s too close to home. It’s my last season, and I actually have had a really excellent college baseball career, but I’ve lost the passion. It’s still something I enjoy, but not enough to sacrifice other areas of my life like I did. I wish I would have gone to college in a city.

    • Harlow

      So you’re saying that you realized the areas of your life that you sacrificed for baseball are actually more important? I’m asking because I’m currently in a similar position (with basketball), and I’m not sure what to do…

      • Erik

        Basically. I knew I wanted to be in New York City and go to a big school, but I decided to go to a small school in a small city to play baseball. I still love baseball, but not like I did when I graduated high school. I try not to let regrets affect me, but I think what-if a fair amount.

        I’m not saying give up basketball, but make sure you really self-reflect and see if there are other things you love and goals you have that might increase in importance over the next few years.

    • Threefingr

      Sounds like you’ve learned a lot in college, despite this regret. The problem with this sort of lesson is that it’s so hard to apply going forward. How do you predict which of the “important” things are transient and which will be lifelong passions? I personally regret giving up baseball in high school. The coach required players to crop their hair. Being a punk, I reacted poorly to that and quit the team. I didn’t even have long hair.

  • mmKALLL

    It would have been cool to know not to sweat the small stuff. This includes being able to put things in the correct proportion instead of having the fog mix everything up.

    Possible elaboration coming later.

    • Jamie

      Totally, techniques that I have now for having perspective when everything seems like shit would’ve been much welcomed at 22.

  • Djyo

    I wish I’d known that in order to make progress, to become greater, you have to fail a lot first. All those years in my mind things had to be done only in a perfect way.
    When i was talented I did excel but when i was facing challenge I was too much afraid of failing, thus not trying enough to get what I really wanted.

    • J

      Did you figure out a way to become more comfortable with failure…? Are there techniques for such a thing?

      • Carol Dweck’s work Mindset (http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/0345472322) is a pretty comforting approach to failure.

      • Djyo

        Well i’m getting better at it as time goes.

        – As Steph wrote above you have first to understand that the world will not end if you don’t meet other people’s expectations. In fact they don’t really care that much.

        – I had very high expectation so when I couldn’t achieve them right away i was really disappointed. You have to realize that trying/failing is part of reaching your goal. And that you climb a mountain one step at a time.

        In order to achieve that you have to push yourself into what you are afraid of.
        Starting with little and secure challenges, then when you get more comfortable you can set higher risks.
        Consider intermediate goals in your plan to achieve your big goal.

      • Carlota Bolado

        I tell myself that wether 1. it wasn’t on my hand to make things better or 2. I did things the best way I knew at the moment, so I work on that new lesson I learnt the hard way and keep trying.

  • magignis

    I wish i had known that having being smart in high school does not mean you wont have to work for it. At uni I found out how much you have to work for things you want even if you are talented.

  • ligirl

    I’m 19, so I can’t go back to 22, but I can go back to 14.

    Within the past few months I have (mostly) kicked my procrastination habit. I wish I had known at 14 how great it feels to finish something early, to have it done and out of the way and how much more fun my free time is when I’m not worrying about what I actually ought to be doing. If I had known to focus on the positives of getting something done early, rather than ignoring the negatives of not getting it done until the last minute, I would have been much happier and more productive through high school (not to mention the better grades).

    • k

      I’m 21 and still working on realizing this.

      • Donut

        Wow. You kids rock! When I was 19 (-21) I was busy trying to stay alive emotionally, mentally and academically as a freshman in college. I didn’t really appreciate the beauty of kicking the P habit until my early 30s. As I type this I’m realizing that my 30s was a HUGE decade for my growth as a human. I wonder when my next HUGE growth spurt will be…

      • Iole

        I’m 52 and still working on this 🙁

        • René

          Dito here at 60

    • Dude
    • fangirl from delhi

      Thats an achievement you should be proud of… I’m 24 n getting worse and worse

    • Jam Master RJK

      I am happy for you, but would like to caution you that this may haunt you for the rest of your life. I cannot even begin to fathom the number of times I have proudly exclaimed I had kicked my procrastination habit / figured-out how to approach girls / etc after begin successful a few times in a row. I am now 30 and still at least once a month believe I have now finally really figured-out how to stop procrastinating (do have a girlfriend I kinda like though) 😉 Good luck

      • ligirl

        Thanks, I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, and I am being extra careful during the period where it’s still becoming habit.

        One of my sisters has never procrastinated a day in her life though, so I do know it’s possible.

      • Gibbet the Grisly Ward

        I’m 41 and still working on this issue.
        I was recently pondering why I’m such a procrastinator. I’ve always
        just attributed it to laziness, but that didn’t make a lot of sense
        because procrastination is hard. It can make the most mundane tasks
        difficult. And right there, on that thought, I had my epiphany: I
        thrive on the challenges that my procrastination creates. I love the
        thrill of doing all of my Christmas shopping on Christmas eve; the
        exhilaration of completing a huge project in a minimal amount of time
        with just minutes to spare. I realized that I am a closet adrenaline junkie. I remembered back when I was taking kickboxing that I procrastinated less and assumed it was because being more active = more action (and motivation). But it wasn’t that at all… it was having something else that was exciting and got my heart racing.

        So anyone who is struggling with this problem, I would suggest trying a fun and exciting hobby. I know I would love to start kickboxing again. Maybe I’ll check into it… tomorrow 🙂

    • Amaya R. Aldabe

      35 and still fighting the fight with that monkey!

    • Nicole H.

      I think it’s great you have the opportunity though, to read the thoughts of others here at the dinner table and consider these conversations as you make your way through the world.

      • Caton

        I feel like I’m sitting around the dinner table with a bunch of wise elders…This forum is gold.

    • Leo

      Seems like I’ll continue to learn this lesson over and over again. Never quite sticks for some reason…

    • Good on you for learning that lesson at only 19. It’s one a still struggle with at twice your age. You’re ahead of the curve on that one, I think, and it will serve you well in life. Congrats!

    • Justine

      As a chronic procrastinator at age fourteen, reading your comment feels a bit like I’m hearing from my own future self! I am glad to hear that you’re figuring it out. Everything you said made total sense (and sounded similar to the things I tell myself), but somehow, even when I know I have every reason to make smart decisions, I wind up stuck in distraction spirals and Dark Playgrounds. (Right now, I’m procrastinating by writing this!) It is great to know that change is possible, however—I would love to get to that productive, fulfilling, and happy state that you described, and I know that getting out of the “I’ll always be a procrastinator” mindset is one important step. Thank you for helping me see this.

  • Yasmina Hallak

    I wish someone had told me that unless myself or someone close is dying, then everything is okay. Really! It’s all good! Time spent being sad, stressed or angry is just self-exhausting and wasteful. Do something, do anything else!! Love to all WBWers x

  • Viorel

    I wish I had known how to overcome some fears – the fear for truth, the fear for changes.

  • Jaimee

    I wish I had known that time doesn’t stop for anyone. Instead of dwelling on some hiccups in the road, refocus and keep pushing forward. Big problems then are nothing now, and there’s always another road to get you where you need to be.

  • Lera

    I wish I had realized that I could fall that maddeningly in love more than once in my life.

    • Frank

      I’ll remember this, thank you.

    • I’m 24 but this is a really.. important reminder for me right now. Thanks for letting me know!

  • David

    I wish I could tell my 22-year-old self how bad of a fashion sense I had.

  • Rcharikar89

    I wish I had known that love doesn’t come easy and it takes a lot of hard-work, patience and persistence and loyalty. Life throws small curves at you, one such small curve is all you need to see your feelings go out of the window….

    • Alicia Hurst

      Do you ever wish you could learn more from songs? Kind of feel like I hear lyrics, but don’t internalize them. Like how what you just said is straight from “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes!

    • Hannah

      Love shouldn’t be that volatile though, should it? If it’s a strong bond, one small curve shouldn’t be enough to throw things off track, right?

      • Rcharikar89

        I totally agree…. I just wish I had analyses myself enough to really understand if I was ready for it or not…

  • Fly Zoë

    The difference between a feeling, thought and belief…
    Bottom Line:
    • Feel = Sense/Perception
    • Think = Opinion
    • Believe = Conviction or principle; value
    • The delegate said he THINKS (not feels) his bill will be approved.
    • The minister said she BELIEVES (not thinks or feels) there is life after death.
    • The applicant said she THINKS (not feels) her interview went well, and she FEELS good about her chances of getting the job.
    • I FEEL the wet grass between my toes.

    • Stephen

      Why was coming to understand this distinction so important?

  • TexanbutnotRed

    I wish I had known that stuff doesn’t get easier, really; but you just keep marching on/ each age has its issues. I wish I had known what anxiety disorders look like. I wish I had known how happy dogs make me. And I wish I had known how great it is to have children; hard but great.

  • seren1tyn0w

    I wish I would have known that my 22 yr old body wouldn’t be sticking around forever. At 35 now, I’m struggling to get back in shape. Its not an easy endeavor. If I could go back, I would have invested more of my time in making sure eating healthy and exercising were bigger priorities.

    • mmKALLL

      I feel like this is especially important, as neglecting your physical health will lead into the ruin of the only body you will ever have (at least, in this life, if you’re into that kind of stuff). Being nice to yourself as you would to others is something I feel that many people miss altogether in the modern society – and I don’t mean “rewards” consisting of chocolate, here. I’m talking about the combination of physical and mental well-being itself. Where wisdom can heal mental injuries more quickly, being attentive and taking care of one’s body is essential to your overall physical health.

      Don’t neglect it like most do.

  • LouiseShaw

    I wish I knew it was OK to change course if you were unhappy, and follow your heart.

    • Greg

      Did you…change your course?

      • LouiseShaw

        Well I did in the world of work, but I wish I’d known I could swop course at uni and do something I liked better.

  • Onkar

    I wish i knew the importance of love.

  • Peter Piper

    “Charity starts at home.” – I’ve found that there are concentric circles of success. You cannot really be good and happy at one without conquering the one inside it. Right in the middle is yourself. Without knowing and loving and having confidence in yourself, it will be hard to be good at things and happy. Then comes family – in whatever form it exists for you. Having a close network of people you truly love and trust, most other things will be hard. You need to be happy with yourself to share yourself with others. Next is career or work or production – this can be your day job, your art, your blog, your contribution to the advancement of society. Last comes charity – this means helping others make contributions to society via money or mentoring or inspiring. I spent a lot of time worrying about this outer circle without working on the inner circles. I now feel less urgency and focus on growing in to the circles in the proper order.

    Self -> Family -> Work -> Charity.

    Im procrastinating. Bye. Thoughts?

    • Pepper

      Brilliance. What about love? Where does that come in?

  • Diky Pratansyah

    I wish I had known my MBTI type sooner. I know that it can’t describe everything but at least I’ll have a better guide to focus my thought towards things that would interest me. But, I think I got lucky by entering a world that’s pretty compatible with my type (I’m an INTJ and a programmer). I was lost back then trying to be someting that I’m not because I don’t know where I should go with what my friends used to call “A weird thought process”

    On a small note, I thought I had known about ass-tag convention so I don’t wipe my face by something that I used to wipe my butt

    • KarmaBum

      Yes! Totally. I’m an INFJ. I learned about it this year, and it has made it SO much easier to understand my motivations and also explain myself to others when I need to “hermit”.

      • Diky Pratansyah

        Ah, “Hermit mode”. An escape paradise where the magic happens. As a fellow introvert, I’m glad that you could explain it to your friends when you have to be alone.

    • James Marple

      Hey there, Greetings from another INTJ !
      By the way, it might help others to know that you are referring to the Myers-Briggs system for personality types and that they can find out their own type online free-gratis-and-for-nothin’
      … James

    • Skeptical

      But do you think that knowing your MBTI type can be dangerous because it puts people in boxes and maybe put blinders on people or limit their perspective about who they are?

    • wobster109

      Good that you know yourself! Remember to be open to your your Myers-Briggs changing over the years. Don’t feel like you have to hold on to your identity.

  • Threefingr

    I wish I had known that the decisions I was making (usually unconsciously) were sending me toward a deeply conventional life and that the momentum that these decisions was building would be impossible to stop. I’m still trying to figure out why that momentum is so difficult to stop. Part of it that I need to be fair to the people around me (wife, kids, employer, employees) who have become dependent on my conventional life. Part of it is that I’ve never learned to take the risks that are necessary in a less conventional life. Part of it that my conventional life is filled with many many joys that I’m gifted with on a daily basis. But I’d sure like to turn the clock back and do something more radical with my life. I just ordered some sort of Lancome moisturizer from Nordstrom for god’s sake. It’s possible that the more radical life is just a fantasy that’s fun to think about but isn’t something I’d actual want for myself. Nonetheless, I wish my 22 year old self was aware that there are irreversible forks in the road. Choose wisely and consciously, 22 year old. And get rid of that Chevy Celebrity — you’ll get laid more.

    • AllisonErin

      Yes, agreed! And on a related note, I wish I’d known that it was OK to take some risks, and to go in a direction that you can’t know the outcome of in advance. I wish I’d known that there are really very few wrong decisions in life, and that you should just go for it and fix it later if it turns out terribly.

      • Chulie

        Are there any directions you can know the outcome of in advance though..??

    • Jed

      Really interesting point. Where do you think the roots started with what you called a “conventional life”?

      • Threefingr

        I was actually reasonably unconventional through high school. Then college at a top ten university, pre-med and that was it. Going to college in the early 90’s, I finished with little student debt and so actually had many options open to me upon graduation that I failed to consider. With the debt that today’s students take on, I truly fear for them.

    • 22yrold

      What’s one unconventional path you wish you had taken instead?

      • Threefingr

        I’d like to have gone off the grid for a while and gotten to know our natural world that is so rapidly disappearing. Some days I can’t believe how astronomical my carbon footprint must be. It’s hard to shrink that footprint now.

        I’d also like to have fallen in love a few more times.

    • Tanuj

      Really a good post, as a 22 (+ 1) yr old, and I am at a stage where I have to choose the direction I want my life to take. This gives motivation and encouragement to explore more.

    • Heather

      “chose wisely and consciously”
      agree but also disagree…. you’re paragraph has me torn. I too get caught up in living a conventional life and ticking all the boxes I am ‘meant’ to have ticked (living independently in a nice apartment; having a fancy corporate job; traveling to exciting places on the corporate budget and mixing and mingling with famous and important people) and yet I go to bed miserable every night and wake up miserable every day because that nice apartment costs a fortune; that fancy corporate job sucks up all my life energy; traveling is never fun anymore because I now truly understand the meaning of a “working holiday”, and all those famous and important people are really quite boring. The fanciness and exposure is nice. I learnt through the French ambassador I had never really tasted tea in my life before until I had tea with him! But it’s a real snooze fest of protocol all the same.
      And how did I get myself into this mess? By over thinking my whole life and panicking that I had to chose wisely and consciously or I would be a hobo with nothing to show for myself at 30.
      I don’t know what the answer is but I do know “wisely and consciously” has an equal amount of pit falls…

  • EAG

    I wish I knew how to avoid confusing my merit (what I have achieved) and my privilege (what I was given by virtue of being born to a particular set of parents in a particular demographic.

    • Finn

      Aren’t they inextricably linked though?

  • shelley181

    I have a quote I put on my wall a couple of years ago, which I wish I had been able to understand when I was twenty two: “Practice is everything. This is often misquoted as practice makes perfect.” I take this to mean, practice, not to win, but because learning how to practice teaches you how to live.

    Thank you for this: “if a reasonably smart, reasonably talented person goes hard for what they want—if they ignore the odds, scoff at conventional wisdom, stomp on irrational fear, and internalize that there’s no such thing as luck, only patience and persistence—then the world is no match for them” which says sort of the same thing, only better.

    • Mike

      Practice makes habit. It doesn’t necessarily make perfect. That’s why you have to be careful what you practice.

  • LouiseMcT

    I wish I’d understood that today is all I have right now, so I might as well make the best of it. Things can change at any given second. I’ve lost people suddenly without ever having told them what they mean to me; I’ve worried myself sick at having no money, only to get an unexpected tax rebate the following week; I’ve postponed any manner of decision from traveling to telling someone I fancy them rotten, because I’ve always been waiting till I’m richer/ thinner/ better dressed/ more emotionally secure/ single/ in a job/ not in a job etc, etc…Now I’m two-times-22 years old and am only just learning how to live instead of how to exist.

  • I wish I’d learnt the concept of mindfulness back then. I thought I was self-aware. Actually I was just a fool thinking I knew myself without ever really listening to my thoughts. Or if I did listen to my thoughts, I listened to the negative ones, the ones that told me stop believing in myself. I wish I’d learnt to just tell my inner critic to shut up

    • Joe

      I’m 45 and still haven’t learned how to tame that critical inner voice…any advice?

      • Every time you hear the critical voice, mentally tell it to shut up. Say it out loud if necessary and just replace it with something positive. I hear myself saying things like: you’re fat/wrinkly. I mentally say: Stop. Then replace it with something positive like: You’re 41 and still look good. It sounds mega lame but it does work if you keep doing it.

  • Diane

    I wish I had known that the only thing – or person – you can work on and change is yourself. You won’t ever change anyone else. Everyone will just follow their own personal path and MAYBE, eventually, they will change because that change is on THEIR path. But it won’t be because of you. And that’s ok because the opposite is true too. You also have your own path, with experiences and mistakes and failures and awesome moments too, and if you can learn from all these things (bad and good), you will evolve, for the best.

    This makes it really easier to understand people, feel compassion for them and maybe forgive them, even when they hurt you really bad. Beacuse it means that it’s not your fault – or theirs. They are just following their path and hopefully learning from it.

    • Diane

      It also makes it really easier to understand and forgive YOURSELF, and in the end that’s what matters most. The same way as others make mistakes, and sometime hurt you, you sometimes do that to others. And your feeling guilty about it and being angry at yourself will not lead to improvment or peace. The only way is to be able to be indulgent towards yourself, and understand and accept that for now, this is where you are, but you are working and trying and getting better, so it’s ok. You’re ok.

    • marisheba

      I’ve discovered something a little different this year, and that is that the only way to change someone is to change yourself. You can’t guarantee that they will change in the way you like, but by changing yourself as one part of an interpersonal dynamic, they have no choice but to change as well. And at the very least, that change will usually clarify whether that is a relationship/issue/etc that is worth continuing to work on or not.

  • Marc

    I wish I had started practicing Tai Chi at 22… Maybe I would have achieved my lifetime goal of touching my toes without bending my knees by now…

    • Steph

      I’m 22, if I start practicing Tai Chi now, how many years til I can touch my toes with straight legs?

  • Singleton

    Grit and patience. I wish I would have had more patience with myself to continue trying and see things through to the end no matter the outcome. My greatest growth and success has come from this….I just wish I had those skills in my early college years so I could have made the most of my education. Remove all distractions and let yourself be alone with whatever problem you are solving, or task you are working through, your brain needs time to process and make connections. And if whatever you try doesnt work, you have at least eliminated that possibility, and you can try again. When you do it over and over, you look back and realize, even if they were only small steps, you are a hell of lot further along and things have changed. That has been the most satisfying part of all of it, things changing and improving and becoming more complete without you even realizing it. And you look back, and its different. Grit and patience.

    • Sarah

      Is it ever really possible to “remove all disctractions” though?

  • KarmaBum

    I wish I had known that:

    1. You do not have to give someone everything you’ve got just so they “love” you. Giving all of yourself doesn’t prove anything except that you’re not worthy of equal love and respect (or at least that is what you think of yourself). Finding an equal partner is so much more fulfilling than winning someone’s love and then trying desperately to keep it.

    2. You don’t need another person next to you to enjoy the beauty that is life. In fact, going it alone is the most empowering and rewarding thing I’ve ever done thus far in my life.

    Also, I only just learned these things in the last year, and I just turned 32. 😀

    • ptming

      Yes, agree with you totally. 😀
      I was desperately trying feel loved and I thought that when I give everything I have, I am doing the ‘right’ thing and people SHOULD appreciate me but they didn’t. Right now, I have started to learn to love myself and to enjoy being with my thoughts. It might be hard at times, but I know that I am trying. So remember to keep loving yourself. :D:D

  • Matt

    I am currently 22 and I hope that I can learn a lot of these things now rather than later. I wish I had known that a lot of people’s perceptions of success and what it means to “do well” are very wrong and often very biased by their own shortcomings and what they see other people doing. It is also very hard to not fall into the trap of believing these opinions.

    (A great example is watching a lot of my friends head off into the world of banking and finance in pursuit of “success”, only to throw away some of the best years of their lives in the pursuit of money and some ideal created by society.)

    This is not really what the question asked, but one of the most important and helpful things in life that I have found is confidence. All too often I saw people in college and elsewhere give up on something because they did not think they were smart enough or could do it. I have found that by truly believing you can do something, you almost always can. If you truly believe in yourself and your abilities, you can accomplish *almost* anything.

    P.S. If you can’t figure out how do do something or want to know the best way to do something – Google it!

    • Meredith

      The Google bit is SO true. Learning this lesson has made all the difference in my job. You can figure ANYTHING out with the internet at your disposal.

  • Amal B

    Here is something that I wrote/drew for my friend’s graduation, and I think it sums up what I wish I knew when I was 22. A clearer version can be found here : http://lostinthetwistsoffate.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-graduation-message.html

    • Matt

      This is awesome

      • Amal B

        Thanks Matt

    • Erin

      Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  • liyanc

    What Tim said, except for the bit about the Saran Wrap.

    I wish I’d known my life was headed this way. I would have taken a different path. Ah, regrets.

    • Curious

      Headed which way??

      • liyanc

        To sucking, in general. Like many of the people here, I had misconceptions about what’s really important in life, and now, at 28, I feel like I’ve turned into a robot. A jaded, unsatisfied, cynical robot.

        On rare occasions, I’d get what Tim calls “Whoa” moments (they usually come at night, when I can’t sleep), where all my worries and problems get flushed out of my brain because in the grand scheme of things, they just don’t matter. It’s impossible to sustain though. I go to sleep and by the time I wake up in the morning and realize that I have to go to work (and yes, it’s a job that does nothing for me except pay the bills. Typical.) my “Whoa” moment fades into the back of my mind, as if it had been a silly, passing thought.

        But you know what? While typing up this response I’m kind of having a “Whoa” moment right now, and I actually feel better. Lighter. I’m thinking maybe I just need to practice keeping it at a conscious level. 🙂

  • Dragonfly

    I wish I had internalised that not being at the
    top of the mountain at the beginning of an endeavour is normal. That you
    shouldn’t feel like a failure seeing other people at the top of the mountain and freeze up before you even start. That you should climb the mountain one diligent
    day at a time through all the valleys on the way up. But burying your head in
    the sand will eventually mean you are behind the other climbers and your fear
    becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. On that note, time for me to leave the dark

  • John

    I wish I had understood the true value of learning through reading. Each new page you read introduces new knowledge and over time that knowledge all compounds and builds on itself. It is so important to read as much as you can as early as you can, which will result in vast knowledge later in life. Charlie Munger and Warren Buffett preach this daily as a key contributor to their success. People who start reading extensively at age 22 will have a significant head start on someone who starts at 30. I wish I had spent more time reading and less time at bars. That being said, it is never to late to start!

  • God, the Saran Wrap!! I am 23 and I just learned that today. Thank-you.

    • Tim Urban

      It’s really a big deal.

      • Louis A. Cook

        I grew up working in a restaurant, and I have some potentially relevant personal experience to share on this one- Consumer-level plastic wrap flat out sucks compared to the commercial dispensers. Even the smaller cardboard ones are far better than what you can expect from any level of proficiency with standard retail-scale roll. If consistent efficient wrapping is as important to you as it sounds, I strongly encourage you to try this:

        I built a nicer birch plywood box for mine so I could leave it on the counter all the time, looking good and ready to wrap!

        • I, too, found the joy of commercial plastic wrap. Sooo much better and less expensive to boot! Not to mention all those boxes and rolls you AREN’T tossing in the trash. I also found myself using it to wrap small parts, nuts and bolts instead of using baggies.

          But yah, I was pretty old by the time I learned the “fold in the end flaps” trick. I mean, who looks for directions on the Saran Wrap box?

          Oh, another piece of advice on a similar subject: tin foil. Actually two pieces of advice. Don’t buy the box if the end is, in any way, crushed. And when possible, stick with the name brand stuff. Life is just too short to be dealing with fucked up rolls of foil.

  • Lisa

    When you do something big, like move across the country or switch careers, it doesn’t feel good or exciting or anything people normally say about that type of thing. It feels terrifying and awful. That doesn’t necessarily mean it was the wrong move. Big life changes suck for at least six weeks, sometimes more like six months.

    …and always wear two sportsbras. You’ll be perky til you’re fifty.

    • Mel

      LOLing…thanks Lisa!

    • RosieShine

      Yes!! I’m 29 and I just switched careers for the first time three months ago. Parts of this big change do actually feel great, but other parts still feel like utter crap. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Fantastic Mr Hank

      For the most part, switching career should feel exhilarating if you really hate your previous gig and/or love the new field you are getting into. It could be tough financially at the beginning, but if you just absolutely refuse to be turned away, things should look up for you in no time!

      For those who hate their jobs, please by all means, quit. Life is too short to be miserable daily. Go find something you are passionate about and attack it with a passion!

  • Linda

    I’m in my seventies now, so I’ve had lots of time to reflect on this question. Among other things, I wish I had joined my brother in learning, from my father, how to work with tools, fix cars, etc. That knowledge would really have helped when I was on my own after divorce. (And I wish I had learned how to pick a good husband so I wouldn’t have ended up getting a divorce.)

  • Clara

    I wish I’d realized that respect for parents doesn’t equal allowing parents to make all your life choices into adulthood. My parents were heavily invested in controlling my beliefs and choices, and I was convinced that it was my job to never disappoint them.

  • paulogrego

    I wish I dedicated the required effort to turn me into an atheist ever before 22.

    Made such a difference in my life.

    • Stuck

      Wait, are you saying that turning into an atheist has made your life better? HOW did you do it???

      • paulogrego

        Yes for sure!

        After years having a real belief in god but always suspicious about a lot of strange things in religions I started studying deeper and deeper this subject, at the same time got deep in physics studies, read a lot of philosophy (Nietzsche) and went over my fears, which was the most difficult part.

        Then step after step I finally got the light and everything was bright and clear, from then on I could understand things much better, analyze human behavior from a top perspective.

        Hard to explain but worth every minute dedicated to that, game changer moment in my life.

      • wobster109

        I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience, but here’s mine: religion is a cage that takes choices that may be right for me personally, slaps an “immoral sinner” label on it, and then shames me. It’s a chain at our very innermost thoughts, policing them and shutting them down, like a secret police, like a lab rat electrocuted for walking a certain way.

        Being an atheist in the US is hard, but that’s not the atheist’s fault. It’s the fault of a society that’s always throwing us under the bus, calling us names, excluding us, and declaring their dislike for us.

    • wobster109

      Good for you. People have this idea that atheists are all a miserable grumpy bunch, and that’s just not true. I’ve personally found that being an atheist makes most of our moral dilemmas crystal clear. By that, I mean the pretense of a moral authority drops away, leaving the person free to weigh the options without any guilt or expectation.

  • Jeannette

    That it is OK if some people don’t like me. I spent way too much time worried about that.

  • Swellcatt

    I wish I had known that self deprecating humor didn’t make me look good and it also attacked my own self confidence. I wish I had just faked it until I made it, so to speak.

  • Kellyanne Fitzgerald

    I’m seventeen, and twelve-year-old me was pretty dumb. I guess the major thing that I wish I’d understood as a twelve year old was that I don’t really need everyone to like me. Not everyone is going to like me, I’m a pretty unique person. If I’d understood that I could have a few people really like the real, authentic me, rather than trying to get a lot of people to like a watered down, people pleasing version that was fake- I’d have been so much happier. And maybe I could have gone through the teenage angst phase a little easier. 🙂

    • Cam

      The fact that you understand this now at 17 is still pretty impressive.

  • Quaglia

    I wish I had known that every experience I missed – indulging in the Dark Playground, just being plain lazy or complaining about other people – would never come back and potentially contained some wonderful thing for me.
    Today I know it but I’m still trying my best to really understand it!

  • Scott Neagle

    I wish I had known that 10 years later I’d still be living in Brooklyn.
    I wish I had known that I should buy a million bitcoins and short the housing market.

    Also, luck plays a huge part in how things unfold. The whole “patience and persistence” thing is nonsense. Say I’m rolling a d20, and I need to get a 20. I can say to myself, “patience and persistence is the only thing I need!”, roll the dice 20 or so times, and I’ll probably get a 20. But if I can only roll once, then I probably won’t get a 20. Same goes with life goals. If it takes a year to make a real attempt at something, and there’s only a 1 in 100 chance that I’ll be successful, then it will take about 100 years of “patience and persistence.” Unless I’m lucky.

  • Michael Tupper

    I wish I had known that it’s all downhill from there.

  • LColleen

    I wish I would have known that adopting a bloodhound as a house pet was a really ridiculous choice. Also that becoming a teacher is a job that will define you to your community and your country as both what you do and who you are. And not always in that, “I am cheerful and wear pretty skirts and let’s finger paint something beautiful and then FUCKING GLITTER IT” way. First, I teach middle school–and you should never let them use glitter for any reason…ever, but secondly being an educator puts my moral, political and personal choices on notice for whichever community I exist in.

    Twenty-two year old me cried a lot when parents thought she wasn’t smart, or kind or useful to society, and she cried harder when her badass career friends indicated she had settled into a job with no advancement. 30 year old me now realizes that my failures, hard work and dedication to a noble profession makes me a professional. And I may not have stock options. Or even really a secured pension. And most of America thinks I’m lazy. But I should not feel like I am not achieving to my highest career goals because I chose to use my intellectual gifts to teach. Twenty-two year old me had not yet realized professionals are allowed to politely say, “actually, screw you” when someone questions her moral integrity or intellectual ability. But I wish she did. Because teaching is important.

    • Planet J

      You are right about teaching, and the glitter. And let me just add: chairs with rolling wheels.

      • LColleen

        Oy with the rolling chairs. Man-made creations of chaos and jealously… and probably death (I’m assuming at some point this has happened).

    • Unsure

      If you could go back to 22, would you choose teaching again? This coming from a college senior thinking about embarking on that career path….

      • LColleen

        I would. But I would have a stronger grip on what I was embarking on. Every child is not going to love–or even like you. Parents will belittle you-or adore you. The curriculum will change often, and if you are not careful–teaching will take over your personal life. “Babe, I would love to go out, but it’s Thursday, parents will see me drinking, my shirt is on backwards–and please just let me fall asleep on the floor.” (Saturday’s are awesome though) It is an incredibly difficult job that college has not really prepared you for. However, if you have a type of belligerent optimism usually found in food oriented dogs–you will work through it. You won’t change everyone’s world. But it will change you. And I honestly believe it is a valuable, noble job. And it takes guts to teach. Worst case scenario, if you hate it–you can change careers. And I hope you do. If you love it, then grow your tough skin and go wild. 🙂

  • TheReluctantWidow

    Now that I am 50 yrs old, I wish I knew at 22 what I know now – it doesn’t matter what other people think of you. Ironically, it’s taken becoming an adoptive mom to four special needs children and becoming a widow to finally figure out, your (other judgy moms and people out there) opinion does not matter. Yes, it’s been hard for me at times to stand firm on what I think is best for me and my children, to not cave in to the peer pressure of all those “perfect, got my shit together” mothers and wives, but I feel better when I just toss snarky comments aside. They don’t live my life. No one lives my life but me and only I can decide whether I like my life the way it is or not. Some days I do, some days I don’t. On the days I don’t, I decide whether there is something I can change or not. If not, well, then I am just going to be grumpy for a day or two.

    Another thing I have learned is about the beauty and peace that can come in the midst of suffering. I used to think I wasn’t doing life right if I WAS suffering, but I don’t think you can live an authentic life unless you learn how to suffer gracefully, to allow others to suffer along with you, and to suffer on behalf of those you love.

    • James Marple

      “adoptive mom to four special needs children”. Respect.

    • Linda

      As a mom of a special needs child, I’m curious, what kinds of decisions have you made for yourself and your children that other “got my shit together” moms scoffed at?

      • I can’t answer for her but here’s an experience I had. I was on a car trip with my sister and her husband. We stopped at a McDonalds for lunch. There was only one open register and that was being operated by a trainee with a manager’s “help.” The woman in line in front of us had her hands full with two young children. Turns out they were six and seven. The six year old was really whiney and acting out, but not really verbal. The poor kid just wanted to play in the playground. The trainee couldn’t figure out how to do anything correctly (not his fault, being a trainee and all!) and the manager didn’t have the sense to take over and let the trainee watch. They just couldn’t get this mother’s order entered properly. And the mother was starting to lose it. You could tell she just wanted to give up on Mickey Ds and go home but that’s not really an option with kids. Anyway, I asked her if she’d like me to take the kids into the play area for her ( just on the other side of the window, with only one entrance, so she could watch us.) You would think I’d just handed her a check for a thousand bucks, she was so grateful. So off the kids and I went. As I was removing the younger boy’s shoes the older one, seven, told me “My brother’s autistic. He can’t help it when he acts up.” OMG! Then I wanted to cry. Anyway, I got the kids’ shoes off and stowed and they were off like shots into the play area. Finally the mom got her food order filled and came to the play area. She couldn’t stop thanking me, and I couldn’t have been more embarassed that I’d done so little for so much gratitude. But later on my sister gave me a hard time. “I can’t believe you would do something like that. You don’t know that woman or those kids. What were you thinking? If she can’t handle them she shouldn’t take them out by herself.”

        Yeah, perfect mother being judgemental.

      • TheReluctantWidow

        All my kids were born with medical special needs (easily repaired and managed here in the US), but they have special needs that are invisible as well. They have suffered a lot of loss and trauma due to early abandonment, changes in living situations, adoption meaning the loss of language, culture, birth country, and then there are the sensory issues due to lack of good nutrition, and nurturing in those early months after birth. The sensory processing issues are the ones I tend to get the most looks about, and I used to worry so much about what other mothers thought about me as a parent because of those looks and the tons of unsolicited advice. So I parent my kids differently. I have to parent my youngest two children (ages 9 & 10) as though they are half their age developmentally. So when they are wiggly-giggly at inappropriate times, well that’s what you get with 4-5 yr old kids. I am not a helicopter parent but I am a fierce advocate for my kids. My youngest three (the third is 10 as well) really don’t handle transitions well, don’t handle change well, and new things in familiar places can put a couple of them on sensory overload. Anyway, my comment was mostly about the unsolicited parenting advice I get, about all the ridiculous “see what a great mother I am” Mommy bloggers, etc that used to send me into an introspective tailspin.

  • Matt

    I wish I had known how rare free time would be later in life. I had scads of it then. And I don’t know that I necessarily wasted it, but I surely didn’t appreciate how amazing it was to not have to be anywhere or do anything at any given moment. I wish I had recognized and savored that freedom from responsibility.

    • Tim Urban

      YUP. I had many many days when I was younger with nothing to do, and that really never ever happens today. Back then I was depressed about all the free time, now I have this disease where I feel like non-productive time is wasted. Stupid human condition.

      • Jed

        This has got to be one of the biggest problems being someone working a self-employed life. When I first started my business I used to listen to sad music and mope around when my days and email inbox weren’t filled with people asking to trade money in exchange for chunks of my life.

  • Cara

    Life is too short to live by anyone’s values but your own. Worst are perceived societal values, which tower above us as So Important when we’re young, yet, as we grow, are revealed as meager artifices, flimsy and insubstantial. Don’t discount the advice of those you trust, but make sure it rings true for yourself. Live each day according to what you value and what you love.

  • Martin

    that the question WHY is way more powerful then what, how, who, where… etc.

  • LC

    At the age of 22, I spent a year with someone who was totally wrong for me, delighted in emotional blackmail and wasn’t satisfied unless he was dragging me down onto his level. I may look back on that particular relationship and shudder, but it taught me so much. I decided I wasn’t going to settle when it came to romantic interests, started respecting myself more as a consequence. This would have been really handy to know three years ago, but I suppose it’s another one of those things one can chalk up as a “life experience”.

    • Belle11

      Totally agree LC – I spent five years (18-23) with someone who was horrible for me – emotionally abusive, manipulative, and self-centered. I was almost 24 before I realized that I couldn’t commit my life to someone who brought me down so much. Especially because some of the reasons for staying were to not disappoint HIS family. A useful lesson for 22 yo me: put my own happiness and mental well-being over the desire to please others. I’ve chalked this one up to “life experience” as well.

      • LC

        Hooray for the two of us! I even managed to find someone who was not a psycho as a consequence. It’s a relief to know people like this actually exist.

  • Fay J.

    I wish I’d known that as you get older, life gets harder and not the opposite. I would of basked in my parent’s home a little longer.

  • Adam Wiegand

    I wish I’d known that while it is a simple stumble into a bad habit, it is a heroic climb out of one.

  • Jessica

    I wish I would have understood that “normal” is not the same for any two people. The more people I meet, the more I travel, and the more I allow my relationships to deepen, the more I appreciate how beautifully different we all are. At the same time, regardless of background we all have similar basic needs. This has expanded my empathy, compassion, feelings of equality, and my genuine interest in everyone I meet.

    • Pip

      Agreed. It’s precisely how different we all are that makes this human experience so rich and stimulating and full of wonder. If we were all the same–all “normal”–I imagine things would be painfully dull.

  • Louis A. Cook

    I wish I had known that working 7 days a week doesn’t necessarily prove anything or accomplish much and that taking time to reflect can lead to greater personal achievements even if it looks like you are just staring off like a lazy weirdo to your vocal workaholic first gen family.

    • Jules

      So true. If you don’t take time to reflect and know yourself and figure out what makes you happy, there’s no point in all the accomplishments…

  • RyderMama

    I wish I had known and taken seriously how important my health was. At 22, I had much more time, energy, and metabolism to take my health seriously! I wish all those times I thought about working out, eating healthier, or researching healthy lifestyle- I had gone ahead and done it then! I believe someone can take control of their health at any age, and at any point, no matter how far gone they feel, or how much of an uphill battle it is. But man alive- if you are 22, don’t take it for granted! Start good habits, keep them going, and for goodness sake… be active!

  • hannabanana

    I wish I had known how explosive journalism would become with the advent of the internet. I wanted to be a writer for an esteemed newspaper, I wanted to see my byline in print. But when I graduated from college, the newspaper industry was collapsing, and blogging was still something of an underground phenomenon. So I gave up on my pursuit of becoming an investigative journalist because there were too many unknown factors, and a girl has to eat. Knowing what I know now, I would made the hard choice to do what I love, rather than give up because the road ahead looks bleak.

  • Jonathan

    I have repeatedly yet belatedly learned I’m capable of putting more energy into projects than I believe I can and that the result will often be worthwhile. The trouble is, I learned BEFORE I was 22 that I can pretty accurately assess how much effort I need to put in to achieve a given result and then I put in EXACTLY that amount of effort. So, I worked out how much energy it took to get the grades I needed to go to university, then how much energy I needed to put in at university to gain a good enough degree, then how much I needed to pass my doctorate. So check, check, check with all of these. But when the next stage requires more effort, I pretty quickly discover that putting in the extra effort really isn’t that hard and that there was really nothing stopping me from doing that earlier. I could have done more than work out the structure of a highly-graded essay, and perhaps try to explore those subjects more widely or deeply. I wouldn’t have NEEDED to, but I could have, and there are now a whole bunch of things from school, university, guitar lessons, language tapes, cookery attempts etc where I wish I had grasped the chance to gain more from those experiences. I suppose that lesson is partly what your best teachers already knew, that the goal of learning isn’t the attainment of good grades and doctorates but rather the actual learning of stuff.

    That said, there is a lot to be said for the skill of doing precisely what’s required. I’ve seen students drop out of university because they burned out from over-delivering at something that was really peripheral to their course. So, so many 10000 word essays handed in when the assignment was for 3000 words. But maybe I’d have liked to have that skill and yet not feel compelled to exercise it at every opportunity.

  • wordconqueror

    Kind of related to Tim’s answer – I wish I had read Tim’s “Taming the mammoth” post when I was entering college. The biggest battles were in my head. I didn’t realize until recently that being your own person is far more important than obsessing over what other people think about you (and I’m still struggling with internalizing this). People *never* think about you as much as you think they do.

  • blondie757

    I really wish I had known myself better. Nearing 40, I’ve only just really figured out my personality in the last few years. I would have cut myself some more slack if I had known what it really means to be introverted. It would have improved my relationships with people all around. My kids are still young and I hope I will be able to help them figure this stuff out. My parents surely had no clue.

    I also wish I had known how awful grains and sugar are to consume. I am paying for years of cereal worship now.

  • Travis

    I wish I had known that it is most important to choose to be happy now. It is so easy to look to the things coming up in the future (marriage, career, children ect..) and think, “I’ll be happy then”. The fact is, when you reach those milestones that you have waited so long for, you are still the same person with the same habits and same mentality. Choose to live now!

    • Sky
      • Travis

        Yes! Tim managed to explain this phenomenon very well in that post.

    • Tim Urban

      I think we do that because we don’t want to accept that being just kind of happy, with some ups and downs, is all life is. Looking toward some far more blissful future is a kind of protest against life being the way it actually is. It’s saying, “Well this is not good enough so it must be later when the good stuff really starts.” But “today,” with its ups and downs and its maybe-contentment-but-probably-not-much-bliss, is in fact what 95% or more of actual life is.

      There’s no way to label that as “good” or “not good enough” because “good” is an endless spectrum no matter what life is—always a ton of better and a ton of worse, whether you’re a king or a peasant or a grasshopper—so it’s about being realistic about life and getting the expectations in check. Humans aren’t built to be in a permanent state of bliss, so expecting that is just setting your expectations way too high in the [happiness = reality – expectations] equation, dooming yourself to dissatisfaction and frustration—and this is what people react to by rushing to their imagined much-happier-future and hugging its leg.

      So it’s all about recalibrating expectations around the reality of what life actually is, and then today seems like a perfectly good thing. That’s the only way to be present, since rejecting today as not good enough kills your ability to live for the present moment.

      • Tanuj

        I think that this is a very logical extension to the initial post. I have heard the “Learn to live in the present” thing before. But, as like the last para says it: It is difficult to live in the present if you expect a better future.
        I think that this is a very practical advice. Try lowering your expectation for the future, and you start valuing and relishing the present. Okay, some evidence I could think of, in support:
        1. We see movies and stories about people who are going to die the next day or soon enough. Well, we often see them start enjoying and savoring every moment. Why? They know they have — no future. Zero expectation from future.
        2. I normally enjoy reading articles, news, etc. on the net. But during exams! Oh my God, these things become delicious. Every moment of free time is thoroughly enjoyed, even the stupid posts on facebook. Why? Probably because that in the immediate future, I’ll have to go back to that boring study. So, I enjoy the present more contrasting it with the bleak (though temporary) future, I know I’ll have.

      • Tanuj

        I think that this is a very logical extension to the initial post. I have heard the “Learn to live in the present” thing before. But, as like the last para says it: It is difficult to live in the present if you expect a better future.
        I think that this is a very practical advice. Try lowering your expectation for the future, and you start valuing and relishing the present. Okay, some evidence I could think of, in support:
        1. We see movies and stories about people who are going to die the next day or soon enough. Well, we often see them start enjoying and savoring every moment. Why? They know they have — no future. Zero expectation from future.
        2. I normally enjoy reading articles, news, etc. on the net. But during exams! Oh my God, these things become delicious. Every moment of free time is thoroughly enjoyed, even the stupid posts on facebook. Why? Probably because that in the immediate future, I’ll have to go back to that boring study. So, I enjoy the present more contrasting it with the bleak (though temporary) future, I know I’ll have.

      • WW

        I struggle with the nuances of being happy/content/appreciative. I feel like I go to sleep happy and thankful every day. (I’m actually in the age group you posted about) But I always want to be a little discontent with what I have today, because it helps push me forward. If I’m perfectly happy with where my job and level of achievement is today, it’s hard for me to push myself to do something a little extra tomorrow. I don’t apply this to relationships though, because I learned a long time ago that it’s not nice to drag another human being along with my crazy discontentment self-motivation.

      • marisheba

        Kills your ability to live for the present moment and, potentially, robs you of the opportunity to invest more fully in it, and to grow. It’s not just that looking towards the imaginary Awesome Future makes you miss the present, it also makes you miss how rich that present is, and prevents you from developing many nascent seeds.

      • alexarap

        The Chinese don’t have a word for happines from what I’m told, their word for it basically means ‘temporary bliss’ – reflecting the fact that most of the time we’re in a so-so/crappy state of affairs. It also means that constant bliss should not be a goal or an expectation (since it does not exist) – very wise stuff I think.

  • 1) Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean it will be easy for you to find a job. No matter what degree you have.
    2) Only hang out with people you enjoy spending time with and do things that you enjoy doing.
    3) Follow your gut instincts!

  • Ethan Carlson

    I wish I had known that all of the structures in life: school, university, work, politics, etc. were, in fact, at one time invented by a human or humans. We tend to think of things like grades as things that carry objective meaning, but in reality it’s just meaning that a bunch of people have agreed to ascribe to it. You may or may not be one of those people. Similarly, there are companies where the culture and incentive structure doesn’t jive with you, and THAT’S FINE. It doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad employee, it just makes you not part of that group of people.

    In college, and after college, I was a nervous person. I’d spent many years learning how to jump through hoops very effectively, and there was always a “next hoop” to jump through. Figuring this out, that structures are actually human creations, had a very relaxing and centering effect. Humans are messy, imperfect things. Sometimes you get along great with them and sometimes you don’t; it’s no reflection on you, other than that you have a personality. You already know how to deal with this situation. Learning to interact with organizations this way, as messy, imperfect things that may or may not work well with my worldview, allows a much more natural work-life ethos to emerge.

  • Kate

    I got married young (younger than 22) and wished that I knew that, for the most part, life is really long. When you’re 22 you feel like you know what life is, that you don’t have much time and you need to cram everything in. Or I did anyway. If you’re someone that says I Do and means forever, marriage is LONG. I probably have 50 more years of marriage if we both kick it around the ages our grandparents did. That’s a freakin’ looong time. I wished I had known that it probably would have been better if I never had gotten married, since I like being by myself and I hate compromising. Which is what marriage is all about.
    I wish I had traveled, figured out who exactly I was rather than listening to the unspoken expectations of what everyone thought I should be, saved money as soon as I started making it and didn’t buy so much junk. The amount of furniture and clothes I have bought and then gotten rid of is sickening.
    I wish I hadn’t followed society’s conventional idea of what life should be – the society that I grew up with – get married, have kids, buy shit, fill up your house, die.
    It sounds like I have huge regrets, but I don’t. I find joy in lots of things and try to make the best of the choices I have made in my life. Plus, it’s not over yet.

    • Lisa

      Interesting! I feel like this echoes Tim’s post about finding your life partner: our society says the worst thing you can do (especially as a woman) is turn 30 or–gasp!–40 without being married, when in reality, people meet their life partner at different times, and the worst case scenario, the one we should fear at all costs, is marrying not exactly the right person.


    • CapitolJenn84

      So true: “When you’re 22 you feel like you know what life is, that you don’t have much time and you need to cram everything in.”

      I’ve never thought about it that way before, but what a dangerous age 22 is! The danger of being a young know-it-all who has the power to make what they “know” a reality.

      Thanks for your post. And it’s not over! I hope you get to travel and learn more about yourself through those new experiences. 🙂

  • Lori

    I wish I had known how helpful antidepressants & mood stabilizers can be! =)

  • Alicia Hurst

    Diane Ackerman said, “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” I passed years in mundane ways, falsely pacified by procrastination and anxiety, waiting to reach a certain age where I thought my life would magically unfold into contentment and achievement. What a joke!

    David Foster Wallace said, “You’ll worry less about what people think about you when you realize how seldom they do.” Also add, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides,” because every person’s life is filled with their own special kind of shit; nowadays, I accept and am elated to deal with my own set of circumstances for the rest of my life, rather than spend it wishing I had someone else’s. Also, that other people’s interactions with you are more a reflection of who they are and what’s going on in their lives, rather than anything to do with you – again because of these two quotes.

    Also, what existentialism is. Also, what the Dunning-Kruger effect is.

    • Guest

      I LOVE those quotes – Both make a lot of sense to me and something I wish I had applied more in my life too.

    • Guest

      Great Quotes, I love them and wish I had them with me 22 years ago!

  • I wish I’d known it was okay to quit. I spent a miserable year studying abroad and didn’t realize I could just, well, leave. Persistence in misery is way overrated. Took me awhile to figure that out in my career, too.

  • Ruy Zavala

    I wish I’d realised before that life is better the more people you share it with. At that age one focuses too much on career and material goals that oftentimes forget to cultivate good friendships, family may come along but having a set of friends with whom you share your life’s accomplishments and disappointments will make the former more enjoyable and the latter easier to live with. Also I wish I’d realised then how valuable a good conversation is and how difficult it is later to find good conversation partners.

  • Scott

    I wish I knew that being realistic is boring and leads to a life of mediocrity and dissatisfaction. If I could go back in time and ignore all the people that told me that my dreams were to difficult or impossible there is no telling what I could have accomplished. Moral of the story being, shoot for the stars, don’t be afraid of failure, and if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

  • Becca

    I wish I had known that pretty much everyone, at least some of the time, feels like they are pretending to be adults and are massively winging it.

    • blondie757

      Oh yes, I remember putting my parents on a pedestal when I was a kid but realize now, they had absolutely no clue what they were doing either. They were even younger than me when they had kids – limited life experience too. Most of the time I still feel like I am 22 and wondering what the hell happened – I’m almost 40 now.

    • Amanda Lawson

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot since having my daughter (she’s 2). It’s weird to see her seriously think I have some kind of authority in this world.

    • marisheba

      THIS! And you can also take “adult” and substitute just about anything else there. It still blows my mind how much “winging it” is happening around us all the livelong day, while everyone goes about their business looking confident and calm.

      • Becca

        Yes exactly. I thought I was an idiot in the workplace because I didn’t have a clue what was going on but as I got older, I realised everyone is making it up as they go along!

    • CapitolJenn84

      Oh this is so true! I am still waiting for the day I wake up and feel like a full adult, instead of just a poser. 🙂

  • Michael

    Being smart is nowhere near as important a predictor of success as appearing smart.

  • Kimberly

    I wish I had learned much earlier in life to be true to myself and not give a shit what other people thought, or aspire to whatever was considered ‘cool’ by other people’s standards. I would have focused more on what was best for ME instead of trying to ‘assimilate’, had closer and more meaningful relationships, and found inner peace a little sooner in life. As I’ve watched my teenage son navigate thru Middle and High School, it occurred to me (again) what a cesspool of social crap and negativity that whole timeframe of life can be! Some people get past it and others carry the effects a little longer into life. It’s hard to let go of the pressures of our tender and impressionable youth sometimes – they become ingrained in our self-acceptance meters, and without a good support system within your family or friends to counter the negative self-talk of your youth, it simply sticks around and makes adulthood challenging. I would tell young me to “Live YOUR life – in the end no one gives a shit about you more than you”.

  • Rox

    I wish I had known the importance of internships/job experience while studying. It would’ve helped a lot with post graduate job opportunities. While any experience would’ve been great, I feel like an internship or living abroad would’ve been a really enriching experience.

    I also wish I had known that it was okay to fail and that it was possible to bounce back from failure, and that in fact, that failure might have been a good thing after all.

    Finally, I wish I had known that it’s important to not always stress about the future or mull over the past, and experience what you’re doing now.

  • Jonathan

    I wish I had known surfing the web for 4 hours a day for 15 years could be exchanged for world class talent in 2 things. I realized that I have spent 21 900 hours at the computer looking at Facebook, Twitter, Okcupid etc. I wish there was a warning label on the internet that reminded you you only have one life. I’ve recently started trading internet time for art time and in four weeks my art has improved so much. I’m starting to believe I can do it but it’s going to be a painful grind to make up for lost time.

  • Alex B

    5 years ago I was 13 years old and I think that most of the things about being responsible that I could tell my 13 year old self would probably make him too anxious to really retain it and use it, but he did have something coming the next year that could be helped with some advice.
    I would tell myself not to get into sex so early. 14 years wasn’t the right time and I wasn’t with the right person so my pool of sexual memories could be a little brighter and warmer on average if I could have a talk with my 13 year old self.

  • Raphael Laude

    Read lots of books.

  • Courtney Merrell

    I wish I’d known that I was worthy of love and belonging.

  • Alok Jagdhari

    I wish I had known that being happy was a choice. I wish that I had known that getting more things or money or anything will not make me happy till I chose to be happy

  • Dave Gude

    At 22, I wish I knew I could sing and play guitar in public while looking the audience in the eye, jumping up and down, expressing joy, that it would be infectious, that the tone of my voice would be pleasing, that I could put across a song as a performer with the best of them, and that this would become part my life and be normal. I was 22 years old 35 years ago. I only came to this realization about 2 or 3 years ago.

  • CapitolJenn84

    I wish I had known that at 22, I hadn’t met “my people” yet. I thought that my circle was It, the boy I was dating was It, the career I had planned for myself was It – and if I felt out of place, discontent, or….fidgety, it was simply because I was too weird–too much–and needed to rein myself in. If I could go back, I would tell my 22 year old self: “You haven’t found your people yet. You may think you this is it, but it’s not. Embrace yourself, be confident in yourself, and get the hell out of Oklahoma.”

    • Sofa32

      I wish Ihad met my people. I’m 32 🙁

      • CapitolJenn84

        There’s still time – there’s always still time. Without knowing you, and without wanting to sound patronizing, the best advice I know to give is to set aside any ‘fear of the unknown’ long enough so you can hear what your heart is telling you. Then follow that path.

    • Jed

      Love this! And love the “get the hell out of Oklahoma” part 🙂

      • CapitolJenn84

        Thanks! While there were (are) some good parts of Oklahoma, it was simply not my home. Luckily for me, I have a family who knew that just as well as I did, and encouraged me to fly far, far away from that “home in the heartland” nest. 😉

        • CapitolJenn84

          My mom would always tell me there was a “great big world” out there, and that I shouldn’t limit myself to only what I already knew.

      • Guest

        My mom, in fact, would tell me all the time that there was a “great big world” out there, and reminded me to never limit myself to only what I already knew.

  • Nana Y.

    I wish I had known that my little brother only had two more months to live before being killing in a car accident. We were close but not as close as we could have been if I had taken the time to talk to him more, get to know him better even when he was going through some difficult teenage years,

  • wibbles

    I wish I had known the importance of being myself. Now that I do, I’m not beating myself up over it. People develop at different rates, and as others have mentioned, we aren’t always open to ideas that would be helpful. We have to get there in our own time. One of the best books that I now recommend to anyone who is struggling is Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements”.

  • I wish I knew that time is more valuable than money.

    • DeeDee Massey

      And I’m coming to know that both are worthless if not used wisely.

  • Amaya R. Aldabe

    I would have liked to know a lot more basic skills: cooking, ironing, so forth. I can’t believe I never got taught those things while I did learn capital cities for countries that no longer existed. I wish I had learned to deal with finances, taxes, and all those things. I would have saved a lot of time and money, plus, I would have spared my self of some pretty anguishing moments.
    On another note, I wish I’d known I was more valuable than I thought. I kept putting myself down for not being adequate, “normal” or something. I wish I had known it’s quite nice to be who I am and that there is a bunch of people who actually would like me just as I am. I wish I knew there is such thing as unconditional love, and that I don’t have to please to be loved.
    Also, I wish I knew I wasn’t as bad looking as I thought I was.

  • George H

    I wish I knew (wait I did know – many people told me) that putting away just a little money away each month grows quite large over time. Luckily I listened sometimes but wish I would have been more consistent. Also, working hard isn’t enough to be noticed. You have to market yourself. Your bosses are just as busy as you are and don’t see everything.

  • Chemical-T

    I wish I had known that you can change your direction in life even if you just got a degree in a particular subject and are expected to go to grad school. You do not have to continue down a path because that’s what’s expected. Consequently, this was how I ended up in my first marriage. 🙂

  • Makeuswait

    In my early 20s I put so much time and effort into people who made little time for me. My time is a precious gift – I now invest it wisely and only with people who give me the same in return.

  • Nicole H.

    I wish I would have understood the importance of saving and budgeting. I am just now getting to a financially stable point in my life and I could have gotten there a lot sooner if I would have focused a little more and spent a lot less. Live and Learn.

    I also wish I would have had a better understanding that just because I have the qualifications or degree doesn’t mean I’m automatically qualified for something. I work hard in what I do, but to have a better understanding of what comes with years experience and how that can impact your career would have given me a a few more happier years early on in my career. Luckily, I am there now and can appreciate even more of what I have invested into my life and career.

  • E

    If you dump him, you’ll both be okay.

  • Shreyas Sarasan

    I was surprised when you mentioned the animal side and the higher being, because that is exactly what I have been grappling with for the past two years of my life. Except that in my case, I call them Dionysus and Apollo. I grappled with this futile struggle for a while, but then came to the realization that the real answer is dynamism. To be successful(And I mean this in the broadest philosophical sense, really.), one must know when to work and when to chill the fuck out. Exactly like you, realizing this goal; instead of being at the top of my to-do list, is on the top of my keep doing list.
    Zen helps. A lot. Also, The Bhagwad Gita (Incredible WBW weekly article material,btw. Do give it a look.) also.
    There is a quote by Buddha that is a recursive function on its own, but is incredibly insightful. Should be the guiding light every time a procrastinator finds himself in the Dark Playground.
    “I am what I am becoming.”
    I wish I understood this to some degree five years back.
    P.S- Love the Dinner Table.
    P.P.S- Another thing I would have loved to know- High School social standing doesn’t count for shit. I made so many convoluted plans to get to the top of the ladder(near it, actually. Being at the top–> Not for a nerd like me. ), and succeeded to some extent. I wish I had learned something useful, like Mandarin, instead.

    • Trevor

      Does that quote mean you’ll become whatever it is that you spend your time doing?

  • Cameron Wilgosh

    Definitely a tough question but I’d have to say.. Sriracha sauce.

    • Mark Williams

      Completely agree. Sauce is the key.

  • Phil Orme

    I wish i hadn’t been a total mammoth, it took my 10 yrs till i was 32 and the birth of my son to come out my shell

    • Deidre

      What about having kids helped you with this?

      • Phil Orme

        Well mostly i figured you can’t be shy taking a small child out in public

  • CAN in KC

    I wish I had known that love doesn’t conquer all. No matter how hard one tries. It can conquer a lot … but probably not meth.

    I wish I had known just how beautiful we are at 22. Our face and body at that age is what people will strive for, often for the rest of their lives. And that pimple that looks like Mount Vesuvius to you, is completely obscured by the radiance of your youth to everyone else.

    I wish I had known that our education is not really a race to the finish line. That you should feel free to explore other interests. And that, gasp, you’re not a failure at something just because you found out that you don’t actually like it.

  • Amaya R. Aldabe

    I wish I had know to keep my email inbox as empty as possible.

    • Cory

      haha amen.

  • Wim K

    Well I’m only 19 at the moment, so I guess I’m working with awkward 14-year-old me. The first thing I wish I had known was how much harder it is to lose weight with each passing year. 14-year-old me would’ve had no trouble dropping 3 kilos in a week, current me has trouble climbing a staircase – and I’m freaking 19. What is this shit gonna be like when I’m 40?

    I also wish I’d known that when you move off to university, and you’re surrounded by entirely new people, it pays to have practiced your social skills a little. A wasn’t exactly the prom king in high school, and as such I had pretty much the same friends since grade 1. But then when we all went off to different universities and I found myself alone again, it felt exactly like high school all over – surrounded by arbitrarily “cool” kids I didn’t have the courage to approach. I wish that during my formative school years I’d developed a little confidence so that making friends in varsity wouldn’t have been such a hassle. I still am always self-conscious when approaching people, and talking to girls is unbelievable daunting. I feel like this is something 14-year-old me has to answer for, for being such an introvert during the one period in life when embarrassing yourself in front of strangers is really no big deal.

    On a side note, Tim, I only discovered this site about a week ago, and have since read every post about 5 times (I’ve got a frequent visitor card to the Dark Playground). I think your writing style and personality is awesome, and it’s really cool that you’ve given us readers the chance to partake in this whole concept. Thanks for this!

  • RosieShine

    I wish I’d known how many other 22 year olds felt weird and lost and friendless, too. So many people my age seemed to have their shit in much better order than I did, but I came to find out years later that they were all just as disoriented by the post-college world as I was.

    I also wish I’d known what a truly unhealthy work environment looked like. I stayed in one for far too long, simply because I didn’t know any better. That said, there was a lot of good to be gleaned from that experience, so I’m not sure I would change too much…maybe I would just tell my past self to start looking for a new job a couple of years earlier than I did on this current timeline.

    • Chris

      Out of curiosity, what do you think comprises an unhealthy work environment?

      • RosieShine

        The short story: mood disorders that spill into work; general inconsistency; and a lack of understanding of/respect for basic management principles.

        The long story…

        The most obvious unhealthy traits had to do with a volatile
        manager whose unpredictable mood swings contributed to a completely inconsistent and unstable work environment. This became a real issue in my last couple years at that job; not sure if this manager went off her medication, or what. (I’m not being snarky at all, I truly think that may be what happened). My coworkers and I would check in with each other each morning to ask if anyone had seen her yet today, and what type of mood she was in; her mood would dictate how productive or not the day was for the rest of us. She was verbally abusive (or at the very least, WAY inappropriate and unprofessional) with several different team members, all the way from her deputy director to her executive assistant. A couple of people filed complaints with HR, but the HR department was pretty incompetent, and said there was nothing they could do. I could go on and on, this is just scratching the surface.

        As for the more insidious parts…the minimal policies or standards
        that we had for things like office hours were applied to different people, at different times. It sounds trivial, but it’s a major drain to morale when some people are permitted to saunter in at 10:00 am or later, and others are scolded for arriving later than 8:00 am. There was also a very poor work/life balance — this job involved regular international travel, and we were required to be back at work for a full day on the next business day. No big deal if you got home on a Friday or Saturday, but outside of that, being
        required to combat severe jet lag and fatigue in order to drive to work and sit at your desk like a zombie for eight hours felt really absurd.

  • Bryan

    At 22 I wish I had known I would someday get interested in my family’s geneology. By the time I took up this hobby and began researching, many of my resources were gone. It would have been great to have asked so many questions of these family members while they were around when I was 22. (Especially with regards to the old family photos that have no names.)

    • Naya

      I guess all you can do it try and relay the importance of this to the next generation in your family, so they don’t make the same mistake…

  • Amaya R. Aldabe

    I have something I wish I’d known at 13.
    I wish I had known I would struggle with smoking for 22 years.

    • Whit

      Did you quit?

      • Amaya R. Aldabe

        Trying to! It’s kind of hellish…. i appreciate every advice (I’m in the vicinity of collecting them, even have a mind map of stuff I’ve read)

        • Whit

          Do something else every time you want a cigarette! Eat a piece of gum or chocolate, pick up a book, instrument. Put on the TV, go for a run. Write a check to your least favorite organization, give it to a trusted friend, and tell them to mail it if you smoke a cigarette!

  • Drew Chadwick

    I wish I’d known what a woman can do to your soul. Seriously. There’s an unwritten set of rules that condones and excuses the sometimes irrational behaviour of women, and I would have liked to have known that 30 years ago. This is often portrayed in movies and sitcoms, and it’s all a big laugh – until you find yourself living it…. This doesn’t mean I think that all women are like this, but when they are, society makes it acceptable. I know this will polarise people, but give it some consideration before you respond. Thanks for reading

    • Michael

      I think both genders engage in their fair share of irrational behavior, but differently. You see women’s behavior as irrational because it’s different from your own, but you’re probably blind to the ways in which men appear irrational. Just my $.02 as a guy who’s had his heart broken by women a few times and is trying to take some responsibility for my own behavior. I also don’t think society gives women a free pass on being irrational – if anything, people try to inject “women are controlled by emotion” as a criticism for women who are really just acting like normal people, or god forbid trying to gain some power in a male-dominated society (see: Hilary Clinton). If anything, men who are actually prevented from making rational decisions based on their own insecurities are excused or even celebrated (see: any male athlete/celebrity/musician who does something stupid)

      • Drew Chadwick

        Thank you for your reply. I don’t see women’s behaviour as irrational. I see irrational behaviour as irrational, and my comment was how society sees this as ok. You’ve even alluded to that point in your post as women “trying to gain some power in a male-dominated society”. Heartbroken you may be, but I suspect you’ve never lived with one of those TV caricatures. It appears that you see “women are controlled by emotion” as a good thing. Consider if a man allowed his emotions to control him. Would the outcome be acceptable? I suggest to you in the many occasions this has happened that it is not.

    • Terry

      It’s less what a woman can do to your soul and more what a relationship can do to it. It’s not about gender as much as how crazy love can make people feel–man or woman.

      • Drew Chadwick

        I certainly hear you Terry and respect your pc input. There will be many people out there that do not know “what I wish I knew when I was 22. ” the idea of love making you crazy has been over-romanticized so that we have to accept it. Love doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you happy. It makes you want to be more than you ever could be for that person. But the point of my post is that it makes you accept crazy. (Your word not mine) and society supports that. You’ve tried to remove the gender aspect. That’s noble, but consider this: a man allowing himself to be controlled by his emotions will end up in jail; a woman doing the same thing is “trying to regain power in a man’s world”. These men should feel the weight of the law. They need to take responsibility for their actions, but my belief is so do women

  • Karen Edgerton

    I wish I’d known the bullies in my childhood could not hurt me anymore. I would have stood up for what I believed, what I needed and wanted, instead of giving myself away to make others happy and therefore ‘safe’ to be around.

  • BlahBlahJinx

    Finding love is not like finding friends. The latter, just seems to happen to you. Its almost magical! The right people ‘find’ you and say ‘hi there! Lets hang out and be friends…oh and could you help me with my homework and that coffee I can’t pay for right now?’. The former you need to make a conscious effort at, which is not altogether a pleasant experience for an introvert!
    It’s beyond heartbreaking that only one of the two seem to reside in the comfortable arena of fairy-tale land (everything works itself out). I still refuse to accept this at 26, but I would have been glad to start thinking about this at 22.

    • CTB24

      Maybe the only reason finding love seems so much less natural and easy and fluid than finding friends is because we place so much pressure on the former and we’re so neurotic about it. Maybe if we just relaxed and stopped thinking so hard and wanting it so badly, it’d come to us smoothly and easily the way making friends does. Thoughts?

      • BlahBlahJinx

        Maybe if we didn’t have a bajillion Disney movies on the subject!
        I think you are correct in part …we seem to place such a large expectation on the outcome of one (aka neuroticism) that it drives us to distraction. But I’m not entirely sure if I would go so far as to say that it would come as naturally as making friends. Friendship often has very few responsibilities and/or strings attached eg. you don’t have to live with your friends, you don’t have to make financial decisions in tandem, you don’t have to accommodate their jobs for your own career, neither their vacation schedule….the mundane stuff that tends to really matter somehow.

        So perhaps we do have to let up in terms of our obsession with finding love. It would make life more pleasant, but I’m not sure if it would solve the problem.
        What do you think?

  • 5 years ago (at 19) I wish I had known (or at least understood) that telling the truth and dealing with the consequences is better than hiding what I did just to avoid embarrassment or shame.

  • beeceebeach

    I wish that I had known that fear, panic, avoidance of shame and comparing myself with others are not the best ways to motivate myself to accomplish things. It can work in the short term, but also holds me back because it limits what is possible. Only beginning to deal with that now, at a rather advanced age. And it makes me sad to see some amazing, brilliant college age students still following these methods to “get ahead.”

    • Hayden

      So what would you say you’ve learned are better driving forces then…?

  • Abi Symons

    I wish I had known that the best way to be happy is to stop fighting the parts of me that are unconventional. I don’t fit in to the “get up early, go to the office, work the job for money, come home, see a couple of friends, go to bed, repeat” mode of existence. In fact, having tried it really hard repeatedly, I realised I never last more than a few months without feeling sad and like I’m sinking into an abyss that looks a lot like a box office with no windows. It makes me so miserable. But I wish I’d known then that there were other options and that it’s ok to function best between the hours of 10 am and 2am, rather than between 7am and 11pm. It’s ok to need to be creative and do different things with my days and not stick to the same routine 5 / 7 days per week. It’s ok to not be motivated by money. Sure, it sets me apart from a significant part of the world and yes, I know I need money to survive and live but it’s not the thing that motivates me. That probably means I won’t be financially rich ever. But I’m OK with that because I’m doing what makes me happy. I found something steady to do in child care during the day that doesn’t make me cry and still brings me in regular money and is part time and rewarding and still gives me time to write the rest of the time and work on the plays and novel and blog posts and stand up comedy and scripts. In other words, to still be self-reliant, but follow the dream until I’m making enough money from it that it becomes my reality. I wish at 22 that I hadn’t fought so hard to make that part of me shut up, when actually what I know now is, that is how I’m happiest. And being happy motivates me far more than money ever will.

    • Zoa

      I’m almost 23, stuck in 2nd year of electrical engineering, and still fighting with the conventional parts of me that say “finish your education, your future will be bright, it doesn’t matter if you don’t like electrical engineering, you will be happy in the future, after you graduate you find what you love, blah blah, keep studying hard for no reason and without real motivation; look at your friends, many of them study what they don’t like. So it’s okay to work hard for something something in the future. But if you drop out, your life will be miserable and you will do even worse jobs.” Now trying to figure out what to do with my life. I feel that the other part of me is more intrinsic (maybe not the right word, english is not my native language 🙂 ) and that other part wants me to quit in order to find my true meaning and passion… I’m feeling pretty confused and feel paralyzed and scared of future, but trying to find the right answer.

      • Danny

        Well I think part of figuring it out is trying to know if there’s something else that’s calling to you, and if so what is it?

        • Zoa

          Yes, I know there is something that’s calling to me, but to be honest, for the last three years I was trying to suppress all of my real wishes just so I could focus on studying what I figured out is not for me, so it’s kind of a new feeling for me to think clearly about my hopes and dreams, if you understand what I’m trying to say… just hope this confusion will soon go away, so I can focus and find my real goal.

    • Lee

      How many years did it take you to figure that out? I’m 27, and I know they conventional way of living doesn’t make me happy, but I’m not sure I’ve figured out yet what does, and I don’t know quite how to figure it out….

      • Abi

        I’m 26 and figuring out that the conventional life isn’t for you is step 1. Figuring out what does work for you is step 2 and is kind of a different question. I feel like I’m really only just getting into what works for me. 9 months ago I was still in an office job and so very unhappy. I guess what I can tell you is that you need to listen to yourself and don’t be tricked into thinking that going the conventional route is somehow harder or more respectable. Branching out on your own is brave and difficult. Do you know what you love doing? If you do, find a way to do that – maybe you need to retrain or earn money to support the thing you love doing until you can switch over to it full time. Childcare is not my favourite thing in the world but it’s enjoyable enough and rewarding enough and pays well and I still have enough energy at the end of the day left to write. That’s what I have to do and can do successfully. I can’t sit in an office all day because I find it so draining and miserable. Try a bunch of different things and see what works for you. I hope you find whatever it is though! Because it sounds obvious, but life is so much better when you’re living it in a way that makes you happy, even if it doesn’t meet the expectations of your parents or more conventional friends. x

    • Rebecca

      So true about people having different internal clocks. I have spent my whole life beating my head against a brick wall trying to force myself to get up at 6:00. No matter how good I am at my job or how late I stay, it doesn’t seem to count because I can’t get there by 8:00 in the morning like “normal” people. And then I lay awake all night trying to force myself to sleep when I want to go run around like a crazy person because I have so much energy. I think this is the next big frontier of workplace discrimination to overcome…

  • theViolinist

    I’m 22, soon to be 23. I wish I could have known that what I was trying to study – jazz violin – would come together much more clearly in 5 years. This would have been very reassuring and I might have been less discouraged at times, and maybe even practiced more. I wish I would have known that vast majority of people in high school (and perhaps college) I’d never see again. I would have experimented and tried way more things out than I did. I also wish I knew what I was getting into when taking out an absurd amount in loans to study my passion, music. It’s hard to grasp even now after I have graduated.

    • Ferris

      Taking out those loans is worth pursuing your passion for! Keep it up, you won’t regret it 🙂

  • Jason

    I’m 28, so there’s a good chance 34 Year Old Me may very well berate 28 Year Old Me for giving 22 Year Old Me the following immature, naive advice:

    Practice discretion when taking advice. While advice is (almost) always given with good intentions, it can still come from bad sources. Some 50 year olds are idiots; they’re hardened by the ages, they’ve experienced the highs and lows, they “have seen some stuff,” but they can still be idiots.

    Not everyone (almost no one) has the right answer for you. However, there’s a little part of you deep down that usually knows the right answer and can sense right from wrong. Have confidence in that part of you; find people that also have that little part in them, and seek their advice. Screw everyone else.

    And if this doesn’t sound right to you, don’t listen to me!

  • Rita M

    I wish I had known at 22 that, while I could control what I did (my actions and reactions), I had very little control over anything else around me in life. Life just happens in most ways to us. We can control some of it, but we’re all subject to the circumstances (random and otherwise) and chaos of the world in which we live. Knowing this would have allowed me to roll with the punches and not get so defeated by the “bad times”. It also would have eased my control and perfectionism urges. (And by perfectionism, I mean that everything has to be “just so” in various aspects of my life, not just that I strive for excellence.) Also (please pardon the train of thought here), I wish I’d known that sometimes “good enough for now” is all that is needed. Our best is whatever we are capable of doing at any given time, and that’s OK that it’s not what it would be at another time… we’re not perfect, so why should everything we do be? It’s a great way to drive yourself crazy.

  • Jill R

    I wish I would have known as hard as it is to let things go that are out of my control, it is actually easier and healthier than trying to control the uncontrollable.

    • Lucy

      Amen. Trying to control the uncontrollable will take years off your life…

  • Work on becoming myself. That I mattered and being in a relationship with another person would be fruitless until I learned to love myself. Trite but true.

    • Selena

      This is huge–never too late to learn how important and integral self love is if you ever want to be loved by someone else…

  • Life is good

    Wish I had known that it’s important to have fun. Never considered it important till i reached 60. Nose to the grindstone all those years, now I face retirement and am unsure how to have fun. I wish I had known that it’s ok to take a job that pays less, as long as it feeds my soul, makes me smile. Wish I had looked outside of the box….There are some awesome jobs out there! WBW’S travel series was awesome. Wish i had travelled more. Wish I knew that life doesn’t have to be a struggle. The good thing is that now I accept that nothing was wasted. My history made me the awesome person I am today. I seek humor now..that led me here…Life is good!!!

    • clg335

      You’re retired now though, so you should travel and have fun!!

      • Life is good

        Thanks….but not retired yet. Although I can retire now, I need to settle a few bills, and.If I work 3 more years I’ll have more money to travel. Another thing I wish I knew when I was 22 is that it’s wise to start saving early for retirement.

  • Hanna

    I wish that I knew that life wasnt about FINDING myself. Finding myself through others, through reading books or watch inspiering tv shows.

    I wish I knew that it was actully about me CREATING myself that would matter. Do everything that makes me feel like a better person, what makes me and other people happy. I wish I knew that meeting people from all over the world would be the key to find out what is important in life!

    • Tam

      So, you’re biggest advice would be to travel and meet people then?

  • Dan G

    I wish I had realized sooner that suffering is central to a well-lived life. The people living the most contented lives are those who, by choice, suffer the most (I’m referring less to people who have suffering foisted upon them – though they are often happier than the world’s most comforted). The most contended face their problems head on, suffer through solving them, and are at peace on the other end. The challenge is accepting the suffering rather than avoiding it – which everyone does to some degree (this is called a neurosis). I think the notion of facing problems and suffering through them is captured well in many of the WBW philosophical posts.

  • Lisa B.

    I wish that I would have saved more and used my credit cards less. Mainly because I didn’t really need everything that I wanted. And, also because, later on, there’s gonna be babies, and layoffs, and sick parents to take care of, and life and I needed to be better prepared, monetarily. (Plus, I’m still paying for it 21 years later!)

  • chrisplumb

    This won’t be too popular in such an intellectual community, but I honestly wish I didn’t go to college. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t learn how to critically think, write better, or learn how to research topics efficiently…but the knowledge I gained has mostly been forgotten, and my degrees haven’t hung on the walls in some time. Nearly everybody has a degree now, big deal. The $550 a month I’ve been paying for 8 years (and for another 6 or so more) are crippling, and I finally gave up on my career field (teaching).

    This is not a woe is me piece, rather, I wish I had gone after my dreams when I was young. I wish my band would’ve given it a real shot. I wish I had started the novel I’m still working on 13 years ago…I wish I hadn’t gone to college because that’s what smart people do. Regardless, I wouldn’t take it back. I’m mostly happy and content with my life, just annoyed at my financial status because of loans that won’t go away.

    • Eric W.

      Going to college in and of itself doesn’t make one “intellectual.” Honestly, depending on how you measure it, the value of the education (which is measured in all manner of subjective ways) is diminishing.

      I went, had an amazing four years that I wouldn’t trade in for anything, and I’ve found myself in a “good” job, but am saddled with debt, same as you. Who knows what would have been different

    • MuGo Gonzalez

      Well, I do not regret to have a degree but I’m really repelled by how this in the eyes of many people makes my superior to my environment. I’m working for a big German corporation and although anyone who made an apprenticeship at the company* is far more qualified for the job, I’ve got higher earnings and am allowed to mingle into procedures just because I can. We’d have all the knowledge and also the manpower to get the work done if someone really dug into it and overworked our procedures based on lifelong experiences of the minor workers but instead a bunch of PhD** fantasizes about strategies which are presented to the workers after they’re already developed for the first time. Some of these strategies aren’t even bad, though, but instead of constantly working on them, any problems are denied, which leads to workers try to outtrick standard procedures with flaws, while everyone in charge brags about how good the strategy works although no one actually uses it the way intended. And the even worst: No one seems to be worried about it. As long as I’ve got my degree I can do crazy shit and burn money, no matter what’s on stake because I studied but you, servant, just accumulated valuable knowledge that actually helps to gain money so do as told. It’s crazy and depressing at the same time…

      * we have a somewhat different education system in Germany – if your career doesn’t require you to study, e.g. because it is craftmanship, manual labor or office work, you will learn your skills for three years as some kind of trainee at a company

      ** we’re in Germany, you know – a PhD is your everlasting proof of excellence, no matter if any capable grad student is able to identify your work as theoretical shit that doesn’t work in real life conditions

  • claire

    I wish I had known all the dark secrets of the bird world.

  • Erin

    I’m 23, so I’m looking at you 17-to-22-year-old-Erin…

    I wish I would have known the value of saving money, and that buying fast food is incredibly wasteful. It wasn’t until my senior year of undergrad that I (sort of) grasped this concept. I worked about 30 hours a week throughout college, and was always coming up short for cash. When my awesome finance-y boyfriend heard me crying for the thousandth time about not having enough money to do something I wanted, or just having a low amount in the bank in general, he drove over to my place, sat down at my computer and made a pie chart of my spending habits. What he showed me was shocking. The size of the pie slice that went towards purchases of fast food was bigger than I will ever admit, and I finally saw where the heck I was spending my cash. All of my hard earned cash I was blowing on McNuggets and fries. I now know that if I forgo eating fast food and eat a cheaper home cooked meal, I have SO much more money to spend on other things.

    Three lessons:
    1. Track your spending.
    2. Don’t buy something while you’re just “out and about”. You’re spending money that you weren’t intending to spend in the first place.
    3. Have someone take a look at your finances with you every once in a while. There may be a bad spending pattern that you may not realize that someone else can point out.

    • Pat

      But isn’t fast food super cheap…?

  • PalB

    I wish someone had told me that you can achieve anything that you want to with hard work and some ingenuity. That you don’t have to bust your butt in a series of meaningless jobs and living constantly in the fear of getting laid off or let go. That the most amazing things like a hug, a kiss, curling on the couch over a weekend with a book and tea, enjoying music being played at the subway station and going to see a performance with a loved one are free! That the one who loves you for who you are will come in your life when you are least expecting it and together you will do amazing things and have memorable experiences. That gratitude practiced on a daily basis should come as easy as breathing. That first try to give what you want to receive in life. And last but not the least we must make time to find time to relax, breathe deeply and say ‘OM’ everyday!

  • Kira

    I wish I had known that the love of my life was in need of help in St. Louis, MO. I would have intervened, and both our lives would be so different today.

    • Marti

      What happened??

      • Kira

        He was falsely accused of a crime, and had no resources to find good legal help. He knew he was innocent, and figured that the authorities and court system would eventually sort it out. That did not happen. He’s still in prison, 24 years later.

  • carche69

    I wish I had known then that it really DOESN’T matter what other people think. The day I stopped caring/worrying about what other people thought about me was the single greatest day of my life. Things have only gotten better since then.

    • Tori

      How do you stop caring what other people think though? It’s so hard sometimes!

  • I wish I had known to keep the term “quality over quantity” in mind when it came to friendships and personal relationships. In my mid-twenties, I finally purged a few bad-bad-bad apples and good-bad-bad apples from my life and learned to recognize relationships with solid, healthy cores, and nurture those. I think that doing this freed me of too often feeling like a complaint/negativity dumpster, and freed up some time and headspace to focus more on art and personal growth. I’m technically still in my mid-twenties, and curating my personal relationships is an ongoing project which I believe is a crucial element in prioritizing time. But I do think that the more one surrounds oneself with positive, happy people, the happier and more positive one feels on a regular basis, which leads to all sorts of good stuff.

  • robyn

    I wish I’d known how important it is to try to make life fun, no matter what else you’re doing. I was always good at “succeeding” in conventional ways and being disciplined and focused and all that, but I hardly ever had a lot of fun even when doing things I really enjoyed. I still don’t, at least not as much as I’d like. Life is better when you can lighten up and keep it fun. Anyone have thoughts about good ways to do that?

    • Flynn

      Get in the car and go on a road trip! Be open and full of wonder. Talk to all sorts of people. Hold off on judging anyone or anything. Explore!!

      • robyn

        Great ideas, Flynn! I think spontaneity is huge.

  • MuGo Gonzalez

    Should have known that I’m not a leader – yes, it sounds cool to be the one on top but it is a nightmare for me to motivate people or develop visions. I’m good at making the vision work in real life but I’m not even close to Steve Jobs or whoever else may inspire people.

  • At 22, I wish I’d been able to strike a better balance between my headstrong ego and my total lack of confidence. Not knowing the right thing to say in an interview and getting rejected for it always tipped me onto a roller coaster ride between “they didn’t recognize my brilliance” and “holy shit I’m not qualified for anything.” If I knew how to better interpret where I stood and level set, I might have learned from those setbacks and used them as an impetus to focus on “ongoing hard work” (@DavidGOLD:disqus), instead of hoping that my ‘natural brilliance’ would be immediately recognized by all. At 25, I’m still struggling with that. Hard work, it seems, doesn’t come naturally to me.

  • Heather

    As a 24 year old now, I wish I had learnt how to be less Naive with people at an earlier stage, and realised I cannot always count on others to respect my feelings – even if I respect theirs. That being a good person doesn’t guarantee that others will be good people too. That you only have control over yourself and how you choose to be as a person, and for the others, you can only choose to accept them, or walk away.

    • Esther

      Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try to be a good person though, right?

  • James Marple

    I wish that I had known that believing in the strict factual inerrancy of The Bible was mistaken, even though, at the time it seemed to make more sense of the world. It took me until I was 28 to belatedly figure that out.

    • Raia

      Have things improved as a result of letting that belief go?

  • Jason Rohan

    I wish I’d known that maturity comes in three stages: first, physical; then, mental; finally, emotional. I’d have known to ease off and not beat myself up so much – since I was still a kid and going to make mistakes until my mid to late 20’s. Of course, maturity comes at different times to different people but to me it wasn’t at 22.

    • Sienna

      So you stopped making mistakes in your mid to late 20’s…? What’s your secret?

  • Unqlefungus

    I wish I had understood clinical depression. I thought I was lazy, unambitious and generally a dud. I was actually pretty cool; I just felt awful. A lot of the other stuff you’re all saying is true, but my 22-year-old self was in no condition to hear it.

  • Carolyn G

    I wish I had known that people would probably like the person I actually was better than the person I thought I should try to pretend to be. And that, by being myself, I would probably end up knowing more people that I genuinely liked being around. Oh – and that smoking is a really STUPID habit.

  • alliownismustard

    I think the biggest thing for me, I wish I had known that hormonal birth control wasn’t for me. Which is a weird thing to say, but from 17 to 25 I was walking around in an emotional haze that made me feel unstable and insecure. I thought I was just being responsible, but as soon as I stopped it was like I was this whole new confident and awesome person. I damaged a lot of relationships and it took a while to get over the insecurities that had been ingrained. I wish I could tell little me that all those thoughts and emotions and projections were in my head, and hormone fueled fabrications.

  • I would tell my 22 year old self not to put my life on hold just because I was already a mother. Also, that failing at things didn’t make me a failure.

  • JStreet

    I’ll play. When do we start? Now? Ok. If I was 22 again (long time ago), I realise that the few songs I was writing were pretty good. In fact I still do some of them at shows. Then I’d have more confidence, ask for better gigs, and get a manager. Now I can write some songs that are even better, due to my many and varied experiences, but I’m not in very good repair, and am a little old to really work. Having said that, I think the very inefficiency of my approach over the years has allowed me to be the most honest, and given me the fuel for better writing. My thought is, whatever you’re doing – might as well believe in it. It’s you.

  • DrP

    I wish I’d believed that honesty is the best policy. I used to lie about small things and felt happier since reading a book called radical honesty and deciding to never tell a lie. Even in Sales jobs, dealing with friends, family, women, and various other jobs honesty really saves hassle in the long run. Literally haven’t told even a little lie since and it feels great as I never need to think “wait.. what did I say the last time I was asked this question”. I can genuinely say “I wouldn’t have said that because its not true”

    I believe honesty means you are less likely to end up in situations asking yourself ‘how the hell did I get here’. Also there are a lot of lies that lots of people are unknowingly complicit in so those ones are trickier to avoid.

  • There is only one fundamental rule of “business success” (which maps onto life success in many ways). And it’s not cash flow!

    The phrase that rings true time and time and time and time again is: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Yet as a society we’re trained to think of skills and tools that we as individuals wield. We strive for high marks, we strive to collect mind skills and we strive to collect trade skills… but unless you are literally the best in the world at something (you’re probably not :() it is your relationships and acquaintances that will carry your career, fuel your adventures and help you realize your dreams.

    • Page

      Yeah, but as someone who has always put a ton of emphasis on interpersonal relationships and connection, I’ve woken up at 26 and realized that I don’t actually know what my personal skills or hobbies or passions are because I’ve always taken on those of the people close to me. This is something to be wary of also. How do you find the balance between maintaining strong relationships but not losing yourself in the process?

      • Ah, well, I’d advise that the key is not in strong personal relationships at all (they are important but I prefer to keep them rare and keep them high quality). There’s a whole body of research on the power of loose connections (aka acquaintances) and how they are the ones that truly offer the most opportunity on balance. Google “The Strength of Weak Ties” and/or watch this guy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Bm93gN1zJg

  • Agis Petikidis

    I’m 22.6 years old now. What I wish I had known when I was 17.6 is that I’m not as smart as I thought I was. I was blind to the fact that I was surrounded by mediocre people (high school) and I believed I was someone truly special destined to become something important to the world. I didn’t know how many smart, talented and curious people like me where on the world. I didn’t know that despite being “talented” and “smarter” than the average, hard work would be required of me in order to just not be worthless. I wish I was a little more humble and a little less ignorant and obnoxious.

    I also wish that I knew that I was into a toxic relationship waisting my precious time getting into stupid fights and having to endure someone I didn’t actually like.

    But most importantly, I wish that I knew that a mustache isn’t something that should be on my face.

  • Emily

    I wish I had truly internalised that failure is not only acceptable but often useful: often an important part of the process of succeeding. It results in learning – and understanding this results in fearlessness in taking risks, and, in turn, innovation.

    Really this is another nod to the point below regarding parents shielding their children from discomfort. Mine fell over themselves to dress each of my small failures up as a success (or at least as a failure that wasn’t my fault) in the name of building my self-esteem. I think if I had just got the unpleasantness of my first real, embarrassing, hideous fail out the way early I would have quickly realised that life goes on and would not have spent so long feeling deathly afraid of the whole concept.

    Not just my parents fault though – it took me a long time to grow out of the laziness of accepting ‘fine’ instead of going for ‘great’ at the risk of an accidental ‘terrible’, and at 22 I really did lack the determination and strength of character that I’ve since begun to develop.

  • mshalfcentury

    It’s never personal. That job you didn’t get, the guy who cut you off in traffic, the guys you dated (or lived with) that didn’t work out – everyone else involved was on their own path – going their own direction – it just didn’t happen to be yours. Let it go. Oh, and don’t take yourself too seriously. And don’t waste time worrying – no matter what happens, you’ll be able to handle it.

  • Pascalle van Straten

    I wish i had known to relax and have fun, see and experience the world and stop to think what i really like, what makes my heart jump with joy instead of following a path of rules i set for myself that led me to being a ‘ responsible adult with a house and a job’ as quickly as possible.I wish i had known that my happiness does not come from reaching standards i set for myself, that i just kept raising every year. I wish i had known that fear of rejection, fear of being accepted, fear of failing, fear of being thought of as stupid or not adept enough do not go away with age but actually get more stubborn. I wish i had known that doing what i thought i should like because i thought thats what you are supposed to like actually brings a lot of nast things later on. I wish i had taken the time to stop and pause.

    Oh and i wish i had known that the married man that was about to cross my path was a terribly stupid way of acting out.
    And i wish i had studied science so i could speak math and actually make some real kick ass scientific theories.

  • Kieran Sproston

    Five years ago, I was thirteen. I wish I’d have known that social trivialities are largely insignificant to your general wellbeing and happiness. It’s something I now try to help my friends realise when they’re worried or self conscious of what others think. I’d like to tell my thirteen year old self to chill out and be who he wants.

    • Maren

      I think the hard part about that is deciphering between what’s trivial in the social realm and what’s actually significant…

  • Bugs Malloy

    I wish I had realized that everyone around me is also figuring it out as they go along and the opinion/advice of people my own age should carry less authority than my own judgment. Not that other people should be ignored, but you care and know more about yourself and situation than anyone else. Why would your 22 year old friend know more about what 22 year old you should do? They have no goddamn experience being a 22 year old either and absolutely zero experience being 22 year old you. You need to consider the possibility that they’re just better at faking confidence.

    I also wish I had learned Excel the right way the first time around since my way of getting things done is comically inefficient but so ingrained that it’ll take more effort to do it correctly.

  • Sia

    I wish I had known that standing up to my parents will not end the world. I wish I knew the difference between my true character and big impact they had on me and my mind. I wish I had the courage to ask for things I wanted, work for things I wanted, not just mope around feeling sorry for myself. I wish I knew that happy people are not stupid, and that my dark disposition isnt part of my weird nature but consequence of depression.

    • Oh, god. The standing up to your parents part. My mother died when I was in high school. My dad was a tyrant. It took me decades to realize it was okay to not love him or even like him, and that I didn’t need his approval. What a release!

      • Sia

        Mine were just stupidly strict and unaware that they are
        raising extremely sensitive child. They are also a product of mistakes and
        cruel stuff their parents thought it was normal at the time. In some aspect
        they are awesome people, and in other total asses, so I must be careful because
        I get used to normal behavior and then get hit with some bigoted views. And
        then I get hurt all over again…sorry about the rubbish English. Regards from

  • Heather D

    At age 22, I wish I understood that everything is not about me. When I’m having a struggle with my husband or a friend or family member, it’s very possible that they have something else going on that’s totally unrelated to me.

    In response to what you said about luck, I agree that we are in control over what we do with our lives, but I can’t get over the amount of luck it took for me to be born in this part of the world, to parents who could care for me, with my major needs met in childhood enough to push me in the direction of someday being able to sit at my Mac and respond to this post. A lot of my current situation in life has been my own determination and hard work…but there’s been quite a bit of luck there too.

    AND, in response you your original post about the dinner table…my husband has been trying to get me into this site. I’m not a fly that’s stuck, but I do drop by occasionally. I find the topics interesting, but yes, often too wordy and off topic. I also consider myself someone who is curious and likes to learn and think deeply about things. So how about that?

  • Rob

    Wish I’d learned to keep my mouth shut. You know, just sometimes. Also, if you love someone, then tell them. If you don’t love someone, don’t tell them that you do. Most importantly, though, I wish I had known then that no, I don’t need that last drink…

  • lldemats

    So many things…. I wish I’d known back then that I’d become more indecisive and self-questioning almost to the point of being crippled by it, and that rock and roll is about the only thing that truly saves. That, and good sci-fi stories, especially from the Golden Age. And that any guy who gets married damned well better do what his wife tells him, no ifs, ands or buts.

  • Zoe

    I wish I had known I needed to get to know myself better. If I had begun
    to do the kind of self-reflection at 22 that I didn’t start until I was
    almost 30, then maybe I wouldn’t be so lost and filled with regret now.

    • RCholbi

      Zoe, regret is useless. You are doing everything as you become capable. It is never too late for anything.

  • Leah Schwager

    To let go of EXPECTATIONS. As a child/adolescent, you get this sense or idea of what you think things are going to look like or be like in the future (a professional job, serious relationships, the “real world”) and it always sets you up for disappointment. If you stick so much to this idea you formed (mostly from parents and media) of how you think things SHOULD be, you are never satisfied and are always looking around the corner for what you were expecting. These expectations can really ruin a lot of potentially good things, especially relationships. I would tell my 22 year old self to stop focusing on that future point in my life where I could “finally be happy” and to just be THERE, focused on the fact that things in the moment were “good enough” and that there wasnt always something potentially better. (The “life is a picture but you live in a pixel” post explains it SO well). I think I agonized over so many decisions throughout the past 10 years to make sure I was making the right one in order to reach that expected point in life….that final destination of happiness where everything is as it is supposed to be. I feel like it has taken me years to really understand that it doesnt actually exist and how powerful that hedonistic treadmill really is. If I had some understanding of that sooner, I would have saved myself mounds of anxiety. I would also tell myself to stop seeking approval for all of my decisions from others and to get rid of that mammoth sooner!!

  • Nitya

    Most of what David Nett said applies to me, as well.
    I grew up wanting to become a scientist, with practically no idea of what it was to actually be one. Being sufficiently intelligent and an urge to be morally responsible (you know, like my parents had put in so much effort to ensure their daughter receives good education) and with a little hard work, I got into the rat race and managed to get into a top college in my country, India. I always had people tell me, “Wow! You’re so intelligent, your life is settled!” If only I knew!
    People often joke that in India, engineering is something everybody studies to figure out what to really do in life. Too sad, I fall in that category too. What’s worse? I still haven’t figured out what to do. (Okay, I’m only 25.)
    What I have figured out (in no specific order) –
    1. I’m a procrastinator.
    2. When things get tough, I tend to hide.
    3. When people don’t believe in me, I find it almost impossible to believe in myself.
    4. It’s okay to change your dream.
    5. Hard work is the only thing that matters.
    6. You never stop being a student. You cannot afford to.
    7. Good company and good friendships are what matter. They mould you and make you want to become a better person.
    8. Never make a career choice without knowing what your life will be like when you become that person. (This part is especially hard in India, where people have only just begun to hear of the concept of internships.)
    9. Good college is to put you in a place with good peers and good exposure. It’s never all about classes. Exploit that.
    10. Networking can be everything.
    11. Health matters. (Food, sleep, exercise, etc.)

    So there. Those are some things I’d like to tell my younger (18 year old) self.
    There will be more, I’m sure. For now, though…

    • Tim Urban

      Nice ones. A lot of those resonate with me, despite being from a totally different world. Funny how that happens. I’m very bad at #11, which makes no sense whatsoever.

      • Nitya

        Yes, I’m bad at that too. These are things I’ve slowly figured out, still trying to incorporate them.
        Humans as a whole, I think, tend to live in the moment. Our genes kinda forget we live in an age of technological advancement and that we have looooong lives. We have to make a lot of effort to delay gratification.
        Totally different world? In some ways, yes. In other ways, not. The boundaries are becoming fuzzier.

        Oh, also, I’m impatient at times. This site is slow. :/

    • WW

      I wonder if networking being important comes up a lot in this discussion because a lot of the people who read WBW didn’t come to that skill naturally? Also I refuse to believe that it can be everything, because you cannot network yourself into being good at a skill or creating something new. But I do agree that it’s not emphasized enough in school, and at 22, right out of school, many people have not seen how that tool can be used.

    • Rebecca

      #14 (and #15) are so right on. This is so hard!! I spend countless hours obsessing over plans to become better at cleaning my house/exercising/eating better/managing my time/managing my money, you name it. But if I just went out and did something I loved and was good at, something that really motivated me, most of these things would fall into place because they are the necessary underpinnings to make your dreams happen–but not the end-all be-all by themselves. And if they don’t fall into place and you just ignore them, they probably aren’t that important in the first place. Plus people who spend all their time cleaning and exercising really aren’t that much fun to be around. 🙂

  • Randy S

    I wish I knew at 22 that the mantra; READ READ READ is true. Reading is pure joy now that I am in my 60’s.

    • James Marple

      What I mean is “Like-the sentiment” I’ve always been a total book-worm. Never regretted it once.

  • Probably the only forum I have time to join (and only because I’m making time).

    I would have liked 22 year old Melissa to know that love involves boundaries, that gluten does not a happy gut make, and that she deserves love. Especially from herself.

    Oh, and I would ask her to PLEASE FOR GODS SAKE stop spelling like a half-eaten apple that just grew enough brain cells to start typing.

    • *cringes and sighs*

      Also, mobile users may be racing against time while typing 🙁 every time someone posts my screen freezes and I can’t type anything until I check their comment out. Glitch? (Just did it again. Gah)

      • Tim Urban

        Shit. We’ll look into that. Why is tech stuff so mean and hard.

  • Ana

    I’m 23 and I wish somebody told me last year that things don’t start happening unless YOU start doing them.

  • Ric

    I wish I knew that my body would not always be so strong, healthy, adaptable, etc. I never really appreciated how great it was to do all the fun things like sports, keeping crazy hours, great nights out, etc etc without the limitations that age brings. I wouldn’t change any of the things I did, but I think I would have enjoyed them even more rather than taking it all for granted like I was an invincible gladiator

    • Elizabeth J.

      The ignorance of youth… it has always been thus.

  • Iris Cutler

    I’m 23, so last year I wish I knew something that I only kind of know
    now. In the US today, our urban visual landscape reinforces elaborate,
    age-old standards by which we can judge ourselves and others (unless
    you’re a fit, tall, white, straight dude, in which case, you’re more
    golden than the rest of us plebeians). #swiperightyall

    I already knew this last year. I didn’t know that it’s critical to develop
    practices that help you remember to respect yourself for what makes you
    awesome. For example, I am proud of my emotional maturity, but I forget
    that sometimes. I don’t get much social capital for accurately intuiting
    whether to go in for the hug. Jennifer Aniston on the Smart Water
    billboard isn’t winking at me in congratulatory praise for my impressive
    empathy. If I see enough Jennifers in a given day, I start thinking
    poorly of myself for my never-tight-enough tummy and forget to value
    myself for my repertoire of skills that rarely seem appropriate for my
    resume (i.e. my passion for curating the perfect PB&J sandwich).

    After moving to a new city, I didn’t have my old support system to provide
    the external validation that I didn’t know I needed for a healthy daily
    dose of self-confidence. However, I’m learning now that an excellent way
    to respond to a dwindling self-confidence is a lovingly regimented
    self-care routine. Taking each week at a time, I’ve made Sunday my day.
    On Sunday, I make enough food for the next couple days and guarantee my
    clean laundry makes its way back to their hangers (instead of getting
    distracted by the floor). Sometimes I throw in a bath during which I
    make the point to appreciate my tummy, unconditionally.

    While not everyone has a bath or hangers or feels a sense of self-awesomeness
    when doing laundry, I’ve found solid ground by learning little ways to
    be my own caretaker in a time of transition.

  • Kristy

    I wish I’d known how to tame my wooly mammoth and listen to my Authentic Voice.

  • Mark Williams

    I have only learned what I wish I knew through experience which makes me consider the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Perhaps then it is this: pain and joy will change me for the better if I allow it. Live your life and learn!

  • Randy S

    Being part of the WBW community makes me feel endlessly warm and fuzzy inside 🙂

  • Beebles

    I still feel really stupid, so there isn’t anything I know now that I’m sure would help the me of 5 years ago out. Instead, I’d tell him to get my dad to a hospital so he doesn’t die. Yeah, that’d be nice.

    • Tim Urban

      That made me sad. Sorry for your loss.

      Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re definitely smarter now than you were 5 years ago.

      • Beebles

        Thanks. And yes, I know, but I’ve grown in such a way where I feel like I don’t yet regret not knowing what I know now, and telling my younger self would change who I am today, for better or worse. I may have steered clear of certain toxic people, but then I would not have met others through them. Avoiding something that might cause me stress would deny me stressful life experience to learn from, despite knowing about it beforehand (for example you can be told something will happen, but the experience is something completely different). And since I am still very young (enough so that “22” is considered young) I don’t feel as though any wisdom I could give myself today would be altogether meaningful, at least compared to what some of the 40+ year olds on here are saying.

        In any case, thanks again for the response. I like the dinner table idea btw, I’ll definitely keep up with this.

  • The existence of the Instant Gratification Monkey.

  • Ryan Gigliotti

    I wish I had known that
    there are three things in life that matter; mind, body and soul. “mind”
    includes acquired knowledge and information but success hinges on their
    application. “body” is more than being healthy or fit, true success here is
    related to how you USE your body and for what ends. “soul” includes emotions
    and spirituality (I use this term loosely because it includes a number of
    complex concepts which define the human condition) and success in this category
    can be evaluated by one’s ability to cope with hardship and eventually death. Balance
    between improving each of these three categories and enjoying the outcome of
    those improvements, is what makes someone worth knowing. Happiness will come
    about by being “someone worth knowing”. Simple right?

  • Sooty Mangabey

    I wish I had not lived life on the sidelines.

  • BillToronto

    I wish that I had the confidence to be more proactive instead of just waiting for things to happen to me. My parents were very young, too busy, and ill equipped to guide me. I wouldn’t have listened anyway.

    But I would go back and find my own mentor. I would intern. I would not talk myself out of a chosen field because I deemed it “too hard” (based on nothing but a hunch).

  • Atropa

    At 22, I wish I had known how different the wishes and hopes and eventual choices that my very close circle of friends would turn out to have and take. Unlike some oher commentators, whose viewpoints I fully understand, I did choose a more unconventional life style, living and working in conflict ridden parts of the world. For many years, I somehow assumed that my close friends shared my dreams and wishes and that together we would do strange and remarkable things. I was shocked (and admittedly disappointed) upon realizing that most of my friends wanted more conventional lives with childre, husbands and wifes, steady not-too-demanding jobs, and less engagement in the world. Today, I look back and wonder how I could have been so – I don’t know if the right word is arrogang or shortsighted! – to think that we would have similar outlooks. I still get along great with my friends and see them as often as my lifestyle allows me – but if I had known at 22 how different we actually were underneath our expressed ideas and opinions, it would have saved me a lot of headaches, confusion and misunderstanding with friends. I guess when we’re young, we don’t know very well what actually happens inside others (as if we know when we’re older!) and I at least placed a lot of expectations on others that were not really fair to what they wanted.

  • LMB

    I wish that I had realized that being rejected was not the end of the world. I would get so anxious about not getting a text message or not getting invited out with friends and I desperately wanted to be liked. Now I look back and my only regret is not redirecting my energy into something worthwhile. If you spend time worrying about how other people see you then you can quickly lose track of your own worth. You can’t control other peoples reactions to you and since I learned to just let the slights go I’ve become much more content.

  • Eiton

    I am twenty two and I enjoy reading all your responses. Thank you.

  • I wish I’d known to prioritize myself. Taking care of myself before romantic relationships, friendships, parental & familial plans, educators’ whims, etc. Another way of saying that is that wish I had known I could choose to take more steps to follow my 22 year old dreams, instead of generally being driven by what I thought was best for everyone else in my life, or what I was told I couldn’t do. Years later, this is still a very difficult set of motivators to disentangle (and echoed in different ways by many of the other comments here).

  • VMiss Coquet

    Actually, I wouldn’t say anything. I think I’ve turned up quite fine and I have a great life wich I really enjoy. I am who I am because who I was. Think about all of you writing here, how much you have learned and overcome, which in the end has made you a richer person. To me it would me as if I told myself at the beggining of a movie a spoiler, it would make the viewing experience so much easier but not as worthy or enjoyabke in the end, because as so many say, what is to be enjoyed is the learning process and realizing at 30 what you do know now that you didn’t at 22 and how the ups and downs have made you a much wiser person.

    • VMiss Coquet


      • VMiss Coquet


  • Carlota Bolado

    I am exactly at the superhero point and feeling incredibly amused reading how Tim’s thoughts match mine’s (like he is a Me older version). I wish I’d known 3 years ago that this wasn’t the professional path I wanted to be headed to, but I’m sure I didn’t know back then what I wanted and at least I’ve learnt a little more of what I want and completely what I DON’T.

    What I really know now that I didn’t in my 22, is that I keep growing and keep changing and I’m no longer the person I thought I was. I think that the things I did not know back then, have made me the person I am now, and that feels quite good =).

  • Speldrong

    I started working full-time at 19. I scoffed at my friends who were at university as mere “party animals”, because I was out in the world earning a living. Doing important stuff.

    What I wish I’d know then was to SLOW DOWN. Don’t be in such a rush to be “a grownup”. Enjoy your youth. By all means, party, but also do things like travel, meet new people, seek out new experiences.

    Like others here have mentioned, I also made the mistake of an early marriage. Again, I thought it was the right thing to do, to be grown up. Thankfully, that marriage didn’t last long (no hard feelings on either side), and I was able to get married again later when I was actually ready for it.

    Things turned out OK, but I look back on my 20’s with regrets for not having more fun.

    • Pat

      Looking back, were there any signs that you may have missed at the time indicating that the first marriage wasn’t actually right? I’m in a serious relationship with the possibility of marriage hovering…Just can’t quite tell if it’s the perfect fit :/

  • Kristin Lagan

    I wish I had realized that being selfish at 22 was ok. Not the selfish where you don’t share your cheez-its. I am referring to the selfish where you give yourself love, time, honesty and all those self-empowering adjectives. That investing in me… learning who I am (desires, wants, goals, dreams) was the most important thing I could give myself. Not clothes, more friends, more party invites, TV, etc. For some reason we are taught at an early age to give, give, give while internally, we are all so lost. Getting to know your own brain is the best offering to give yourself and others.

  • SiliconScribe

    I would tell my 22 year old self that above all things you pursue in your life look to the value of meaningful relationships – Give gratitude, honor and respect them and place those who love and support you at the highest pillar of your consideration. Stop being such a self-centered prick and think of others because it’s never about “Whats in this for me” it’s about all of those who you surround yourself with.

    In my life, most of the most painful events and failures have been surrounded by my selfish actions and not being considerate of those around me, especially those who have supported me and helped me. Too often I’ve taken for myself because it was something I wanted and didn’t consider those who helped me in the journey. I’ve been blessed in my life to be given great support and love and too often my younger self would, for lack of a better way to put it, *shit* on that relationship simply because I wanted short term satisfaction, and at the expense of that friendship, employment, or lover, ruin it because I didn’t consider them.

    I would tell my 22 year old self, to really drive this point home, that at the end of your days, it will be your relationships and what you have done for others that will define your legacy.

  • VMiss Coquet

    Mmm i cant post picturesss

  • Shayz

    I’m 21 and I wish I had known how easy and enjoying it was to be open with other people back when I was 16.

    I am not very manly, but seem to be of average attractiveness as a guy. I’m heterosexual but it wasn’t until a few months ago that I started openly sharing about the things I enjoy and like.

    I’ve always liked the color pink, and cute things. I play games for the beauty of them or the deeper meaning behind the story. I listen to fast paced electronic music and hate anything to do with drugs or alcohol. I don’t want kids because I don’t want to complain about them like everyone else does, not to mention I don’t like sex at all (I just want cuddles dammit!)

    I tend to like things most people don’t and it’s hard to make friends, but I’m slowly realizing that there are still people out there like me who want the same sorts of relationships that I do. And who are just as weird as I am.

    It’s just that when I was younger I always believed I was the only one like me, confused as to why I was attracted to the girls I was even though I never had any piercings or tattoos myself. Now I feel comfortable liking whatever I want to like, and anyone who is against it isn’t worth being in my life.

  • Kim

    I would say, “Kim, practice proper lifting skills so that you don’t ruin your back and knees. Also, realize when someone is asking or expecting too much from you. Set boundaries so they can’t suck all the precious physical and emotional energy out of you. You don’t have to, nor can you, be everybody’s best friend.”

  • Hootenanny

    I was so arrogant when I was 22. The things I have observed from traveling, moving, getting formally educated, living with another person have shown me just how little I knew then.
    I wish I would have known that friends, good, life-long friends, are hard to come by, and that the relationships you have in your formative years are the relationships you need to take care of. Life gets busy, people move, shit happens. Babies are born and take up all of their time. I should have written more, texted more, made more of an effort.

  • Elvin Briones

    Girls are naturally hornier than boys. Society worked so hard against nature to change this.

  • Fiel

    There is nothing I didn’t know at 22 that I now wish I had known.

    This is not to say that I didn’t make mistakes back then. But I find it important to remember that every one of those mistakes and all that seemingly pointless rambling has had an effect – both on me and on others. The 22-year-old me has given shape to the present (29-year-old) me and his surroundings and I wouldn’t have wanted me to miss out on anything throughout that journey.

    Except I wish I had learned about CTRL+SHIFT+ESCAPE a bit sooner. I was CTRL+ALT+DELETEing until very recently.

  • GTM

    I wish I would have known to value experiences over possessions.

  • ChrissyG.

    I wish I had known I was good enough. Growing up in a less than supportive environment, I had no self esteem at all. I did pretty well when it came to grades and starting a career that I loved, but I was emotionally retarded. I of course ended up marrying the first real boyfriend I ever had who was not a bad guy but not someone I should have married based on compatibility. I got married at 25 and remember thinking ‘it’s now or never’. I have two beautiful kids so it’s hard to regret that decision now, but now at 44 and divorced I wish I had known that at 25 I wasn’t an old maid, that I had a lot to offer a man and the right one would come along if I was just patient.

  • Lindsay

    I wish I had known that not everyone ages gracefully. I’m not referring to physical beauty. I’m talking about the idea I had that all people over 50 are kind, open-minded, and wise. I was very lucky to have wonderful grandparents growing up, and most of the “old” people in my books were usually helpful guides or quiet partners that helped the main character grow into a better human being. If I did hear or read about a mean and horrible adult, it always appeared so obvious they were evil because they had warts or openly said abhorrent things.
    However, as it turns out, there are a lot of adults and seniors who are really good at hiding their little black hearts and who have perfected the art of making people feel like poo. You probably know someone like this… They often carry metaphorical pins to pop other people’s metaphorical shiny-red-balloons.
    What I’m really grateful for is that by age 22, I had known some pretty amazing people who (regardless of age) challenged themselves and helped others achieve their full potential. So although I wish I had known about older adults with hidden black hearts, I’m glad that I know there’s an alternative. And to acknowledge the awesomeness of individuals when they go out of their way to help or guide someone else 🙂

  • Margaret Fulmer Wolf

    I wish I had known how strong I truly am. That I would weather all the storms and that I would conquer the abuse I faced and everything would be okay in the end. It took too damn long to become me and to love my self and be happy. But hey, I am here now and the water’s just fine!

  • Michael J.

    I’m only 23 now, so I don’t feel very qualified to answer this question… but a year ago I was choosing whether to stay at a job with a small marketing firm (where I was at the time an intern) or go look for a new job in the big bad world (I stayed). So far the last year of my life has been phenomenal, both personally and professionally at work. But, ya know. I still have doubts, and I don’t think I’m far enough away from it to know if I’ve made the right call or not yet.

    So what I’d like to know now (close enough to 22) is which of my fears about the world/life/etc are reasonable, and which I’m having because of my inner Gen Y Yuppie, which is (obviously) hard to do day to day!

  • Truliner

    I wish I had sought help for my depression when I was 22 instead much later at the age of 30. I was relying too much on changing the outside circumstances (get to university, get a relationship, get interesting hobbies) when I should have realized that no matter what I do, I will still be depressed and feel unhappy if I don’t look inside of me and try to figure out why I am the way I am and how to fix it or live with it.

    Sometimes I feel angry at wasting many years of my life that could have been more happy and productive. Still, without those years I wouldn’t be the person that I am starting to like again. Right now I feel optimistic about my future, which is a lot coming from me. 🙂

  • Ken

    The most important thing that I’ve learned about this year is the concept of habits. Earlier in the year I started to realize that the more I forced myself to do something repetitively, e.g. put myself in more social settings, talk to girls (I previously literally couldn’t), wake up early, complete my projects on time, etc, I started to adapt. My mind and body came to expect doing those things by default. I couldn’t believe it. It was like clockwork. Then later this year while surfing the net I came across a Wikipedia article on habits. It explained how learned behaviours actually alter the brain’s neural pathways! There I learned something I wish I had known years ago. Now it’s not easy changing one’s bad habits but if you sincerely want to change, it’s worth giving it a try (it’s only hard in the beginning). I’m 23 now hard at work reinforcing my positive habits and purging the bad ones. I can honestly say that within 3 weeks of this you start to see real results of whatever habits you want ingrained. Ok enough.Just try it, your brain is malleable.

  • Maria Luisa Medina

    I would tell my 22 year old self, that just because you have done good your entire student life (good grades, good behavior, etc) and seem intelligent and capable it doesn’t mean that you are destined to be whatever most difficult thing others think you should be just because you do good in school. I have always been haunted (still am in some ways) by what others think I should be given my good grades or my good whatever talent I had. In high school my chemistry teacher was not impressed when I told her I was going to study graphic design, she thought that was a waste. I told her engineering things didn’t quite attracted me and I hate physics (still I believed for a while that since my father and brothers were all engineers I should be one too, because you know, engineers are engineers and are really smart and stuff). Then as I started my professional life a lot of friends thought I should open my own business since you have a strong character and all. Well maybe I don’t want to be an entrepreneur and it doesn’t mean I am less of a successful professional in what I do, but still it made me think, should I be?? “What is success then for you, 34 year old me?” my 22 year old would ask… I would answer her that it is feeling good doing what you do, balancing your life, maybe not all expectations will be met but it doesn’t mean you didn’t succeed or that you can’t ever succeed later in life (man, I’m only in my 30s, I still have a long way to go!!!), maybe you learned something that made you change all those sometimes unreal expectations of life. I would say the key to success and being happy is flexibility and adaptability. And being “intelligent” or smart doesn’t mean you know what that means unless you live it, also being the “dumb” in school doesn’t mean you won’t get to learn it later in life at some point.

    • Louis A. Cook

      Hi Maria,

      I had a similar experience in that my family strongly encouraged me to be an engineer when I wanted to go to art school. I was sent to a crappy liberal arts party school and struggled there for two years before transferring to Tyler where I wanted to go in the first place. I eventually got a masters degree and I’m as successful as anyone else in my family has ever been… Even so I still struggle with those character judgements. Hopefully in another 15 years I’ll get that sorted out. 🙂

      • Maria Luisa Medina

        Thanks for sharing. Funny thing though, my parents never ever pressured me. I pressured myself with what I thought was expected of me by whoever (teachers, friends) but actually my parents were always very open when I went through that funny period in which one week I was going to study Marketing, and then next I was going to study some new engeeniering career that just opened at the university, and then next I was going for industrial design (you know, still sounds like some math stuff is involved so it’s not completely art-like) and so on, until I figured out what would make me happy, my parents were happy too. That’s why I said that I was sort of haunted by it. Still sometimes I still pressure myself to prove things, maybe it’s just a personality trait, I don’t know, I just have to make a conscious process of sorting things out sometimes and stay true to what I know deep inside that I want or that is right for me or my actual situation, ’cause you know, that inner voice, is usually always right.

        • Louis A. Cook

          Now you are really cracking me up… I got my masters in industrial design 😛
          I really was into it actually. I like making things that have a function, whether it’s communication or shelving or seating etc. Not a ton of work to be had in that realm in Philadelphia though, and I didn’t want to leave… so ironically most of my work is graphic design. Once in a while I get to make a piece of furniture. Anyway… inner voices, you are so right.

  • mikefarr

    Not sure I can express this but here goes.

    Nearly everything we do, we do because our reward system makes it pleasurable. WBW people enjoy thinking, so they do it a lot and I’d bet that’s a big part of why they are good at it. That’s probably a good thing. Yet few of us are wired 100% “correctly.” At 22 you need to figure out where your “errors” in wiring are because they are controlling your life and you don’t know it.

    The short version has 2 parts:

    1)You can follow your passion and still be miserable. If you choose to do something where you don’t enjoy the minute by minute work (not just the end result) and you are competing against someone else who does, you can spot them 50 IQ points and still lose.

    2) The second is a little harder to explain. Imagine your diary revealed that as much as you hate standing in line at the DMV for an hour, you were happier in the weeks you did it at least 3 times.

    Example: I hate exercise. Yes, trivial, stick with me here. Some people enjoy exercising and I think that’s normal. For me there is absolutely no immediate emotional enjoyment. What I didn’t learn till late was that if I force myself to exercise 3 times a week, I was happier. Not just feel better. Not just healthier. Happier. The diary doesn’t lie and I’ve experimented.

    Example: I hate being social. I hate parties, meetings, social functions, meeting new people, meeting old friends, dates especially. What I didn’t learn till late is that for me, it’s exactly like exercise. If I force myself to smile and do it three times a week, I will be happier. There are things that it does to your brain that are beneficial, I’m lacking the immediate dopamine reward and so it took rational thought (and years) to connect the cause and effect. Normally you would get rewarded for that. So I’m a little broken. You are not as extreme, but you are likely a little broken too. For more, reread WBW’s brilliant treatise on Procrastination. Find out where you are broken and you can be happier.

    Conclusion: if I only did the things I like to do, I would be miserable.

    Yes, 1 and 2 are in conflict. Who said life was easy.

    • Pascalle van Straten

      Crap. ( says my mammoth). But do think you are right. No proof here as i have carefully been avoiding just what you describe; regular excercise ( thank go for good genes that refuse to store fat) and regular social updates with actual people

    • Carley

      This is actually really interesting to me because I, similarly, don’t like being social. I’m happy to spend time with people I’m already comfortable with, but as a strong introvert, parties and events where I’m meeting new people make me uncomfortable. I always say I’d rather stay home and watch a movie than go out and have to make small talk. But I wonder if the same effect of being happier when I force myself to do it is actually true for me, too, and I just haven’t noticed. I’ll have to pay more attention to that.

    • Bruno Braz

      That’s a very interesting thought. I can easily relate to both of your examples, since I too hate exercising and being social and I too discovered that doing both makes me happier. I believe this is very close to something people are discussing on another topic here about the notion of comfort. We hate exercise and being social because it takes us out of our confort zone and it requires a lot of effort from us, both physical and mental. The thing is, our brains are not wired to provide this nice feeling of reward based on confort. The depamine reward may not come right away (especially at the beginning), but it will come eventually – either because of the activity per se or due to the feeling of accomplishment.

      • mikefarr

        Hi Bruno, Thanks for the comment. One thing that follows from what you said is perhaps you can make it easier by taking the pain out of stuff you don’t like to do. I did a year and a half in a sales job the result of which was to desensitize myself from some fear of rejection and awkwardness. But I still just don’t get any joy from it. So you remove the pain, can you add joy some other way? I joined Team in Training: it was social and lots of exercise. I hated every minute, but I was happier those years. I couldn’t keep it up though. It was combining two things I hated. Now I try to join things I need to do with things I like to do. I like singing, I hate being social. I joined a choir. It’s great. It’s a self-hack. I get the benefits of being social, which involve not getting isolated and weird, and running around solely in you own head, with the joy of music. Some people do this naturally. I had to watch closely and pay attention and design a self hack.

  • TM

    I wish I’d known when I was 24 that I was going to meet and fall in love at first sight with D K. This has turned out to be the biggest mistake and source of problems in my life. I wish now that I could erase my memories and thoughts and experiences of her completely from my brain. Anyway, I’d tell 22 year old me to watch out for her when you walk into that Instrumental Analysis and avoid her like Ebola.

  • Aina

    There’s this 23 year-old guy who walked from the East coast to the West coast of the US, with a tape recorder asking everyone he met the exact same question you asked (except he used 23 as the reference age). He made a really cool one-hour-long radio show about it with Jay Allison (part of it was on This American Life aaaages ago). Here’s the long version: http://transom.org/2013/walking-across-america-advice-for-young-man/

  • Carl K

    I wish I had known to lower my expectations of the upcoming Star Wars movies by about 92.5%

  • Carley

    I realized not long after I turned 22, that I had been thinking of my life as a series of concrete stages rather than one long, fluid thing. The problem with that was that I took things one step at a time to the detriment of my future self. In high school, I focused so hard on getting into college that I didn’t think about what I would do once I got there. I worked summers during college to make some extra money, not thinking about the fact that internships would be more valuable in the long-run. I waited until after I graduated to start looking for a job. In failing to think about what was beyond where I was at the moment, I left myself completely unprepared every time I went through a big change. I still struggle with this, but I’m trying to be better. At least now I’m aware that I’m doing it, but I do still tend to think along the lines of “Once I’ve moved, then I’ll think about grad school. Once I’m settled in my job, I’ll start taking classes/joining groups/whatever to meet people. Once I figure out where I want to live long-term, I’ll figure out what I want to do with my life.” I wish my 22-year-old self (and my current self), really knew how important it is to live all the parts of your life at once.

    I also learned a valuable lesson in a job interview at 24 that probably would have helped me right when I got out of college and even before: Sometimes it is extremely useful to just take a step back from yourself. An interviewer asked me what strengths I could bring to the job, and even though I had tried to prepare for that question, I found it incredibly hard to answer. She was luckily super patient with me and said, “Let me rephrase that. How would your previous coworkers or supervisors describe you?” Once I thought about it not as bragging about myself, but in terms of how I had been perceived in a positive light by others, it was easy to tell her how I could be an asset. I got offered the job and turned it down for some extremely valid reasons, and also because I was afraid. I wish my younger self had known that taking risks is okay. Stepping outside of my comfort zone is okay. It’s okay to say, “I’m scared, and that’s exactly why I need to do this.”

    I had a lot to learn at 22. I still do.

  • Louise

    I wish I had known that there are not certain ages by which you have to have something completed in your life. I am still an ‘age judger’ – judging myself and others based on their ages and whether they have done certain things / achieved accomplishments / reached a benchmark or stage in life, and also in the case that someone has done a lot more things than I would expect someone to have done by his or her age. Age is a mental construct! As are numbers! As is time!!!!

    • Tim Urban

      Totally. This is a huge problem.

    • Truliner

      I’ve started to think that even though I haven’t done most of the things at the “proper age”, I’m just living at my own pace. Maybe I’m running in martian pace, in which case I’m only about 16 years old, so I have plenty of time for… whatever.

    • Bruno Braz

      That’s an important thought right there. As a 27 years old intern yet to graduate, this is something that bothers me a lot – I can’t help but feel that I should have accomplished more already (taking the ‘conventional’ road of study, graduate, get a job, get married, etc as a parameter), especially when I see that my boss has my age and apparently has done a lot more with his life than me. The problem is, I am able (not always, but often) to think as you said, like “ok, but age shouldn’t define anything, age is just a mental construct”, but I feel that people aren’t always aware of that fact themselves. So there are two challenges here: 1 – realize that age is not important and 2 – learn to ignore other people’s expectations for your life accordingly to your age.

    • Heather

      My best friend and I struggle with this a lot. We are constantly comparing ourselves to those around us and using age as a the main bench marking factor (Oh she managed to get that promotion at 24. Oh he’s already earning x at 24.) But Tim’s post on why gen Y yuppies are unhappy really helped both of us to tame this obsession, and realize most importantly that the full picture is not always visible. Once we cleared this fog it became clearer that, yes she has managed to get that promotion, but she has no social or family life because of it and is rather miserable… its just too much to handle at her age. Yes he is earning x but the stress is really affecting his health and he will probably have a heart attach at 30 if he doesn’t get this in check. When the full picture becomes apparent, you probably wouldn’t want to trade. Perspective is a beautiful thing.

  • WangM

    I wish someone had told me that the best way to predict the future is to build it

  • Michael

    I think the most important thing to have known would have been how important choosing the right life partner is to your future happiness. At that young age, I think that the instinct is to try to partner with the person to whom you are most physically attracted. But what you don’t fully inherently grasp is how much time you will be spending with this person over the next years and decades. I think I was probably told this in passing, but it is hard to work against biology and 22 year old hormones. But the truth is that after you have have had sex with the same person for 15 years, it is much more important that you can have a discussion over dinner, or enjoy the same TV shows, or like to vacation at the same type of places, or know how to have an argument without really hurting each other, and then know how to make up, or just know how to be with one another. When you are dating someone at age 22, and possibly thinking about a long term relationship, it’s difficult to imagine that there will be a moment when your 2-year-old child is sick and wakes you up at 2am for the 4th night in a row, is this the person I want to be on my team at that moment. I think very few 22 years realize the magnitude of this choice and the true length of time that stretches out before them for the one choice that has the chance to stay with you forever. I just think this is something very hard to comprehend at that age, even when you are given the advice. I got lucky in some ways with my choice, but it’s a lesson that I wish I had had a better comprehension of.

    • Elizabeth J.

      “… the magnitude of this choice…” Very true.

  • caboose56

    I wish I had known that I had ADD.

  • punction

    I wish I’d known 5 years ago that my parents are not gods, that they are just as fallible as I am, and that they deserve better treatment than I will end up falling into the habit of giving them.

    Even now, when my mother forgets to show up on time or mixes up her words, I have to restrain myself from lashing out at her and focus on loving her more. It’s the absolute, minimal least she deserves.

  • doc

    i ‘m a 62 year old shrink ,born in the bronx. i wish at 22 i knew that i didn’t need all that irish anger to survive. dealing with drunken family members, protecting mom and sibs,( as the oldest ) my anger gave me a belief that i could endure anything. it rang louder than fear, and pushed me to challenge myself. but it scared the ones i love most. my loving wife taught me to let go of that sword. i have for the most part, and i am much happier for it.

  • Stephen

    When I was 22 effectively the only voice I heard in my head, was my own with occasional intrusions from parents and friends. However as time went by I began to notice that the voice in my head – me – very rarely said new things and I started to listen to the voices around me. By the time I was 35 I was surrounded by a roar of voices and I began to realize that by listening to what the people around me wanted – spoken or not – I could be more effective at literally everything. At work, with my family, with friends -even with strangers.

    Almost everything I wanted to do, everything that I wanted to achieve, involved other people, and they were not just bit players in the movie of my life but people with their own scripts, wishes, desires and agendas – and what I wanted wasn’t very important to them. And at this point I realized that if I helped THEM get what they wanted – they might help me. And the corollary of that which is if I was rude, disrespectful and a general asshole I would be making it worth their while to try and stop me getting what I wanted.

    48 years later I work with folk in their early 20’s many of whom, like I was, are the stars in the movie of their life – and are suffering accordingly…..

  • SandraKay

    I’ve read a lot of entries today and can see my own 22 year old self in a lot of them. What comes to mind first as I think of that tumultuous year – graduated college, moved back to my hometown, lost my grandmother (she raised me) then moved back to Boston to “start my life” – is how full of opportunity the world was (and is) and how little advantage I took of those opportunities. I would tell the 22 year-old me to go off the path, explore, try and fail, understand that this is the time to experiment. Instead, I timidly took what life handed me and, while I’m grateful for my many blessings, I was capable of much more.

  • Robert

    I wish I’d known, that people are more similar than different.

    For 42 years I learned, understood, and assumed, that there were good people and bad people, and that the purpose in life is to stick with the good ones. So my biggest life question was to find out: what is “good or what is the Best?”

    So first I trained Karate for 20 years to be able to fight “the bad” ones, then I studied religions to find out who the “bad ones” were, then I studied psychology to find out who “the ugly” were, then I studied design to learn how to create beauty. Later in my professional carreer I was working for the best creative consultancies I could find, to learn “what” “the Best” was.

    Unfortunately the answer was never “either/or” but always: “it depends.” It depends on “the conditions.”

    I wish I’d known, that it is possible, to be right and wrong at the same time.
    You can make a good person instantly to a bad person or to an ugly person, if you simply change the framework or perspective of judgement.

    All people are always good and bad and ugly at the same time, simply by changing framework or perspective we can see either side. We all have all those facetts, all the time, we just dont show them all at the same time.

    I wish I’d known, that respect and tolerance is not a sign of weakness, but of effectivity.
    Only if I respect and tolerate others, I can understand, what “the best” really means for everybody.

    I wish I’d known, that the question in life is not: “who am I,” but: “who do I want to be today.”

    I wish I’d known, what the important questions in life are.

  • Merri

    I wish I’d known that I was transgender.

  • I wish I would’ve been able to see past my own pain and sorrow, and therefore been able to see that of other people, instead of being blinded and consumed by your own feelings. Then I could’ve saved some friendships and a loving relationship.

    I know realistically that wouldn’t have been possible on the Ladder of Awareness, especially being just 22. I do believe that one has to develop an ego first before in order to transcend your ego. Mistakes are inevitable. Still, I wish I had the capabilities back then, it would have saved me a lot of mutual sorrow and regret.

  • Rachel

    I wish that I had realized a long time ago that no one is really looking at you, and if so, so what? The most basic example is, if you’d like to sing at the top of your lungs to a totally ridiculous song while in your car because it simply makes you happy, then DO IT! There’s no need to have those thoughts of, What if someone is watching me? SO WHAT! Let them watch you having fun!

    This of course is a very simple example, but carries into something a little deeper. I wish I had learned to make decisions without basing them on what other people would think. I’d always done that. I wouldn’t do things because people might think it was crazy, weird, stupid. I always seemed to be preoccupied with what others would think of this decision I made in my very own life. Time, experience and many bad relationships later, I’ve finally started to change that way of thinking. Finally, I make decisions because that’s just what I want to do. Forget everyone else. Forget opinions, forget judgments. Just be you and do you. Key to happiness right there!

    Also, I wish I had listened to my mother when she tried to teach me to cook! Somehow, she was always right in the end…

  • I wish I had known the importance of mental health, and how to know if you need help with it. It sure would have saved me a lot of pain and anger, and kept me from inflicting pain and anger on others. It would have made my life more stable, on the one hand, but I would also have missed out on some of the best moments of my life.

    I also wish I had gotten help earlier so I could have learned how to be in a relationship. Any relationship. I moved a lot and had (have!) a habit of not maintaining contact with others. I guess I looked at life as short stories with new people and places, rather than a “chapter book” where people can appear in more than one chapter.

    I wish I had paid better attention to financial matters and stayed on a steady savings plan, rather than my pay-as-you-go philosophy. I knew better. I just ignored it.

    I wish I had kept my Mustang Mach with the louvered rear window.

    I wish I had gone three seconds faster or three seconds slower on a fateful day twenty years ago.

    I wish I knew then what I know now.

  • Elizabeth J.

    I’m 55. Make mistakes early and often. Being careful to take the “perfect steps” toward the “perfect life” makes you a very naive 40-year old. Welcome mistakes. That’s how you grow.

  • Terri

    I wish I knew that all the things I worried about, obsessed about, and spent TOO MUCH TIME on were really not worth all that mental energy. I wish I’d taken more opportunity to forget about the stupid stuff and focus on the things I’d want to remember someday.

  • Kevin Ventura

    I wish I had known which teams were going to win all the World Cups, Super Bowls and World Series. I’d’ve had it made right now!

    • Kevin Ventura

      Oh…and how silly one an be as a yound idealist.

  • Aaron Barbee

    I wish I would have known (19 years ago) how easy it is to own a gun and ride a motorcycle – though not necessarily at the same time. Note: open carry in Arizona allows you to mount a holster on your bike.

    At any rate, it wasn’t until I met my father-in-law for my current wife, not my first wife, that I learned about motorcycles and guns. My dad had an occasional bike when I was growing up, but I only saw him about 1 or 2 days a month. So, unfortunately back then, his influence on my life was minimal.

    After getting married a second time, to a partner that doesn’t control me or boss me around, I discovered all sorts of things in life that are fun. Two big ones have become shooting/hunting/collecting guns and motorcycles.

    I got my motorcycle license about three years after I met my wife – almost certainly her dad’s fault. In fact, I used his dirt bike to teach myself how to ride before I took the official class. I’m on my second full-size cruiser and it’s my baby. The bike is even the background on my iPhone.

    My father-in-law is also responsible for my guns. He gave me my first-ever firearm: a beautiful Ruger 10/22 rifle that my 9-year-old son shot for the first time a few weeks ago (and he LOVED it). I think I got him hooked earlier than me. My father-in-law has taught me a lot of guns, gun safety, gun buying and, most importantly, hunting. I now hunt deer every year with him – providing lots of food for my family.

    But I don’t know that going back in time would be best for me. I made some mistakes in my previous life, and they have made me what/who I am. But, learning about guns and motorcycles would have been cool to have in my batman toolbelt a lot sooner!


  • Jeff W

    I wish I’d known how much misery my hedonistic ways would bring. All the smoking, drinking, and overeating that seemed so fun made me feel worse then not better. Now as I near 40 I’m struggling with obesity and asthma. I’m on track and healthier every single day, but how much more I would have enjoyed my younger years if I could remember more of them and not have the scars and burdens of my “good” times. Life is a lot happier without the excess. I’m still an emotional idiot with regards to coping with life’s stresses, but I don’t rely on crutches anymore and that is a freedom that my early life lacked.

    I don’t think I could have convinced my 22 year old self of this reality so I suspect it may not resonate with many young people here. Just in case: Running can be fun. You can be the life of the party completely sober. There is no comfort in food.

  • Ana

    At that age I was still trying to figure out why I did everything wrong.

    There was no “you are already special”, but only “not good enough” all the time.

    I wish I had known my mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder and she manipulates everyone around us against me. Not a game.

    Once you know this, it is quite difficult to tell apart your real mistakes and failures, from the things you have because of the sick family dynamics. But it’s possible.

    But I guess this is no helpful to others.

  • plainsmart

    I wish I had known it was OK, even desirable, to have fun. Not be so serious, meaningful.

  • Emma

    I wish I had realized three main things when I was 22ish.

    That my beloved grand-father was not going to be alive forever, and that I really should have spent a little less time with my friends and a little more time with him.

    That I needed to take charge. No my boyfriend did not become psychic when we started dating, and expecting him to guess what I needed or wanted and then act accordingly was perfectly ridiculous. Same things with friends. Probably partly out of mammoth fear, I tended to let people become friends with me (or not!) and rarely made the first steps.

    That communicating better (at work, with your significant other, with children…) is in fact quite easy to learn and so worth it. Who would have thought?!

    • Fantastic Mr Hank

      “I tended to let people become friends with me (or not!) and rarely made the first steps.”

      This, this is another social skills people don’t teach you, the obvious downfall is that you miss out on meeting some terrific people who could’ve been in your life, but the worse thing that could happen is that you’ll one day find yourslef in the midst of a crowd who you don’t particularly enjoy and they don’t necessarily have your best interest in mind.

  • Lise

    I wish I’d known that I’d be much more confident and self-assured at 34, but still have the same fights with siblings that I had when I was a kid. You never outgrow sibling rivalry.

  • Andy Bax

    Everyone knows that individuals tend to put forth more effort on work they find agreeable than work they don’t. What is also true, and what I wish I’d known when I was 22, is that the work we find disagreeable can BECOME agreeable, even loveable, once we dedicate ourselves to doing it well.

    To provide an example- I am a teacher, and I enjoy it immensely, but this wasn’t always so. A couple years ago, I was overwhelmed by the students’ misbehavior problems, the seemingly unrealistic expectations of my school, and the obvious fact that I just wasn’t very good at my job. For awhile, I used this as an excuse not to try very hard, to wait things out for just awhile longer until the opportunity for a career change presented itself. I’m glad I didn’t stick with this strategy; what a huge mistake that would have been. Instead, I decided to work really hard at becoming a better teacher. As I did so, a miraculous thing happened- student behavior improved, my school’s expectations began to seem completely reasonable, and I started walking into each class with the confidence that I had what it took to deliver a valuable experience for my students. Now, two years later, I am still working hard to improve gradually, day-by-day. It’s a slow process, but a highly enjoyable and rewarding one as well.

    I suppose the takeaway for a 22 year old person would be this- Don’t give up on your career/relationship/hobby/etc. too quickly. Most everyone goes into these endeavors with wildly unrealistic expectations of immediate success and fulfillment. The real world will almost always fail to meet those expectations, but that isn’t cause for quitting. Push through the shittiness. Give yourself a chance to persevere. There’s only one path to success and fulfillment, and it is through hard work.

    • Elizabeth J.

      Teacher here. Isn’t it amazing how many years of experience it takes to become a good teacher?

  • Guc

    To myself when i was 22: dont cry every night because of that douche. You will get over it and be much happier when you do. Smile!

  • Evaldas Kalinauskas

    I wish I had known that everything’s going to be ok. But then I might have done something very stupid by being too brave. So – nothing, every lesson counts.

  • Felipe

    I wish I had known that self-destruction was a thing that I was doing to myself, and also that suicide is a terrible terrible idea (never actually did an attempt, but hours upon hours were wasted contemplating it, waste of valuable life that was). Luckily I met someone wonderful enough to teach me this, but I wish I hadn’t ever thought about such things in the first place. Picking up the broken shards of my life was difficult and I basically handicapped my life.

  • Esther Herold

    I too just learned about the two tiny tabs at the end of the Saran Wrap roll. This is monumental and a great accidental find.

    At age 22 I wish I would have known how much cuter, funnier, and smarter than I thought. I would have asked out guys and had a variety of fun and more options to choose from for a life partner.

    I stand on different ground from most commenters since I am glad I didn’t know many of the things at age 22 that I now know. Ignorance can be bliss. I thought that by now, skin color would be as significant as hair or eye color. I thought programs would be in place to educate people so they would be able to afford the basics of life. I thought people and families would be closer and more connected..

  • Evelyn D’Arcy

    *claps hands* Can’t believe this is the topic!!! I wrote this exact list when I turned 33.
    1. In ten years time, you still won’t know what you’re doing, or have discovered the “trick” to living happily. Stop trying to find it.
    2. You will still have all of the friends you have now, and will pick up many more along the way. You will never be alone.
    3. The only competition you’re having is with yourself. Stop it. You ARE good enough.
    4. Call your parents for a chat occasionally. They’ve sacrificed a lot for you and they’re not going to be around forever.
    5. Worrying about what others think of you is futile. Chances are, they’re not thinking of you at all.
    6. You have no control over whether people like you or not. If you are sure you’re being the best version of yourself possible, that’s all that matters.
    7. Nobody has a perfect life. It is a completely unattainable goal.
    8. Accept advice graciously, even if it’s not asked for.
    9. Tell him.
    10. The worst that can happen sometimes happens. You will be able to deal with it.

    • Gray Panther

      Words to live by.

  • modalstraw

    Hmmm… The lotery numbers of a major jackpot…?
    Oh and also that exercise hard and eat healthy is something that you have to start early, so i could enjoy this pile of money…

  • Gray Panther

    I wish I had known what Mom used to say from time to time: happiness comes from within. You make the decision that the choices you make in life are right for you & you commit to those choices. It really works.

  • SAmiel

    I am 27 now, and at 22 I wish I had known, and I mean REALLY known (like deep in my gut), that honesty in friendship is more important than ANYTHING else.

    Because of sever insecurity and a desperate desire for friendship, I ended up destroying great relationships I had, all because I was unable to be nakedly honest with my friends when I should have been. I lied often, and it all came crumbling down. I have since learnt my lessons of course, and the same mistakes will never happen again – however, It would have been nice to avoid such a tumbling. *sigh* I am a student at life!

    Great forum and look forward to being involved!

  • wakagi

    I am very excited to read all the other comments because I am not 22 yet! As for five years ago: Somehow ironically, I wish I knew that being intelligent was not enough to really get somewhere. I wish I knew that I have to be more insistent and persistent with people (something that I am still struggling with.) I wish I knew that to love someone, you have to let down your guard. I also wish I knew how unhappy facebook was going to make me and the people around me… it took me far too long to abandon that procrastination land!

  • Peppylemew

    22 year old women, do yourselves a favor and wear rubber gloves to clean and do dishes. My face looks 40 (even though it’s 49) but my hands look 60. Men don’t really have to use this caution because their skin is ten times thicker.

  • Caroline

    I wish I had known at 22 what my social anxiety was all about, and that I wasn’t (as I thought) a crazy person who should be locked up. Then after a bunch of finding out things about anxiety, I would also let me know what they didn’t tell me in therapy which is that anxiety is for life and does not magically go away. I would tell me to recognise that it’s a “thing” that lives with me, it’s not actually the whole of me. Then I could spend less time on shame and self-loathing. It has taken me until recently to accept that I am as I am and while I can’t drop the anxiety I can be better to myself which will make the anxiety less of a Big Thing.

    I also think that you discover life as you discover it, so what I’ve learned since I was 22 is the stuff that happened in that time and what I learned from it. I wouldn’t not have that time again, even though a lot of it sucked. I don’t think “things happen for a reason”, I think they happen because they happen, but you can choose to find something to learn… even if it is just that life is random and fairness is irrelevant to anyone’s situation. I think becoming and being yourself is a lifelong thing. I’m excited to think what things I’ll have learned in 20 years from now.

    What will 60-year-old-me be telling 40-year-old-now-me? That you’re lucky as you are and you’re doing fine, just keep going. 😀 And exerise a little bit more please.

    Well this is a most excellent and interesting route for WBW. Thanks (again) WBW! 🙂

  • Ana

    I think I would tell my 22-year-old self not to worry: everything would be ok.

    And, of course, the lotto numbers from last week 🙂

  • Ott Kingisepp

    A )
    If i could transfer e v e r y t h i n g i know back to when i was 18 (23 at the moment, so i picked 5 years), that would be great. I would have a good head-start in technology and as a programmer. Since it’s a mediocre and boring wish, i’ll give you readers a second opinion as well.

    My 18 year old me would really need to know, that it takes hard work to evolve as a person and as a professional. Back then i arrogantly thought that i’m too special for average work-stuff, that i just have to move two fingers, create a startup and money will start flowing.

    I haven’t killed my ideas since then, but i have matured a lot in the sense of executing them.

  • Trina

    I wish I had known or realised much earlier that every one is just bumbling around trying to work it all out and that everyone is a little bit insecure, scared and unsure of themselves. I berated myself for a long time for not being perfect, for not having it altogether and sorted. I now realise that very few people do. Everyone has ‘issues’. Everyone has something they wish they could have done or could do better. Everyone makes mistakes. That image of a bright, shiny man or woman who has it all sorted, is just a myth!

  • Georgia

    I wish this website existed when I was 22.

  • Amanda Lawson

    I think at 34 (my for-no-reason-at-all favorite number) I have to go with the cliche of “All the past mistakes brought me to where I am now and right now I’m happy and wouldn’t change a thing.”

    Also, I wish I had known I should have been a scientist instead of just a sci-fi reader. But I still don’t know what kind of scientist I’d want to be.

    I wish I’d know how empowering (and sexy) shaving my head would be and not have waited until I was 24 because my boyfriend at 22 didn’t want me to. I’m glad I didn’t know shaving my head would make my hair grow back super curly because then I probably wouldn’t have done it.

    I was 22 when I stopped getting tattoos but I wish my 19 year old self had known what my 22 year old self figured out.

  • william kepperling

    I wish I knew people didn’t hate me.

  • Nicole

    If I had known any one thing at 22 of what I know now, I have a feeling I wouldn’t be where I am today or the person I am now, regardless of how amazing or difficult those things have made my journey to this point. I’m just here, with a life behind me, and a life in front of me that’s up to me. “I like who I am today.” Perhaps that is what my journey has been all about.

  • Cliff

    I’m right on board with you, TIm. Along the same lines, I would have to say 2 things:

    1) My critical thinking skills needed improvement.

    My critical thinking ability (logic and rationality) has always been pretty good. I was above average for the skill, thanks mostly to being born lucky with natural aptitude. As a teenager — I know now — I was probably a better critical thinker than most adults. Most people go through life with blinders on, while I could see beyond the trees and realize there was a forest there — and a whole world beyond it. However, learning *real* critical thinking, logical fallacies, and the principles of rhetoric was like removing welding goggles. I feel like I’m becoming more aware every day.

    I understand vaguely why it took me so long to let go of things I believed (fear, among other things), but it’s hard now to fathom that I ever believed them. In that regard, I’m slowly beginning to try to understand why people are so in the dark about things that seem obvious (e.g. homeopathy can’t work); more importantly, I’m learning not to hold that against them. It’s a bit like they are brain-damaged, and in a sense they are. I don’t mean that as an insult — we’re all a little brain-damaged, or brain-washed if you prefer.

    2) The “grown-up epiphany” never happens.

    I always had this sense that one day, most things would start to make sense, and I’d have a strong basis for a world view. At that instant, I’d feel different. I’d feel like an adult — a *responsible* adult. Of course, I understood this was likely to actually happen gradually, and I’d just realize it one day. High school ended, then college, then grad school. I got married. I got a “real” job, spent a couple of years in Alaska to pay off debt faster and experience a beautiful place (and it is stunning), then came back to the continental US and continued my technology career with a “real” job. I bought a house, fixed things that broke, kept the place looking livable, mowed the yard (usually…), fixed cars, paid bills, bought things only grown-ups care about, and went about being generally responsible. I have a kid, and I don’t want to kill her or sell her to the highest bidder most of the time (not having one at 22 helped). I’m a grown-up — a *responsible* adult — and I’m aware of it.

    Except, well, I’m not. I’m only occasionally aware of my adult-ness, even when I’m aware of responsibilities. I can see the differences when I compare my life now and as a teenager, but I don’t really feel them. I don’t really *feel* like a grown-up. Yes, I have solidified my world view in some regards, but mostly I’ve just learned that things are more complicated or less complicated than I once thought. More than anything, I’ve learned to be flexible, both in my world view and in life. But there was never a transition. I’m still just me, maybe a little less sharp and with a little less energy. I still really want to be an actor or a singer when I grow up, even if I know it’s not very likely (and definitely less stable than the “real” job). I still don’t get to do whatever I want to do, the reasons are just different.

    Of course, it’s probably better that I didn’t know this. It was probably a pretty great way to reassure myself, so it would have scared the shit out of me to know I’d never really have most of the answers in life. It still scares me now, just less than it would have.

    I’m going to give one more thing an honorable mention, though it should probably be my answer since it’s so important to know:

    3)Communication can solve almost any problem.

    It won’t always, but it’s a powerful weapon if you learn to use it. Not only are most problems caused by confusion or lack of information, once you learn what motivates people, you can use communication to your advantage (OK, yes, sometimes to TAKE advantage, but with great power, etc.). Most people are just as lost and worried as you are, and the outcome of talking about a problem is usually much better than we expect. Usually, just informing somebody of what’s happening/happened is enough. People generally want to help you if you ask (it makes them feel good), or will at least do something to get you to shut up again.
    @Tim/WBW, I’d love to see you tackle communication in a WBW post sometime. You’ve brushed up against it in quite a few of your posts, and I’m sure your take would be a lot more entertaining than mine.

  • Dev

    Well – I am 22. But I’ll re-phrase the question to “what I wish I knew when I was younger.”

    Now that I’m working full-time, having completed University, I wish I knew that all along, everyone is just winging it, no matter what age they are or how they portray themselves. Even those that seem totally confident and seem as though they have it all figured out, everyone is bluffing, and making it up as they go along. That is why I hate it when interviewers ask the wretched “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” question. No one knows. Many varying opportunities will arise, its all about the ones you grab and the ones you choose not to. Don’t stress if you aren’t sure what you want to do with your life and feel as though you’re running out of time. No one else knows either. We all figure it out as we go along.

  • DLX

    I think i already knew what i know now (sort of). I think i knew what was needed to be done with my life, but i didn’t care, i just wanted to melt and not think about any of that. Which makes it really sad.
    But at least i’m doing it know, and i am not old yet, so there’s no point in punishing myself.
    it’s never late. Even when it’s late.

  • Anne Elizabeth Rainbow

    I am just re-reading attached! By amir Levine o(can’t remember the name and can’t be bothered to walk to my room to check…) and recognising how much simpler life would have been had I known my attachment style (secure but can be pushed to anxious) I would have avoided many crap relationships. It also highlights the whole “be emotionally brave” element of life which I thoroughly adhere to now. How simple life is when you are clear about your needs!

  • Manasi

    As a 17 year old, I have no idea as to what my life will be like when I’m 22. Five years is a long time. My life right now consists of only a couple things: homework, college apps, studying, tests, grades, and the occasional fun. I would hope to have achieved something by 22 — something that makes me feel like I have actually done something in life.

  • Hex-Hit

    Haven’t read all 487 comments but I believe that PERSEVERANCE came up a lot, it is what I wish I would have known.

    For all the people reflecting on how to teach cushy kids about diversity, traveling is to me, one of the best way. My father was a geographer and we saw most Latin America before I was eleven, then some of Europe, what a difference. Agreed not everybody can just pack-up and go live somewhere else, but the traveling done should be carefully picked with rural visits to far away places.

    Since ever, I always knew that, we in Occident, are always lucky although there are always things that need improvement.

  • BeSeven

    I’m 50. There is so much I wish I’d known at 22, I wouldn’t even know where to start. But I will say this to all the young folks out there, because it’s one thing that has had a huge negative impact on my life: If you ever wonder, even for a minute, if maybe you shouldn’t be with the person you’re with. . .chances are you shouldn’t.

  • Jill Dicen

    One of the many things that I wish I knew at that age would be that hanging around the wrong kind of people will Influence you to make bad decisions. I guess in other words, I should have known better. I didn’t realize that those decisions would affect me the rest of my life. It took me a little while to finally wake up, but when I did, it was, and still is sometimes, like cleaning up after a frat party.

  • Julia

    I wish I had known I didn’t have to be strong all the time, and that I could and should rely on others when necessary. And that if I did need support, and those around me didn’t step up to support me, they probably weren’t the kind of people I needed to keep in my life. I am glad I know how to be strong when things are difficult, but I wish I had known how to tap into my real emotions a lot better when I was younger. Still working on it.

  • Glenn Carleton

    I wish I could have heard all the things now being learned about the person Robin Williams. Always liked his talent and entertainment, but it was just that, entertainment. Now as I learn about his struggles with life, yet all the while how open he was to everyone he came in contact with, how much he cared more about others than himself, how freely he gave his time, I wish that at age 22 I could have realized there is time, there is ample time, to be fully engaged with anyone and everyone if the opportunity presents itself; especially for people who clearly need a simple acknowledgement that they exist, and that their existence matters. All you need is the willingness to listen, to be interested in another to give them the lift they need.

    The man had so many personal issues, he decided to commit suicide because of the continual pain of his own thoughts, yet over his life he obviously had so many rewarding one-on-one private experiences with others where only the two knew. Maybe if alive he would say the rewards of being there for others was greater than the pains he inherited? At 22, if I knew there was time to be this way as a way of living, I would have made the mental adjustments, and found in the process that I did not have to sacrifice anything.

  • Ludwig

    I’m 22, so reading all these comments makes me smile and wonder if I’m also pursuing similar trains of thoughts that others did when they were my age, or if I’m in danger of falling into the same ‘pitfalls’.

    I guess all I can do is further echo some of the sentiments that have already been discussed, but add a twist on the theme of being made to feel ‘special’ and ‘brilliant’ and ‘bright’ from a young age. I’ve been fortunate to attend a reputable university, but unfortunately, I have struggled immensely to assert myself in a sea of people of equal or superior intellect, which has subsequently raised doubts and uncertainities regarding my own capabilities.

    If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to not compare myself to other people. I have realised just how unwise, futile and time-wasting this activity is. All it does is cause YOU pain, and life is hard enough without encumbering yourself! The amount of distress and heartache that this would have saved me! I’ve also seen the merit in not caring what others think of me…I think Tim wrote an excellent post on this very subject.
    To understand that daily life battles are waged in the mind, and not in the physical realm (the latter aligning more with popular opinion); to change your thought patterns and reshape your own perspectives on matters for maximum contentment. OMG how I wish I understood that lesson at 16, a lesson I am having to re-learn pretty much everyday now, because it’s so difficult to adhere to. Though I’m much better now than I was a year ago.

    Other pearls of wisdom I would have shared with my teenage self:
    Development of time-management skills: As others have also shared, though I coasted through secondary school, I hadn’t yet properly cultivated adequate time-management and organisational skills, and as my workload has increased, my study regimen has only faltered and is practially non-existent at this stage. Why? Because even as I write this, I’m supposed to be getting on with a rather important assignment, but instead I’m here in my customary Dark Playground. I wish I had been more stringent with my study habits, it would have definitely served me well now!

  • I wish I had known that I didn’t need anyone’s approval, that sex doesn’t equal love, and that that I was smarter than all the people who were telling me how I should live my life.

  • Tim Rural

    I wish I had known that happiness was something that only I can achieve in my life, and that it is virtually unrelated to the status I have at work, my relationship status or anything else outside of my own head. I don’t mean to say that happiness is not related to some standard of material well-being, but study after study shows that once a person’s basic needs are met there is virtually no correlation between higher income, for example, and levels of happiness. We are all responsible for our own happiness, and the things that you hope to achieve in the future are unlikely to have a major lasting impact on your overall happiness. There is no roadmap. You simply have to take the time to understand what it is that makes you happy in life and structure your life accordingly. I’m still working at it! And I now understand that it is a life-long journey.

  • CJ

    At 22…I wish I had known that it’s not a race or rush to start your career or get married. You’ll be married for the rest of your life (unless you get a divorce which isn’t fun) and next step after career is retirement. Travel or figure out what you want to do first. There’s a whole world out there. If you have the time, travel and meet all the beautiful people out there (yes a lot of people are nasty and ugly in this world but there are some fascinating ones that inspire you). I don’t miss the money I spent on traveling. I treasure the people I met and the experiences. Don’t be stingy with money. Money comes and goes. Don’t be a lazy idiot and just spend it all on unnecessaries either. Spend money wisely on investment pieces when it comes to clothes. Don’t buy a bunch of cheap stuff but classic and timeless pieces that will last decades. Don’t buy into trends. You’ll cringe later when you see yourself wearing that stuff. I like the quote “Never trade what you want most for what you want at the moment.” This applies to nice things you buy and it also applies to people you date. When you start work, don’t look down on people (like secretaries, admin). At the same time, do not be intimidated by higher-ups. I remember being so nervous before meeting with a partner when I started work when I was reminded that she is just a person. An ordinary person with the same insecurities and “ordinarities” as us all. Higher-ups are not gods and they ain’t special – they are human. Treat everybody with respect even if they don’t do the same to you. Feel sorry for those who are mean and take themselves/life too seriously because it’s really their issue, not yours and they are miserable :(. Realize your place and role on this earth – know the good, the bad, and the ugly and make your informed decisions based on that. Don’t be naive. Don’t be a dummy! Realize that horrible things and horrible people exist. Humans and animals live full lives of torture – human trafficking still exists and some animals go through life in emotional and physical pain, never experiencing love. I’m not saying to be a vegan superhero, but know what’s going on in the world around you, your role in it, and your contribution. As Joshua Radin sang, “Have no envy and no fear.” Seriously. Worry is a waste of time. Rather than envy people, be inspired. Rather than worry and focus on the negative, use that brain of yours and devise a plan. A lot of times your ugly side will come out. You’ll feel lazy, unmotivated, idle. It’s okay to rest and relax every once in a while, but laziness can be your worst enemy. Your 20s are the best times of your life! You look your best and you’re allowed to make mistakes. Take care of your body at this age! Age is the accumulation of damage. Know that the crap you eat, drink and smoke today will just make you look older faster. Take care of your body. It’s miraculous. It heals itself and it can create something out of nothing. Wear SPF (and eye cream but SPF is more important). Staying in on the weekends is perfectly okay. Traveling to big cities to see man-made monuments is cool but nothing beats the beauty of nature. Time, or our concept of it just seems to go by faster as you get older. Don’t put your goals in life off to “someday.” There’s no better time than now, young and beautiful one!

    I could go on and on, young one, but I’ll stop here.

    (By the way, I am a 31 year-old with a full-time job and I also teach university students in the evening. I always want to slip in life advice during class but students stare at me blankly or are busy texting (kids these days…)Thanks for letting us share.)

  • Stewart

    What I didn’t know at 22 was “Why I’m here, what is the purpose of my being alive?” I’ve quickly scanned most of the posts below and find there is a sort of seeking without knowing behind many of them.
    I’m a Christian so at 22 I was praying a lot wondering why I’m here. I was born into a family with a missionary history so presumed one day that’s what I would end up doing too. However at 23 I “accidentally” heard something that changed my life and gave me a goal and direction. Once you have such a goal your life starts change. Since that time I don’t remember ever asking that question again, my priorities became settled and now at the age of 67 I would not change anything. I’m not going to say what I saw at this point but in it and through it I was helped to see the reality of human life, It made me decide work is to support my living not my goal, money is really helpful but completely useless as a guide or master. I spent 16 years employed in a University but saw more empty, dissatisfied people in that place, I saw students gaining the highest education still struggling with why they were alive, some became so trapped by their studies they never reach escape velocity. I would listen to their educated discussions and debates all of which seemed to lead to the desire to be recognized or famous while I, a humble laboratory electronics technician, could smile knowing I had no fame, little money but inner satisfaction. My pleasure in such an institution was assisting academics and students to attain their goals and degrees.
    To end, what changed my life was to see I was made in God’s image for His pleasure and satisfaction. The change I made was to seek Him first. I set my lifelong goal as “To be satisfying to my God.” Every situation or turn that came up, which included getting married, having four lovely children, changing employment as needed, was simple ” Lord I want to satisfy You!” I’m not interested in religious dogma or debate, I’m not following a set of religious rules or traditions, I simply desire day by day to be satisfying to my Lord.

  • wobster109

    I should have cared less about winning and more about doing. I grew up in a household where “failing” was terrible, horrible, brought shame to your family. (This wasn’t F in a school class either; it was losing a statewide competition.) I was punished harshly when I “failed” — belittled, degraded, subjected to months of silent treatment. I didn’t do anything I wasn’t good at. I might even have been afraid to try. I entered college an arrogant moron, haughty, condescending, and with altogether horrid sportspersonship. Too caught up in being the best to care about the actual activities, and the converse: not caring about activities I should have loved just because I couldn’t be the best.

    In my rational mind I know better now. I know that even someone like me, who never did sports, who’s mediocre-to-bad, can go running and enjoy it too. I know now that it’s exciting and admirable to enter an event for the challenge and experience of it, rather than shameful. In the end it was foolish to close off my world to so many things. I let a lot of cool experiences slide by.

  • Christian Murga Cotrina

    I wish I’d known that I was 100% stardust 🙂

  • Hannah Yu

    I wish I had known that I should never rush things. I’m 17 right now and I have done too much of which I have the rest of my life for. I shouldn’t rush relationships, the right ones will come at the right time. I shouldn’t hurry to get into college because it’s way more of a pain than it promised to be. I shouldn’t plan my life but take everything as it comes and goes because life’s unexpected and having unmet expectations is depressing.

    Anyway, Thanks for letting me share! ( Love WBW,my english prof introduced the site to me and I’ve been here ever since.)

  • KristyMae802

    I am 25. To my 20yr old self (so close to 22 I chose to go back 5 years) really look into your Meme’s (grandmother’s) eyes. Talk with her! In the future you will feel alone surrounded by people who seem to perpetually live on step 1. (level of consciousness) She is just like you! After feeling a desire for relationships with others like you, you will suddenly realize that is what she was! A person who was eagerly living on step 2! (& not merely a stranger who blogs online & who you decide would make a great friend if they lived here!) But she, like yourself, is surrounded with those on step 1. She may see that glimmer in you, but alas is still feeling alone. You will want more than anything to be able to share this with her! To talk, really listen and have that connection.. Before its too late. So go, visit her in her bedroom upstairs. Go with her to the mall.. decorate for the holidays, she would love company! PS I also wish I had known that it is better to never gain weight than to have to lose it. This is less due to difficulty with weight loss and more how it affects our body.. For me, I am down 62lbs in 9 months and have excess skin and stretch marks and a new respect for gravity and how it influences the body 🙁 Hey KristyMae, you don’t have to eat clean, just eat LESS! & low calorie does NOT mean it won’t taste better. I promise

    • Kate

      I have/had a mémé too. Spend as much time as you can with her if you still have her! I miss mine like crazy.

  • Dave

    I wish I’d known that the Pacific Ocean is WAY colder than the Atlantic. I probably would have moved to LA anyway, but would have been a lot less disappointed.

  • TB

    As a father of 3 boys, 20 year educator with a M.Ed who has been in the trenches, and now parent seminar presenter…this clip says it all. The “struggle” is what makes us strong. Gladwell’s latest book, schools in Japan, and some personal stories I am aware of confirm all of this. Don’t parent with your brain, parent with your heart. Only one will make you a fool. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRTlvMvS1X8

  • Sweta P

    I wish I had known that every person around me , irrespective of his/her standing in life, had fought a personal battle to reach where they are.
    I have seen my parents work really hard to create a better life for me and my siblings. I wanted to work hard to ensure I never let them down. So I put in all my efforts in being a A-student, made it to the best colleges and so on and so forth. In the process, I began to believe that people who do well in life are the only ones worth respecting.
    But today, I know better. The understanding of the simple fact that doing well in life is always relative to the conditions one grew up in, helped me grow as a person. Today instead of judging somebody on the basis of their current social standing, I make an effort to understand them better. This realization has made me more humble, than I was at 22.

  • Jake

    Well sadly, I’m still 16 🙁

  • Nate Halliday

    I wish I had known (and would now finally accept) that there is no better time than the present to do the things you most want. It always seems like I will have more time later to write a book, compose a song, or start a business. In the grand scheme, all the fears I have about not being doing something successfully should not stop me if I am truly happy doing it. Who cares whether anyone wants to read my thriller about an evil corporation taking over grocery stores, as long as I like writing it. Maybe I will finally start on it…tomorrow…

  • T.

    I wish I had known what is “myself” and how to find it. When I was in my teens, I made the foolish decision of joining a religious fundamentalist sect. That was my kind of teen angst. I also have helicopter parents (even by the standards in this Asian country I live) who wouldn’t let me stay out late, and would freak out if I did. I only had the guts to break free from the religious group in college, and even today I find it annoying my parents are still asking me “Are you coming back?” and things like that as a mid-20s.

    The result of joining the sect? I became socially somewhat behind my peers. I was never given an opportunity to find out about myself, my values, interests and so on. While I am catching up (and I do it at my own pace), I think my teens and college years would have been so much richer if I had opened up myself to the world. Life is bigger than the holy huddle. I did not assert myself as a teen as fundamentalism taught me to be passive and obedient to authority. Had I done that and rebelled, my parents would have given me much more leeway. Now as an adult, I no longer have the privilege to do so as I am expected to behave in a more mellowed way. I see the cool kids grow up to become cool adults and I sometimes weep for I will never be able to become as them.

    Tim, I wished I was younger when I read your “Taming the Mammoth” article.

  • wobster109

    One more. I wish I’d never laughed or kept quiet when misogynists made jokes of women in STEM. I should never have believed in the “fake geek girl”. Believe me, “fake geek girl” extends far outside of comic cons. It’s a charge that begins in middle school or earlier, and variants of it (“got in because she’s a girl”, “sleeping her way up”) haunt women all the way into the workplace and beyond.

  • Peter

    I’m 25. I’d tell the 22 year old me to talk to more girls in college. I didn’t realize how easy it was back then. So many single girls within my age range and with similar background just grouped together in one big place, like cattle. I moved across the country to NYC without knowing anyone and it feels 50x harder. I have friends but no “gang” who can introduce me to people. I don’t like to go out very often except to meet with known friends. This should have been a time to build up my confidence and avoid the self-esteem black hole I’m in right now.

    It’s just too hard for me to stake out a local bar and cold approach girls. I’d rather get to know them and make the approach when it makes sense. In college, I realize I didn’t make any friends by “trying” to make friends, it just happens through circumstance. Roommates say “hey lets do this” and some time later, it feels like we’re friends, so I feel comfortable asking if they want to hang out. Unfortunately this indirect, passive approach doesn’t really work after moving out to a big city because it’s missing the key component of opportunity generation. I’m just not around enough people to get to know them due to work and adult life. I’m also in a 90%+ male-dominated industry.

    I’d also tell 22-yr old me not to pressure himself so much to feel like he has to be Mr. Cool and Amazing to talk to anyone. Focus on listening and just making some kind of real connection. I suspect the 30 year old me will tell the present me the same advice. I’ve got my dream career and remarkable early success in a very challenging field yet I still feel very little social confidence.

    • Josh Hough

      I know this might sound a bit random Peter, but I’m coming to a point I promise.

      My old man is an absolute master when it comes to getting to know people. He’s one of those fortunate people who can walk into a room full of people he has never met, and when he leaves, have most of these people waving and saying a warm “Seeya John!”. You literally can’t walk down the street with my Dad, even if he’s visiting you in the city where you live instead of the one he lives in, without someone saying “great to see you!” or “there he is!” at least once.

      When I was a kid, I felt so socially awkward and had zero social confidence. I could sometimes think of things to say, but usually I’d just be quiet because I felt kind of nervous. It made it even worse when I’d watch my Dad doing his thing, as I felt like maybe I was supposed to have inherited those skills, but I clearly hadn’t.

      Around age 16 I plucked up the courage to finally ask my old man what his secret was, because I wanted to be able to do what he did. He sat me down and said: “Son, it’s simple. Just talk about them”.

      I was confused at first. Talk about them? But isn’t the idea for them to get to know me too? My Dad then went on to explain that the best way to get someone to like you and remember you, is to find out what moves them, then just talk about that. It doesn’t matter if it’s something that you’re not interested in: 9 times out of 10 when you get them talking about their passion, it becomes infectious and you’ll get passionate about it too.

      When you finish a conversation where you just spent the entire time talking about them, they’ll think you are the most amazing person in the world and will relish the opportunity to talk with you again. And you can guarantee they’ll remember your name.

      It did wonders for my self esteem, and pretty much annihilated the nerves I used to feel in social situations. It might already be something you know, but hey, I just thought I’d share as it helped me out a lot.

      • Peter

        Yeah I try to do that during conversation. I sometimes hang myself up over whether I’m probing too much for a stranger though. I can feel boxed in after all the non-threatening questions have ran their course.

        I’ve worked myself down from general social anxiety to mere situational social anxiety. It’s easy to get into a comfort zone once I’m running my mouth but hard for me to be the first one to approach another person. Just a week ago, I noticed myself on the airport hesitating and then rehearsing how I’m going to ask the guy next to me to borrow pen, so imagine how bad it gets when I’m thinking of approaching a girl with “intentions”.

        • Josh Hough

          A fellow over thinker I see! I totally know how this feels and understand why you sometimes feel hesitant, but usually once you start the conversation it tends to take its own course anyway – figure out what you want to start with (something “them-oriented”), say it, and just feel it out from there.

          Just enjoy the conversation and learn to smile at yourself if you make a hash of it. Even the smoothest speakers out there say the wrong thing sometimes – and that’s OK. 🙂

  • Josh Hough

    I wish I had known at 22 that when starting a business, it’s not enough to just say “I have an awesome idea and I’m going to do it and it’s going to be great and everyone’s going to love it and let’s get started yay!”.

    I learned (the oh so painfully hard way) that all those people that gave me advice that you need to first look at whether your target market actually wants your product or service before you begin were actually right. This would have possibly saved me from years of pouring my heart and soul into something that (even though I thought was awesome), not that many people actually wanted.

    This outpouring of blood (not really), sweat (only occasionally) and tears (most definitely) into something that was made even harder than it needed to be my own shortsightedness eventually lead to me being a burned out, stressed out, depressed mess. By the kindness and grace of a loving wife and amazing friends I was able to get myself back together, but it took some time, and looking back..it didn’t have to be that way.

    It took me a number of years for me to fully absorb this lesson, but as someone who has come out the other side and started to make a little headway, I’d just like to offer a sincere piece of advice by telling anyone who is thinking of starting their own business (of any kind) to follow these simple steps before you get too far in:

    1) What are you passionate about?
    2) How can you use your passion to provide something that will actually benefit people?
    3) Are you sure that people actually want this thing? (Hint: do research, it’s absolutely vitally life-alteringly essential)
    4) Now get started

    P.S. I love this idea of the Dinner Table, *high five* WBW

  • Christian Brix

    It’s more important what I think of me than what everyone else thinks of me.

  • Wendy

    I love you, let’s cuddle and don’t ever leave!

  • Steven L

    I’m only 18, at the moment and while the suggestion is to focus on 5 years ago, I didn’t really know anything when I was 13 at all, so I’d rather be a terrible person and not follow the rules and talk about something I hope I learn by the time I’m 22.

    By the time I’m 22, I want to have an understanding of actual, genuine hardship in my life, in some small way. I’ve always had an incredibly easy life by any standard. My parents have always been extremely open and supporting and loving of one another, we have a fair bit of money to cover any expenses (my entire 4 year bachelor degree is being paid for by my parents), and I’ve always been intelligent enough to get through school with mostly minimal effort. This isn’t to say I have become lazy and don’t try at anything because I expect to do well – I’ve failed at things in the past and understand when I need to put effort into things.

    I’m personally worried about not experiencing genuine difficulty in my life during the period where I’m growing into the world, because I’m afraid I end up without a real concept of what life is like by the time I enter the proper adult world.

    I’m aware that this sounds incredibly selfish and entitled and ‘teenagery’ – “My life is so amazing if only it was worse” – but that really isn’t what I’m trying to convey. Rather, I’m worried I end up without an appreciation of the benefits I’ve experienced throughout my childhood.

    What’s your opinion on this? Am I just being selfish and entitled and ‘teenagery’ anyways? I appreciate criticism.

    • Peter

      I can relate a bit. One thing I mutter to myself constantly is “I wish I was mentally tougher”. So I start to think about my cushy suburby 2-parent household background and how soft it has made me. I often wonder if someone who rose from the dead bottom will ultimately have a higher ceiling than me because he weather the storm better than I can when the pressure is on.

      • Aina

        To both Steven and Peter: you might be stronger and tougher than you think. Of course you don’t know because your mental strength hasn’t been tested, but don’t assume you’ll be “soft” in the face of life’s difficulties. There’s no way to tell before anything bad happens. Growing up in a stable and loving family could actually improve your resilience and give you a good foundation to endure the hardships of life without falling appart.

    • Josh Hough

      I don’t think you need to worry too much Steven – just the fact that you are even aware of this and that you may (see: will) face hardships in the future and that people won’t just hand things to you tells me that you are already developing a good toolkit for dealing with the ‘realities’ of life as you get older. It sounds like you are forward thinking enough to know that it won’t always be easy, and that right there is a great lead in to having the grit that it takes to get through the tough times.

      It sounds like your parents have worked very hard to make your life as good as it can be up until this point. You don’t have to feel bad about that, just be grateful that you have people who were and are willing to provide that for you (though judging by your post I imagine you are already grateful).

    • GemmyB

      This might fall into the “trying to cram it all in” thought process just a bit. It’s not selfish at all. But I think you should bear in mind that although life is short, it’s also really long with a million possibilities for hardship.

      Where I’m from we have a saying, don’t look for trouble. Steven, I guarantee you your time for trials will come again and again and again. Focus for the moment on building your inner reserves of strength and cultivating good personal habits so that when those times arrive, you’re ready. I truly hope you actually do not have to experience difficulty anytime soon.

  • Akil Franklyn

    I wish I had known that everything in the world did not revole around me. Not just in the case of “I want what I want now” or anyhing like that. But in the case of every action that was ever done “against” me was not a personal attack on me. That everyone has their own battles to fight and burdens to bear. Just learning that has made me stop putting so much expectations on others and had really lessened the disappointment I deal with.

  • Wilma Limmen Dekker

    I wish I had known at 22 that the only reason why I always felt so awkward about myself in groups and in the ‘social world’ was that I am an introvert and that it is totally okay to be one and that I was not having ‘uninteresting thoughts and opinions’ but just did not find the other introverts to share them with.
    I only discovered all this after I read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet, the power of introverts”, two years ago! And I am 59 now!
    Okay, I still had a pretty awsome life so far, even with all the struggles of keeping my sanity in an extrovert world. I guess I did figure out the ‘rules of the game’ enough to know what to not care about and what to go for. And in retrospect : what would I have done with that knowledge and if that was already a lesson learned at 22, what other lessons would have been on my path? Isn’t life all about learning your lessons? And would your 22 year old self even have comprehended the lessons you’ve learned in later life? I mean, how could you have ‘learned earlier’? Oh, I know, if you had known The Steps (levels) of consciousness earlier!
    But I am sure I read a lot about ‘secrets of life’ and a lot of psychology books etc. at a young age already, but how could I really understand the logic of it if I had not experienced life yet?

    • Wilma Limmen Dekker

      Oh, yeah, what I did realize at a young age was that there ‘is no logic’ in real life, but I still thought that I would ‘figure it out’ as soon as I could be considered an ‘adult’. Ha! Then I found out that even adults don’t know what they are doing and why most of the time! They are just getting better at pretending and bluffing!

  • Joe

    Right now, I’m not enjoying my job, but I feel compelled to keep working it for another year and a half so that the government will forgive my student loans. Five years ago, at 22, I wish I had known that I wouldn’t enjoy this that much. Then, I wouldn’t have accrued more debt, thereby giving myself a reason to stay in this for longer than I already needed to.

    Then again, ask me in another five years, and I might say that it was a good thing I stayed in this career for another year because it was the year things started clicking.

    That’s the trouble; everything is clearer five years into the future.

  • Leanne A.

    I wished I’d known that when I can build up the courage to accept the mistakes I’ve made, when I’ve accepted my flaws and defects and weaknesses, and realize it’s what makes me, me, I feel this… incredible sense of relief. I’m above judging myself. I’m above thinking I’m somehow inferior, somehow worthless. I just feel content.

  • Sarah P.

    Being only 19 I’m still an amateur at this whole life thing, but if I had to tell 14-year-old myself some important info it would probably be these five things:

    1. It’s gonna be alright. You’re just in high school. Just because it sucks now doesn’t mean it will later. The best parts are still coming. Teen suicide doesn’t make sense since there’s so much potential. I was severely depressed in high school and considered killing myself a couple of times. I look back now and realize how idiotic that would have been.

    2. Don’t worry if there is someone that is better at something than you. There always will be. It always used to frustrate me to no end when I found out that someone who didn’t even like what they were doing was good at it while I put my whole heart into it and had mediocre results. You just have to get over yourself and keep doing what you love.

    3. It’s okay to poop in public bathrooms. Especially in dorm bathrooms. No need to be secretive about it or have stand-offs with the person in the next stall. No one wins in a poop stand-off.

    4. Changing your mind is perfectly fine. If you decide halfway through your first semester at one school that you don’t like it you can leave to find somewhere better. However, find that delicate balance between making wise decisions and overdoing the mind-changing. Don’t be the cat that wants inside then outside then inside then outside…

    5. Don’t let anyone tell you what you want. When I was choosing a college to attend, my father pressured me to go to a big school far away simply because it had an NHL team and it was a party school, so he would’ve wanted to come down and party with me. I’m not a big partier. Luckily I found the school of my dreams that I am currently attending. My friends think it’s weird that I don’t drink and occasionally try to get me to do it, but I know it isn’t something I like. So young one, decide what you like for yourself.

    So yeah. That’s about it. I’m sure there is much more knowledge to gain throughout the rest of my years.

  • BlahDeeBlahLA

    I wish I’d have known:

    1. I don’t have to be perfect.
    2. It would be okay if I never achieved the standard definition of “success”. (Or even my naive, young-person’s definition of success at the time.) Failure, apparently, is an option.
    3. It’s really, vitally important to learn how to connect and interact and network with people.
    4. It’s even more important to learn how to have some damn fun in your life. On a regular basis.
    5. All those things you’re either too scared to try or think you can’t do? Yes, you CAN do them. (Also, refer back to point #1)

  • somekid

    I am still 21. So I instead of things I wish I’d known at 22, I’ll talk about what I hope I will learn by 22. The obvious being: Will I be able to do everything with my life that I really want to (in my case, become a neurologist, manage to travel a lot, have enough time and money to pursue film as a hobby and have a successful and rewarding personal life)? My guess is that the short answer is some kind of soft-hearted, luke-warm, ‘no’. Theres just so much to do. On the cusp of college graduation, I’m constantly wondering where I would be and where I’d be headed if I went down a different path. I’m guessing this isn’t a feeling that dissipates, except maybe for the few individuals self-actualized or cognitive-dissonence-y enough to believe that they are exactly where they’d be happiest.
    What do you post-22-ers think?

  • Christian Brix

    I wish I’d known that taking up smoking did not make me cool, costs a fortune(around £32,000 – so far!), and will probably ultimately shorten my life by 10-15 years. Some people I know can take it or leave it and will quite happily go a day or more without. I envy those people. I’m addicted in the truest form of the word, I need it, it’s the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to bed. I hate travelling, solely because you’re not allowed to smoke on trains and planes anymore and I get tense and irritable without nicotine, so I never go far on holiday. I quit twice, once for four hours, the second time for an hour and a half. It’s not gonna happen. I love it and I don’t even wish I could quit, but I do wish every day I’d never started. If so much as one person reads this and stubs their cigarette out, it will make my day. Put it down before it’s too late.

  • Emily

    Being only 20, thought I’d put my 2 cents worth in about what I wish I knew 5 years ago although it’s not exactly deep or thought-provoking: why did no one ever tell me that something so simple like washing the dishes will ALWAYS be a problem when you move out of home and go flatting?!

  • LaurenR81

    I wish I could give my 22-year-old self a heads up that ten years of life does not automatically mean your shit falls into place during that time. I had this idea in my head of my future self: she’s got a retirement fund, she doesn’t overeat free finger foods at parties, she definitely doesn’t drink too much on random Wednesday nights and get hungover anymore because she’s IN HER THIRTIES. Her shit is IN CONTROL. The problem is I didn’t connect my future self to, well, me. So now that I’m here and…surprise!…I’m still the same core person I was eleven years ago with many of the same strong personality characteristics (and flaws), and the same desires to disengage from life’s pressures (in maybe not the healthiest ways), but now with an included sense of shock that I AM IN MY THIRTIES and I still feel 22 some days. I think this creeping sensation of failure I feel sometimes would be lessened if my 22-year-old self hadn’t had such high expectations for me. Maybe if I had started some of the groundwork for who I wanted to become in my thirties in my twenties I wouldn’t feel as behind as I do now, struggling to catch up with the vision I had for myself. Or maybe I learn from ten years of procrastination, tell that 22-year-old know-it-all to back off, bitch! and start the groundwork today for who I’d like to become in the next decade.

  • Christian Brix

    Nokia 3210’s are really not all that.

  • Dennis

    I’m not quite past the 22-years mark, but if there’s something I wish I’d known 5 years prior it would be that

    it was okay to be the ignorant, immature, socially pathetic kid that I was, so long as I had a sense of self. One of the most painful lessons you learn growing up is that you WILL be judged by those around you, and that social approval is one of those things that make a great example of the phrase “you can’t have whatever you want.” Which was why the Social Survival Mammoth article really spoke to me. Ironically, it’s during the times where I didn’t care about how I appear to others, or at least appear to not give a damn, when I feel the most accepted.

  • taLi

    I wish I didn’t care about my college grades as much, and lived my life a little bit more. I ended up getting a 3.99 GPA, but I was not much happy anyway. It did help me land a job, but so would a 3.5. I could have traveled, done more volunteering, trying new hobbies, and generally live my life a bit more spontaneously. Now I am doing a catch-up work.

  • Erin

    At the age of 22, I wish I had been better at feeling and expressing my emotions. I would just bottle them up, which is incredibly unhealthy primarily in the long-run. Because of bottling up my emotions, I personally learned what a panic attack was, and frankly they’re HORRIBLE! Lesson learned: express my emotions when I feel them. This is better than my previous pattern of existence when it came to emotions:
    1. Hold them in
    2. Have gut-wrenching panic attack
    3. Cry hysterically
    4. Talk with someone (aka Mom)

    What I really learned is that emotions are healthy to have and should be expressed when I feel them. It’s much better to skip a visit from the Panic Attack Monster and just deal with my emotions as they come. Wish I’d known that at 22. Or to be more apt, I wish I’d actually done that at 22.

  • WW

    I wish I had known that
    1. Social skills are just as powerful as reasoning skills/academics. This one was difficult to wrap my mind around, because like many other people on this post, everything academic came very easily. But in the end we live in a society.
    2. Focus on myself first. I don’t mean this in a petty way. As a matter of fact, some of my pettiest moments are about fretting over other people. If I just focus on how to be the best person that I can be, and not how I look to other people or what other people have done that doesn’t fit my standards, it makes me a happier and more stable person.

  • Bridget O.

    Considering I have been 22 for a whopping six days now, this question (and this awesome Dinner Table) comes at a perfect time for some deep reflection. Here are a few things I wish I could have told my silly seventeen year old self.

    1. You are not going to marry that boy – Hahahahahaha! How cute. I thought I knew what love was. And what’s even funnier is that I thought I actually knew I wanted to marry him at seventeen. Hours…no, years spent arguing with my parents trying to convince them he was the one for me. Oh..how terribly wrong I was.

    2. When it comes to friends, quality beats quantity – With a high school of over 3,500 students, the people were everywhere, but the friends were hard to come by. I knew that even then. Although I never really understood why I had so many people that I was friendly with and enjoyed being around, but I could barely count on one hand the ones I wanted to spend quality time with. High school can make you feel like you need to be the “popular” one (with a school of over 3,500 what does that even mean?) when in reality, it’s the true friends and the quality of that friend that prevails over everything.

    3. Your parents really. do. know. you. best. – This one does’t need a lot. Or anything, actually.

    4. Stop trying to grow up so fast – When I was five, I was that little girl putting my moms makeup on, wearing her high heels around the house and holding my little sister as we went around the house playing…well, house. The idea of having tasks, lists, a job and a family to maintain seemed so much more exciting than coloring and learning spanish. Maybe it’s something that was unintentionally crammed down our throats with help from Barbie’s Dream House and the baby dolls that cry out for “Momma!” Regardless, I wanted it all. Somewhere along the way of this thing called life, there was a point when I felt like I had grown up. I was driving, so of course I could choose my life partner. Or, I was able to go to the movies with a boy, so of course I’m ready to maintain a family and a career and understand the emotional responsibility of it all. Then suddenly I’m 22, and looking at my future. And being five years old again sounds pretty great.

    5. Don’t you dare consider a major in Theater – Ok, 17 year old self, we’ve heard this one a lot, right? From our english teacher, our priest, and even that cafeteria lady who chuckled when we told her our college plans, saying “Wait, but, why?” (it’s in quotes; don’t sue me) With the exception of myself and my parents, everyone tried to talk me out of it. And they gave it a good attempt. But I told people, it’s what I love to do. I’m good at it. I do it well. I wish I could tell myself that no major/career path/job is certain, so live passionately and truthfully and you will find happiness. Happiness isn’t a piece of paper declaring your degree. You declare your degree. By doing.

    So do it. Do all of it. And then do it all over again. I’m still a life amateur, but already 22 is looking much better than 17.

  • Nick O

    I wish I had known that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought I was. Mix of christian upbringing, breezing through most of high school, and then a tour of duty in the Marines left me so utterly sure of my own personal definition of the world that I was primed for some serious getting knocked on my ass moments. I’ve come to see that there are very few, if any, true black and whites, right and wrongs – it is almost all shades of grey, and true wisdom is not knowing the right answer but knowing how to consider all answers and pick the one best suited to the situation. To pull from Newsroom: “He’s not absolutely sure about anything. He struggles with things. He’s never certain he’s right, and sometimes he’s not, but he tries hard to be.” That’s where I am now in life, or at least where I now strive to be.

  • joanna dorothy inez

    I’m almost 24 now, so what I wish I had known 5 years ago maybe
    1. Found this site
    2. Being more in the step two instead of only half the time.
    3. Not spending that much time with the wrong friends whom only polluted my mind.
    4. Learn more, procrastinate less
    5. Have the courage to pursue what and who I really wanted instead of caring what people would think. Now I know that those who matters don’t mind and those who mind don’t matters.
    I just hope I’m not too late to turn my life around right now. Though it seems petty but I’m starting to see things clearer now.

  • Rachel Mills

    Well since I’m only 16 I guess I’ll be going with 11. Damn. That’s only half of what is being asked for. Oh 11 year old me I wish I could tell you a couple things. Do not attack yourself over such basic failures. So you got an A-, that isn’t the end of the world, your grades right now are meaningless. Though to the mind of an 11 year old grades are everything. Unless that’s not typical. Which it would not come as a surprise to me if it wasn’t at this point. However, one thing I really wish I could have picked up is time management skills. Really anything that has something to do with the wonders of organization. Because every time I try to attempt it I fail miserably. Which though I am ironically proud of this trait, I wish I didn’t have it. I dream of the day that I know how to do this well. Which reminds me of another thing. How dare you give up playing the piano and viola. I want to slap you in the face 11 year old me. Ability with those instruments could have been so useful and now it just feels too late. Music is simply poetry you know, each twist and turn of the notes vibrating through the air are the syllables of another language. Though don’t worry much about not having many friends, soon you will find some that will be who you need in your life. Not the poisonous snake that sucks away your self esteem. This next year or so you will learn what loneliness means but you must always recall and keep close to your heart, that you will never truly be without another soul. Hm I feel as though I am forgetting something. Ah yes of course, the subject of religion. Its been what, 8 months or so since you came to terms with the lies that religion has been telling you. I oh ever “wise” 16 year old me now know well the ways of this struggle but you do not. You know it will be hard for people will start to question you, hell, they will shun you. You will lose a friend or two because of this switch to atheism. So be brave. Be strong. Be Independent. For soon your world will start to change in ways you cannot imagine. And oh how I wish I knew that the new chapter of your life that you are entering, will be the most ground breaking events you have ever known. Though I myself may still be very young, do try to gain as much wisdom as possible in the 5 years. For although you may sit in your room and ponder, thinking you can figure it all out. I still ask those very questions.

  • Jonathan Wells

    How to identify and avoid sociopaths.

  • Mitchell

    I wish that five years ago I would have known that in five years time I still wouldn’t know anything (or at least as much as a I fantasized that I’d know), I’d still be as confused about what I want to do in life, I’d still have the same basic worries and anxieties and yearnings.
    Also, I wish I’d known more concretely that for anything to begin in my life, if I want anything to happen, if I want to learn a skill, find a job, move to a new place, travel to a new country, etc. I have to MAKE it happen MYSELF and put in effort to catalyse change. I had, and still have, this illusion that changes that I want in my life will somehow happen in the near future, taken care of by future me. Within that illusion I don’t take into account that the change is my decision and comes of my own volition. Basically, that anything I want, I can do, it’s just a matter of NOW OR NEVER, because decision are always now, and not later

  • DarkEnergy

    22 was 2 years ago for me. I wish I had known that if you attend a dentist appointment but decide that you’re not comfortable with carrying out the procedure before they’ve even done anything, it’ll cost you $1,075 (for a cavity operation). If I’d postponed or cancelled the appointment several hours earlier, it wouldn’t have costed anything.

  • Ai Po

    I wish i had known then that it is okay to break the rules set by my family for me and not worry too much about disappointing them. I would have lived my life differently like choosing the career that I really wanna do instead of taking up a course that they wanted for me. I know now not to let other people take the wheel of your life because you will regret it and it would be you who would be unhappy. Live your life the way that you want it and be happy! (:

  • Scott

    I’m 30 and I really wish I could go back to 22 with a realization of how amazing learning is and a drive to constantly learn. The more I reflect on how incredible our brains are, the more I realize how crazy it is to let days/weeks/months/years go by without actively using it continue to learn new things. I am extremely fortunate for the education I had growing up, but learning always seemed like something done in schools, necessary for eventually getting a job. Maybe that’s why for so long after college I’ve overlooked it as an awesome extracurricular activity. Of course I’ve always enjoyed learning new things like fun facts or an occasional book or article, but when compared to what I’m capable of, what my brain is capable of, I feel like I’ve been driving in a my whole life going 5 miles under the speed limit. And when I say learning I don’t mean just school subjects, I’m talking about a passion to learn everything about ourselves and our world. Since this reflection I’ve developed an increasing ambition to travel, read, self-reflect, take on new experiences, and I’m slowly finding myself participating and even starting those small talk conversations on airplanes I used to fake read SkyMall to avoid.

  • Mechelle B

    It wasn’t that long ago, but I would tell my 22 year old self
    that true love really is unconditional and not too many people are capable of
    giving it, so be careful who you give your time and heart to.

  • Anneka Pearton

    How nice to have some dinner with you all! I am so enjoying WaitButWhy ever since I spent a week’s summer holiday here in Australia in the bush with just my ipad, discovering all these posts and giggling a lot. I have been gently sharing some of them on facebook, hoping my kids or friends might get hooked and learn something (I’ve put the time perspective poster up in the toilet for the same reason). But funnily enough none of them have confessed to the WBW zealotry that I’m experiencing, which had me wondering what it was about me. I was aware of my “thinky” characteristic, so let me share something here that is the coin side of thinkiness. I was always pretty good at rationalising what I was doing and could put up great arguments for things (usually just in my head) on why I was on the right track. Here’s my two cents worth to any young Annekas out there: if your mind keeps going over something, defending and explaining, then the answer on what to do is actually a FEELING. If the thought of doing something creates a sense of discomfort in your chest, then make a different choice. O.k., that seems so obvious now…

  • DallanTX

    Two things:

    1) Confidence is everything.

    2) In your mid-twenties to early thirties, you will really wish you knew how to speak Spanish.

  • Prateek

    This is an amazing idea Tim… and I’m thrilled to see so many responses already.. Feel like my response will be lost in this ocean of experiences… I wish i knew at 18 what path I should have taken in my career.. I was lost and confused after high school about which direction I should have taken in life. Blindly, I just joined the bandwagon and chose Engineering in Computer Science. Yeah, It’s big in Bangalore, India. Most Americans would have heard the term Bangalored. The State “manufactures” about 50,000 engineers per year. And I was one of the unsuspecting idiots in this wannabe engineers swarm. I just wish I would have thought harder and done something in Business Management or Arts… It took me close to 7 years to finish a 4 year course. I’ve retaken so many papers, that I have 26 mark sheets instead of 8 (1 per each of the 8 semesters.. It’s ridiculous.

    Luckily, I dint give up and somehow graduated. But I cant stop thinking about how I lost 1 n a half years of my life and a further 1.2 years working in a Tech company, which I could have spent advancing my career in a field that I would have enjoyed. I recovered by finally doing an mba and now in a somewhat OK job in Dubai, which is much better than doing programming and providing tech support.. I’m not dissing those jobs. I envy programming and Tech wizards. Just that it’s just not me..

    This makes me wonder, how do people choose what they want, or what they were born to do. It’s amazing to see some people doing so well in their lives.. and they seem to have known that thats what they wanted all along… The worst thing is… I still feel like a leaf blowing in the wind.. Just in a more directional wind and not a tornado… Any suggestions? on how to activate your life’s gps??

  • Amy

    I wish I had known how immature i really was at 22. My mom once told me, for which I was perpetually incensed, until I finally did understand, in my 30’s mind you, that you are not truly and ‘adult’ until your are, like, in your mid 30’s. I, at the time of hearing these words, was in my early 20’s, married, and with a college degree. Therefore, I was terribly offended by such a ridiculous comment from my almost senile mom, who was already old at the age of 47. What the hell did she know? Well, now I am 45 (today) and beginning the long journey of divorce with my spouse of 23 years. The spouse I married and ran to, to get away from the nag of a mom that I had at 21. I ran from the frying pan into the inferno and now my mom, who, mind you, has become my ‘sweet mom’, ‘supportive mom’, and nonjudgmental mom, is someone I run back to. I am running away from the crazy that is my substance abusing, adulering spouse. Yes, the writing was on the wall at the outset, but hey, I was an adult and I KNEW myself and my choices. And those choices were sound. Of course, some people can marry at a young age and their relationships turn out reasonably normal. I can only say for myself that I had no idea who I was or what it was I really valued at 22. I was a pinball in a pinball machine. And their ain’t no high score racked up for all the stupid mistakes of my ill-informed youth.

  • Andrew

    I wish someone had told me that I was not special. All my life my parents and teachers told me that I was special. This led to an inflated sense self and such a disconnect between the person I showed to the world and the person I actually was. Now I’m not saying that I was a bad person – but there were definitely things that I hid from the world for fear of what people might think – that they might think that I was not this special person that I was told I was.

    It creates a certain kind of victim mentality as well. Believing I was special means that my road rage was justified, people were stupid and I only needed to give time to people that I deemed worthy. Obviously I didn’t consciously believe those things – they were definitely sub-conscious beliefs which influenced my behaviour. And realising that was revelatory.

    What I realised is that if I wanted to be that special snowflake, it was all up to me. As I say, I wasn’t necessarily a bad person, but there were definitely areas that I needed to work on in my life that I wouldn’t have know needed work before that revelation. And if I had known that at 22, I probably would have hurt far less people in my life and made much better decisions. So I’m busy playing a bit of catch up now 🙂

  • Nikhil

    I really wish someone had pushed me into reading How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. It lay on my father’s book shelf for as long as I can remember and I think when I was younger there was a certain stigma or discomfort attached to reading these “self-help” books. But now I have discovered that there is an ocean of knowledge on personal growth and development and I see myself a very different person than when I was 22

  • Ritika Tripathi

    I think this will sound all to common, but i wish i had known that though many people will influence my life (parents, siblings, friends etc.) but it is in my hand how i shape it. I come from India, and let me tell you how life for us kids was when we were growing up (1990s, i graduated in 2005 and post graduated in 2008). Career choices were not alone ours, it was a collective choice of our parents and sometimes extended families. specially for the middle class with parents mostly (not in every case) being a government servant. they wanted their kids to be doctors, engineers or in the very sought after Administrative services. Not entirely because of their (unfulfilled) aspirations, also because these were a safe and sure way of getting ahead in life with recognition in some way or the other. i am in no way blaming those parents, but those were the times that compelled parents to wish for a “safe and comfortable” life for their kids. Since these parents were mostly born in 1950s or 60s when India was a very young democracy. Anyways, coming back to the topic (sorry!), i wish i had known that i don’t really need to be a Doctor or an Engineering to stay ahead in life. I was not a brilliant student. I was definitely way above average. Your choices might not be the one that your parents want for you, but it is imp. to do what you really want to do and excel there rather than do something that you don’t want and be mediocre. I am of the latter category. I wish i knew it is not possible to always please every one and most importantly i wish i knew that pleasing everyone is not necessary either.

    But now that i have the insight, i know it is never late to learn and never ever late change for better 🙂

  • Tootiebird

    I find that even when I know things, I find it difficult to put those things that I know into real action in my life. Thinking back though (12 years ago), I wish I knew that life is a whole lot more rewarding when you aren’t trying to compete with people or figure out where you rank on the infinite ranking scale of coolness, smartness, kindness, success and so on. Even now, when I know it, I still have to relearn it on a near daily basis. Cheering others on, supporting friends, and being honestly happy for others successes makes your life better too. Getting sucked into the ‘it’s not fair, why do they have a, b, c?’ internal dialogue sends you into a spiral of misery, and then you are mean and terrible to people and feel even worse about yourself, because you’ve just proven that, yes, they really are nicer than you! Be happy for people – their successes are human successes and are an opportunity to celebrate joy and satisfaction of achievement.
    And one more thing – I wish I knew that people think about me a whole lot less than I think they do. They probably aren’t mad at me near as much as I think they are. They probably just had a bad day themselves and maybe they just want someone to show a little interest in them, rather than make every nuance of every interaction about myself. I’m still learning this one – a little each day hopefully!

  • I wish I’d known two simple facts about people:
    1. Most of them don’t care about your actions;
    2. However, some closest people DO.

    The first part is a hard part. Thinking constantly “AHH WHAT WILL THEY THINK ABOUT ME” can lead to really silly situations where you can’t do simple shopping because you’re afraid of what the shop assistant would think about you if you do something wrong. So this was obviously making life much harder. But somehow imagining people yelling at me for my mistakes was way easier for me than imagining that they won’t even notice or will just correct me politely. This is the thought that never came to me that time: People Don’t Care, So You Can Do What You Want Unless It Is Prohibited By Law Or Moral. Well, thinking about it, this is in fact much more complicated, and can lead to broad questions like “How does the society work?”, so I’ll move on.

    The second part is even more hard! Once you realise that People Don’t Care, you can easily forget that actually some of them LOVE you, and some of them appreciate you as friend, and they’ll not be too happy to see your ignorance and self-absorbed living. This is the important exception to PDC rule, and it’ actually a part of definition of love and friendship.

  • Gilgamesh

    I would say that at 22 i had no sense of how the world worked. My world view was very naive and i always thought in black and white. Also at that time i thought i was the smartest person around and had it all figured out. As you get older you realize how dumb each of us really is.

  • Cian

    If I could pass a message on to 22 year old me I’d tell him (me?) to get cracking on that degree in Education that he’d been thinking about as he was going to start in in his mid-thirties anyway and sooo much dilly-dallying could be avoided.

    The thing is if I ever got to chat to 22y/o me he’d be all like “yeah, will do. That sounds great. Anyway what’s the deal with picking up women? Is it blind luck, what on earth makes them go home with another guy instead of me so often? Help me out here buddy, you know how important it is to be able to brag about that hot girl you just slept with the night previous”.

  • marisheba

    The funny thing to me about all of these life lessons that we’d wish we’d known back in the day is that, for the most part, we did know them. We just didn’t KNOW them. When I come through one of life’s great trials, and I take stock of this new, complex, wonderful, and dearly earned knowledge I have gained, I invariably realize that I have finally learned the hard way what is meant by one or another piece of common wisdom I’ve been hearing my whole life. It hits me: “Oh, THAT’s what that means!”

    The most recent one is “you can’t change other people, you can only change yourself.” While I’ve had the first half of that down for a while, I’ve only recently REALLY begun to get the second part. Changing yourself in the context of your dynamics with other people is HARD, and often scary. But it’s incredibly powerful and, when done with integrity, feels amazing.

    I’ve really been enjoying reading everyone’s contributions, and nodding along at how many I relate to thinking back on my naive, the-world-is-my-oyster 22-year old self!

  • Alwin Williams

    I wish i’d start earning and saving at 22 so i could be done with my home loan by age 27…also i wish i could complete my PG so i would’nt be stuck in my current job…

  • AB

    I wish I’d known that grown-ups (and my parents especially) don’t always have all the answers. And that I don’t have to live my life to please them and others.

  • Roy

    1. Social Skills are as important as Intellectual skills. You can be really smart, but hate your life so balance it out.
    2. A career in science is way more challenging, exciting and enriching (not just $$$) than accounting, should have chosen to major in medicine than accounting (ooops!)
    3. Keep a close eye on your health, you’re not going to be 22 forever and neither is your waistline going to stay the same.
    4. The real joy in life is not more money, but personal and personality growth.

  • Andy Ross

    At 22, having recovered somewhat from a debilitating illness, I was already on the path toward self-enlightenment. I realised that I wasn’t as “smart” as everyone said I was in school (ie. I lacked resilience and ability to perform under pressure). I also realised that my severe social anxiety was going to prevent me from ever starting a genuine relationship. Lastly I realised that a career as a profit-hungry business tech consultant wasn’t for me.

    At this point, I threw off the shackles and gleefully started a business doing my own private IT consulting on websites and small business apps.

    What no-one told me was how tough adult life would be, and how much persistence and self-reflection was actually required to achieve lofty ambitions and desires. I would go back and tell myself to slow down, persist with greater effort, analyse my decisions and actions carefully, and be confident enough to ask for what I want.

    Even though I temporarily made a little money and met a few girls, my business failed and I never entered a meaningful relationship. This was because I was actually too timid to boldly pursue the ideal clients and stick with longer projects, and too timid to show clear desire and intent for the women who excited me the most.

    Many adventures and initiatives later (at age 30) I’m still growing and battling (just like in the recent post about negotiating the battlefield of our lives in the fog). I sit in step 2 (thinning the fog to reveal context) and step 3 (shocking reality) much more, but still encounter relapses back to Step 1 where the animals temporarily run the show.

    But as I began to grow and learn at 22, I thought I was 90% there already and would be master of my domain by 24 at the latest. I should have known that life is a constant effort…there’s no absolute success or victory.

  • I would say 22 was about the same time I had my first nervous breakdown. Yes my first as in I had more after that. Sometimes smart people don’t learn from their mistakes until they have made them a few times. After the second breakdown, my family’s concern for me led me to go to a psychologist for some counselling.

    The psychologist recommended I look at a book about introverts. The introvert Advantage was the first book I read that really described me. Who I was and how I worked on the inside. That I was different from most people. That stats say about 1 in 4 people is an introvert. Which tends to make them the odd one out. They always feel different from everyone around them.

    Authors web site.

    After reading that one book, I recognised that it was ok to be different and I stopped pressuring my self to fit in and be like other people. It really gave me my confidence back, and placed my confidence in my differentness and who I really was. I ended up buying this book for most of my introvert friends. I bought and gave away more then 10 of these books.

    I wish I read this book earlier, like when I was 17 or 15. I recognize with WBY so strongly, because I am sure Tim is an introvert and most of the community would be as well. This book points out where introverts are different and why. It also gives you strategies for dealing with this differences and how to make them into strengths. How to cope in a world of extroverts, who think you are weird cause you don’t act or think like them.

    Here are some of the points that really made an impact on me.

    Introverts have a different brain path ways for processing information.
    This is identifiable in the brain activity of infants, meaning you are born this way and there is nothing wrong with it.
    It affects how their brain chemistry works and how they feel motivated.
    It also means that introverts tend to be the smarts in any group of people and take pleasure in thinking.
    They need to take time to think to maintain a healthy mental state. So that their brain chemistry keeps them motivated and wanting to get up in the morning.

    An over stimulated introvert is an unhappy person. What an extrovert needs to stay motivated will make an introvert into a very depressed person. Just based on how their brain chemistry and activity works.

    This was one of the biggest turning points in my life. I am the happiest I have ever been. I understand much better how to cope in the stressful world of extroverts and their social norms that just don’t fit me as an introvert very well.

  • Yesaro

    First, sorry for my bad grammar. I’m from Indonesia. Now this is my answer:

    I am male. I came from a religious family. My dad is a pastor. One of our family value is ‘No sex before marriage.’ That value has rooted so deeply inside me. I have never had any girlfriend until my 23 (i’m now 24). At my 22, I have a dream, my first kiss is wedding kiss. And I thought, I will never done anything sexually with my future girlfriend.

    At my 23, I have my first (and I hope will be the last) girlfriend. At a first few month, everything run smoothly according my plan. Then, one day, it finally happened. I kissed her very passionate (french kiss and making out). And a few month after that, we are cuddling naked after orgasm together.

    She and I are a virgin. Underline the word ‘are’. Until now, I never penetrate her. We are just helping each other to reach orgasm.

    But, I wish I had known at my 22 that, I can’t hold my integrity about my sexual purity. Why? I don’t know, i just wish i had known that it is so hard to overcome sexual temptation when you have a girlfriend.

  • Teresa

    I wish that when I was 22 I knew that when I turned 30 I still wouldn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

  • Erik Savage

    I wish I’d known at 22 that even if you suck at working for yourself, you’ll still always have more opportunity and probably make more money, and be more satisfied with your job than if you’re in more conventional employment.

    I’m not saying it’s always ‘easy’ and you do need to be the type to always work, even when you don’t feel like it, because unlike in a big company there isn’t always someone to cover for your hungover self (or whatever).

    But when you work for yourself you tend to get to pick a field to work in that you love, make sure your company only does the bits of that field that you really love, only employ people who share your passions and want to work somewhere that only does that stuff, make some great friends, and end up with some clients who come on holiday with you because they think you’re an all round great person for no reason other than the fact you’re always in a good mood and passionate about the projects you take on. Even during the really difficult times that any business will experience at some point, you still love what you do, which makes it easier to get out of bed than dragging yourself to an office you hate to do a bizarre mix of work that consists disproportionately of weird paperwork and dozens of e-mails that big companies seem to be able to generate en masse.

    I’m not saying I would have started my first company at 22 – I started my first at 27 (it failed – it was a finance business, credit crunch, etc etc) and that was definitely soon enough, but I would have spent my time learning from people who ran their own businesses instead of learning ‘company stuff’ to help me move up within an employed role.

    Maybe this whole answer boils down to … I’d have thought more about what I needed to learn to achieve what I REALLY want from life. Maybe for me that was being self employed and running a business, and for others it’s something else but either way I don’t think at 22 we understand or realise what we want and how to get there and tend to just get dragged into learning ‘normal’ skills which might not be the right thing at all.

  • Jude

    I wish I had understood how pointless and destructive it is to worry, that I’d known that uncertainty is OK, that not only does a settled mind = a settled body but that it works the
    other way around too, that there are really simple ways of achieving this, that life is immeasurably more interesting when you don’t buy into drama.

  • Very impressed with all the answers … that so many people have learned something valuable since 22. What about the opposite: at 22, I thought I knew everything and could conquer any problem (except the personal ones). Now I know that I know so very little and that there are so many wise people out there both to learn from and to compete with. I envy the 22-year-old me’s confidence, ability to focus, and certainty that I was special. Not sure if going back to that would be so terrible.

  • Logos Ratio

    No way! You mean you just push those stupid tabs in and saran wrap behaves itself? Cripes, decades of unnecessary anguish ……
    In my case, it would be various small ways to take care of myself physically that would have a cumulative impact at my current age of 61. I’m generally healthy but, for instance, working with power tools without wearing hearing protection from a young age means I have loud, high-pitched tinnitus 24/7 for which there is no functional treatment. Or installing floors and roofs on my knees without knee pads because I was young and indestructible means glucosamine until the inevitable knee replacement . Decades of sawdust breathed in …. you get the idea.
    This type of very gradual harmful effect is not detectable day by day and so its nearly impossible to convince yourself to put up with the inconvenience of protective gear. Aside from sharing these stories, I sometimes daydream about ways to convince other young folks I see making the same mistakes. It’s the human condition, I guess, that you cannot put this kind of wisdom from experience directly into someone else’s head.

  • Mariaellen

    I wish that I had known that to be single does not mean being ‘alone’ nor does it mean you have ‘failed’ at relationships. At the time I was in a relationship with a wonderful person (which I had rushed into but which lasted nearly 6 years) and my gut feelings were always telling me that it was wrong, that we weren’t right together. Now we have split up, have remained good friends and are both far happier, but at the time I was too scared of being alone to make that choice. I didn’t understand that what was wrong was not me, and not him, but that we did not fit together, and that does not make either of us failures. I also didn’t realise that what I really wanted (for myself) from life is to give and receive love and to have fun. And I have (and have always had) that from my family and friends, so being ‘alone’ was never a possibility.

  • Felipe

    I wish I’d known that you can actually do anything you want in your life.

    When I was younger I’d sometimes see a very rich or successful person and think to myself “I’ll never be like that” or “I’ll never have a car like this” or “I’ll never have enough money to buy that house”. I used to look down on myself, and not just on career or money matters, but for anything. I wouldn’t even want to compete on sports because I was pretty sure I couldn’t win. But the thing is: you CAN do, be or have whatever you want. You just have to work really hard for it, and it will pay for itself.

    Because of this mindset I had, I sometimes wouldn’t do my best at something, or just not engage at all. I look back now and see that there were so many things that if I had given myself a chance to try, I’d probably do very well.

    In the end, I guess what I really learned is that it definitely is worth going through a lot of hard work and sacrificing some joy time to achieve something you really want. You may put yourself in doubt during the course, but I can guarantee you (and myself, now) that with enough focus and work you’ll eventually look at yourself and say “Hey, this really IS working. I can do whatever the fuck I want then!”.

  • Michael

    My first job was in a restaurant, using industrial sized boxes of plastic wrap and aluminum foil, and nobody taught me about the tabs there either. I never learned of their existence until the age of 42. I’m pretty sure my mother went to her grave without ever acquiring this arcane and hidden knowledge, which is so deeply buried behind the indecipherable, incomprehensibly mysterious words, “Press Here to Lock Roll.”

    I sat here for an hour contemplating what I would tell myself at 22. The long and the short of it is that I should have partied my ass off, socialized, and not worried about school so much. I spent the rest of my life learning things, and I had all the time in the world for that, but partying is something that would have been better done in my youth. It’s hard to find people to party and have fun with when you’re 42 and working 60 hours a week on one of the worst work schedules imaginable.

    My life is boring, depressing, and bleak, and there isn’t a lot I can do about it right now. You only get one life to live, and I’ve squandered a lot of mine, but there is no magic wand to wave to make that go away, unless it’s a lottery ticket. The people I owe do not give two shits how satisfied I am with my life, and until this monkey is finally off my back, I’m just stuck.

  • Carolina

    I’m a fifty four year old mother now and my eldest daughter is thirty. When she was a little girl my own mother told me something that kept me thinking untill today ( I was in my early twenties and whatever my mom said I thought the opposite, but at that moment she said something very wise!) I was worried trying to protect my child from anything she wasn’t ready for and when I told that to my mother her answer was “it’s not that we have to be prepared and mature to live our lives , on the contrary, it is by living that we grow up”.
    Now I fully understand the meaning of her words, and I know that experiences both the good ones and the not so good ones are probably the best way of becoming ourselves.

    • Zoa

      great thoughts ! 🙂

    • Great comment by your mother. I will remember this.

  • Roman Gordeev

    I wish I’d known that in no way I am inferior to other people — and that I should never confirm to other people and just be myself.

    For almost all my life so far (almost 24 years) I’ve been thinking about myself as a kind of loser, the one who just sucks and no one wants to talk with — even though I had good grades which transformed into a great career in programming, was really smart, thin (and even athletic) and not ugly in any sense. It came from a lot bullying in my school years, when almost every person I’ve interacted with gave me a feeling of myself being worse than him. I’ve always disliked conflicts and a lot of them ended with me confirming to other and doing what this other wants. I could never stand up for myself — usually thinking that the other person knows better. As one of the results of this attitude at 20 years I had a really abusive relationship, which lasted for two years and ended with me being completely devastated and feeling worse then ever.

    Only recently because of psychological therapy (and some really great accomplishments, including self-hosted cinema club), I’ve started accepting myself for a person I am and actually loving myself, with all the flaws and attributes. I’ve never felt this great in my life — and, as it always happens, with the love from myself came love from other people. It’s awesome.

    Being smart and always wanting to learn new things is really great. Being able to time manage yourself and accomplish things is even better. But it is nothing without love for yourself and understanding that you are a human being and should always stand for yourself.

  • Nickie

    Every person is living their version of “right”. It may not be your version of “right” but doesn’t make them wrong. (Religion, parenting, socializing, dieting and whatever else makes up a life and shit people argue over)
    Keep it simple not personal.

  • Camille

    Convincing our offspring that life doesn’t just come to us effortlessly, is the ultimate challenge for those born in the United States and other well-to-do countries. Everything is too easy here!

    Regardless of how much our parents tell us we have to work for what we want, the evidence all around us begs to differ. Most of us weren’t starving as children, our siblings weren’t getting sold as sex slaves or siphoned off to join the war, we did’t have to haul water after school, we had a school, we had more than one pair of shoes and on and on.

    I grew up a spoiled rich kid who thought she was underprivileged because my family shopped for clothing at the Church bazaars and only owned one car, because we ate beans or lentils three times a week.

    Come to find out, the rest of the world really has to work to survive. Which I found out from living in Africa, China and the backwaters of Central America.

    So, even if parents try to promote a strong work ethic in their children, those kids won’t ‘get it.’ Their culture is a cocoon of luxury and ease. Their only real ‘job’ is to do well at school, stay safe and try not to become obese.

    All of that said, I agree that parents should at least try and illuminate their children and that telling them they are some how a cut above everyone else on the planet is a big mistake. Sure, we’re lucky we were born in this time and place, but that only makes us lucky, not special.

  • Tiffany

    At 22, I wish I had known that it’s important to put the same amount of hard work, dedication, and respectfulness into my personal life as I did into my academic/career-oriented life. I always worked really hard at work and school and became well-respected in those arenas. However, I tended to neglect the importance of working hard on my personal life and spent most of my early 20’s in horrible relationships, not spending enough time with my family, and having a general disregard for my health. Now in my early 30’s, I look back and say, “Why did you date those losers?”, “Why did you skip that family vacation?”, “Why did you think it was so important to show off at work?” I sometimes feel like a little kid again, trying to figure life out, but I wonder if that feeling will ever really go away, even in my 60’s?

  • Erik

    I wish I had known that unfocused ambition is the most dangerous thing in the world, both personally and societally.

    Kids who excel in high school and go on to good colleges feel the need to keep excelling, even it they don’t have a focus or a particularly marketable passion. (If I could have monetized my love for Ghostbusters it woudl have been a different story).

    They feel driven to be “successful”, even if they have no idea what that really means, so they gravitate towards to easy paths laid out to lure them into using their smart brains for evil. (I’m looking at you, investment banking, consulting, law school.) These things are prestigious, they come with money (which is a sign of success, right?), and most importantly according to their own pitch, if you do them for 3-5 years you have the foundation to go anywhere and do anything you may want to at that time. And that’s the real draw. Leaving your options open. Prestige, money, and not having to make a real life decision? Perfect!

    And every person says that they will do it for 5 years to get the experience of just 10 to pay off their loans, and then they’ll start a non-profit or something. But that never really happens. Instead, life happens. What was, to start, more money than you could imagine become normal and not enough, very quickly. And if you live in a place where everyone else is like this, too (I’m looking at you, New York City), the actual real price of everything does accelerate quickly. Home prices appreciate. Getting kids into the right schools requires years of the right day care and expensive tutoring. The list goes on.

    And because of the income inequality-driven stratification of our society, it becomes IMPERATIVE among every one of your peers and colleagues that you do whatever you can to put your children on the right path and provide them with every advantage, not only repeating the pattern but upping the stakes.

    The next step on the personal front, to keep climbing the ladder “for your family” you have to ignore your family. Those at the bottom of the income scale and those at the top share 1 thing: a lack of time and therefore the ability to be mindful and focused (although it’s is definitely preferable to do it for good money). In pursuit of raising your child with every advantage you have to miss your child’s childhood! It’s bizarre.

    On the societal front, the types of companies that I mentioned above get all of these smart people in competition with one another and manage to use that plus incrementalism but ambition to get them to do things that they would never do in the bright light of day. Personal financial needs begin to fade in comparison to your ambition vs. the guy in the next cube. It’s a blood sport.

    I’m now 37, married, and with a 1-year old. We moved from New York to Boston, which is an amazing mixed community with lots of smart people and lots artists and lost of immigrants and it’s fighting to stay that way despite development. We’re doing our best to adjust our own lives and keep our son’s free of these forces and we are now, finally, happy.

    I only wish I had the clarity and the guts to walk away from ambition at an earlier age.

    The worst part is that Yoda warned me oh so long ago about following the “quick and easy path”. But you can’t see past the decisions that you don’t understand.

    • Lisa

      How do you find living in Boston compares to New York? I’m still in the New York vortex which is very hard to climb out of – mainly because of the feeling that it’s the center of the universe and if I leave I might miss out on something. However inaccurate that may be, it’s a hard feeling to shake.

      • Erik

        Boston shares many of the same issues as New York, but it’s orders of magnitudes less. It also has a more favorable geography and demographic/economic mix. It’s easier to establish a life that is “opted out” a bit while still being located in the urban core and somewhat affordable, while also being surrounded both by people similar and different. In New York you can usually surround yourself with one OR the other. The reliance on the student population helps to maintain affordability to a certain degree (maybe not for the students!) which means there is more of a mix. And my neighbors are a mix of young professionals, teachers, social workers, data center techies, old portuguese couples, etc. And I KNOW my neighbors and I am part of a broader community, which is great! I never knew what I was missing in NYC b/c everyone has a transient mind-set. They think one or more of the following: they are going to cash-out and retire to Costa Rica, or they are going to decamp for the suburbs, or they love where they live but will never be able to afford to buy something, or they want to keep renting so that can change / improve their apartment/neighborhood every few years. No one puts down roots. I never thought about it until well after I had (almost accidentally) put them down up here. In that way, Boston has a lot of the best about what NYC has to offer while taking away some of the major mental and life maturation barriers. In NYC everyone is constantly trying to “better deal” their job/significant other/apartment… that feeling is much less intense here. I just had a conversation this morning with someone about difference in online dating between the two cities!

  • Anthony Churko

    I spent too much time worrying about finding the right woman for myself, so now whenever I talk to younger guys who are similar to me, I say:

    “It’s scientifically proven that your best bet (to have a happy marriage that doesn’t end in divorce) is to marry a woman around five years younger than you. Therefore, wait until you’re old enough (25 or so) that you can non-creepily date a woman five years younger. Also, grow a beard because that did wonders for me.”

  • rogerw05465

    I wish I had known that no relationship was going to fix it, whatever “it” was. Fixing it, specifically fixing my stuff, was solely my responsibility, and whether I got that done right or well was not something for which the other had any responsibility.

  • Terry


  • Rodolink

    to had the courage to talk to my actual girlfriend, so I could get 5 more years with her

  • At 22 I always thought I’d be dead by 32 (childhood illness and many operations) so I never planned for my future… I wish I knew that I’d survive and continue to live well despite all the problems so I could enjoy my life more. That’s not to say I’m doing badly but I always feel several years behind my friends in my life choices and my goals.

  • Dee Bleakley

    At the age of 26, 22 feels weirdly far away (further than it really should) but I was so new to the adult world fresh out of university-I’d wish I’d known…

    *To charge your phone so that when get that selfie opportunity with Sly Stallone your phone won’t cut out. Douchebag.
    *If you don’t like something change it.
    *If you can’t change it remove yourself from the situation.
    *If you don’t like something and you can’t remove yourself from the situation…stop whining, man up and accept it.
    *All good things come to an end (sounds incredibly morbid but makes you appreciate the good things while they last)
    *Life is like a piece of music, enjoy it as you pass through it stop trying to rush through it all the time
    *The goalposts ALWAYS move, to your disadvantage and advantage.
    *You are your choices. You have been made up of a collection of decisions and choices you have made and continue to be shaped by these choices.
    *You’re not as invincible as you think.
    *Stop settling for things because it ‘seems’ like the best option. Go and do the thing you want.
    *Stop thinking about the things you want to do and ACTUALLY go and do them.

    • Damian

      Very good points! I’m now also 26 and unbelievable how far away 22 seems to be…wish I had known back then that I should less carry what other people think or how they would do something. There are always 1000 different solutions or opinions and best way to do it is by just doing it! …better fail than never made the experience and regret it afterwords…

      • Dee Bleakley

        Totally agree.

        I also at the age of 22 used to have so many little regrets over opportunities I never took when I was maybe 18 etc etc…but then never stopped to think that l still had upcoming opportunities ahead of me? And that if I kept my mind in the past all the time I’d miss the new opportunities too!

    • GemmyB

      “The goalposts ALWAYS move, to your disadvantage and advantage” This is my favourite! Thank you!!

      • Dee Bleakley

        You’re very welcome, nice to know the weirdness that is my brain can help and is in tune with others!

  • Chris

    Plan and make choices that benefit the long term, even if the short term is a bit worse off because of it. Constantly doing things that are good right now becomes a tedious and usually self-defeating chore to have to continually keep up with.

  • Pedro

    This thread defines what I love about waitbutwhy: It makes me think!!!

    There is a lot to say and several very different but still honest answers. Let me guide
    you thru my thoughts:

    1) The “taking wrongful advantage” answer: this was the first one that came to mind… I would like to have known the numbers for the lottery or the NASDAQ stocks evolution. Surely that would have made an impact, but then I started thinking “is it all about money?”. So this can’t be the answer…

    2) The “cheating life” answer: I would like to have known which girls would break my heart, which friends to choose not to get disappointed, which streets to walk on not to get robbed, which road to take not to have an accident, which jobs to take not to get fired. But is this life or a computer game? Taking the words of a brazilian poet (my translation)
    “Dies slowly he who avoids a passion and its whirlwind of emotions.
    Dies slowly he who does not risk the certain for the uncertain to go after a dream, he who does not allow himself, at least once in his life, to escape from sensible advice …”.
    Recovering from a heart-break or from being disappointed by a friend lets you grow as a person, surviving a robbery or a car accident leads you to consider safer options, taking bad decisions leads to (eventually) better decisions. So this can’t be the answer…

    3) The “no worries” answer: In the movie Charlie Wilson’s War a story is told that illustrates the idea of how we are generally unable to understand the real implications of an event while we are in the middle of it. It’s told by the character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and the basic idea is this:
    There is a guru in a small village in the Far East. A local woman has a teenage son and he gets a horse for his birthday. The woman excitedly brings this news to the guru, saying to him, “Isn’t it wonderful?” The guru looks at her and says, “We’ll see.”
    A short while later the young man falls from the horse and breaks his leg. The woman visits the guru and laments, “Isn’t this terrible?” The guru looks at her and says, “We’ll see.”
    While the boy is still recuperating, a war breaks out and all the young men of the village are summoned to duty. Because of his broken leg, the young man cannot go. The woman visits the guru and says, “Isn’t
    it wonderful?” And the guru says “We’ll see.”

    The point I take from this story is that we can never know the twists and turns our life, or anyone’s life, can take. So most times we can’t say for sure a decision is/was wrong or right and, after basic survival, our life is a series of experiences, and the course they take is unique for each of us.
    Looking back my own life I can find good, bad and worse decisions like everyone else, but the ones I regret the most are the decisions I delayed because I wasn’t sure I it was the right one or that I worried about the consequences.
    If I could give an advice to “my 22 year old self” it would be: live your life and don’t worry so much about the future.

  • Vladislav Sakovich

    Well, I’m 21 🙂

    The first thing that has come to my mind: I wish that 5 years ago I’d known that happiness is a matter of following your purpose and living your values.

    But then… I’ve come to it not as a “click” or “aha-moment” on “October’s 12th in 20-something”. It was a long way of grabbing diverse and often tough experiences, reflecting on it, trying to live against your values… So, this has to be a natural realization which arrives just when it should for you.

    But what I really wish to have known back then… is social psychology. When I’ve diven into this topic (social phenomenas like conformity, our mind barriers, miscommunication faults, etc) – it allowed me to look differently at other people, see deeper how they behave and understand WHY they do so. It also let me look at myself cleaner, accept the illusions and false images about myself – those we all have.

    In fact, it has a lot in common with Tim’s post about procrastination, social fears, what he called “Truthism”, etc – using these knowledge let me not just read it as a meaningless text, but to “fit” it on my life and make important conclusions.

    In fact – that’s what caused me to reflect deeply on my life for a while which led me to understanding my values and purpose as I see it now.

    And THAT has led me to the job I love and value, to network and relations I seek – and to feeling happy. That helped to create what I live (and have as a wallpaper on my laptop) 🙂

  • Lisa

    I wish I had known to look at things on a day to day, practical level. I spent my teens and 20s chasing after the dream of being an actor. Something I now realize I am not all that well suited for. Not talent-wise, nor lifestyle-wise. Had I actually become successful, I don’t think I would have been all that happy. Having an erratic schedule, being on a film set full of people all day working crazy hours, constantly auditioning for jobs – that would have been exhausting for little old hermit me. But all I was focused on was feeding my hungry ego, which was enmeshed with my genuine love of acting and storytelling in a very confusing way. I was chasing a vague and all-consuming DREAM, pinning my hopes on future happiness and completely ignoring my day to day agony.

    Had I just answered the question “How do you want to spend your days?” I could have seen right away where my priorities lie. The answer is, I want to create some kind of art. Preferably somewhere quiet and surrounded by nature. It would be great if there was a puppy present. And if friends and collaborators dropped by occasionally for coffee and pastries.

    Above all, I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do. That has been the the strongest theme in my life, present since I was a tiny child who didn’t fall for that old “Okay, we’re walking away now, we’re really going…” trick that parents try to pull when their kid refuses to budge. I have rebelled against every single authority figure put before me since age 2. And yet I pursued a career that consists of literally nothing BUT being told what to do. So now that I’m in my 30s I’m trying to configure my life to cater to what’s most important to me – freedom.

  • David Yaconi

    I’m 36 now. I would tell my 22 year self and anyone fortunate enough to get a decent job out of school, to start investing immediately. Whether in a 401k at work or through an IRA. I would also advise myself to avoid credit cards like the plague that they are at that age.

    Lastly…if you aspire for more…the next 15 years are the best years to experiment and take risks…but be careful because nothing is easy and you can put yourself back years by jumping half ass into things. Make sure you do your homework and don’t try to re-invent the wheel. Learn from those before you.

  • Chris M.

    I wish I had known just how important it is to think in the long-term. At 22, working toward something that would take more than a few weeks seemed impossible- so I didn’t go to college, didn’t take care of myself physically (diet and exercise was something that “square” people did), got stuck in dead-end job after dead-end job, and was awful at maintaining friendships and relationships. If you had told me then that all of life’s major accomplishments and milestones were the result of months or years of mundane tasks, I probably would have laughed and told you to fuck right off.

    Fast forward 11 years, and I have a job that I love, friends who would take a bullet for me (and vice versa), I’m in decent shape… but it took years of catastrophic failure and emotional growth to get here. I was fortunate enough to learn just a little from every mistake, missed opportunity, and short-sighted disaster; I consider myself a decent person now, even if it took a little longer to become that way than most people. Hell, I’m still fucking up every now and then, and instead of beating myself up over it, I treat it as education. Something I never would have done at 22.

  • Bruno Braz

    What actually annoys me the most is not the things I know now and wish I knew when I was 22, but the things I don’t know now and will know when I’m 32.

  • Jamie McKie

    Gosh – so many great lessons and I’ve only read but a fraction.

    I’d tell myself that I need to use as much of that effortless youthful energy I have at 22 to push myself, take chances and learn as much as I can every day cos when I get to my mid thirties (and especially have children), it gets a whole lot harder.

    I mulled along in a job I could do easily do till I woke up after having children and wanted to do more with my life. Suddenly it wasn’t as easy to learn and take chances as I remembered. I never even realised how “comfortable” I’d become until I wanted to lift myself out the slumber.

    Build on what you are every day and you’ll be amazed at how far you can go.

  • Nikhil

    I wish I knew at 22, rather at 21, when I just finished Engineering and was scrambling to find a job (only staying in it for a year), that it is okay to take some time off… a year even! I always compared myself to my peers and their high academic achievements and tried to keep up with them… Six years later, I feel life is really long, and I have 40-odd years of career ahead of me, and I should really be giving time to doing things that I actually enjoy.

  • I’d wish someone had gotten it through my head that 22 is young. I felt grown up and rushed into all that entailed: marriage, having a kid, etc. I love my husband and my son and wouldn’t trade them for the world, but I can’t help but think that things would have been a lot more stable if I had waited a few more years to make those large life decisions.

  • Linda

    I wish I had known that my parents were exceptional strategists and exceptionally bad tacticians.

  • Bob Ueckerlele

    This is heartfelt: You can get a divorce or you can continue having sex with him/her, but you really ought not do both.

  • Jack Chua

    I wish I’d known the importance of warming up/down while doing any sports. I’m 34 now and already feels like my body has given up on me every time after working out. Damn…

    • Wynne

      I’m 33 and feel the same way, even though I’ve always consistently warmed up and cooled down throughout my life. Chronic injuries galore. So don’t be too hard on yourself. What is might have been, regardless. I often think, “I wish I hadn’t taken for granted how great my body felt when it was 22!” And I guess we probably feel better now than we will at 42. : )

  • Jacob

    That it would be alright to pursue art even though I couldn’t think of a way in which it would support me.

    Oh and that all of my comic book heroes would have movies by 2020.

  • I wish I had known that if something isn’t working, carrying on with it is just going to make stopping it more painful in the long run, and if serious thought and a little time doesn’t give any good reasons to keep going, the best thing to do is jack it in.

  • Michael Jones

    Well, I’m 18, so I can’t speak for being 22. However, if I could speak to my 13-year-old self, I would tell him to be open-minded. Because I did well in school, I thought that I had everything together because I thought I knew everything. Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was so much I didn’t know and so much I still don’t know. There were things that I thought I knew so strongly that I probably would have bet my life on being right, things that I either now doubt or know to be wrong. I wasted so much time thinking that I was right — about people, about life, about myself, about the world around me. Like most people, I still fall into that rut of being set in my ways, thinking that I’m right and that those who disagree with me must be wrong by default. But I’m still learning. I always will be. And I think that’s what I would tell my 13-year-old self: learn. Don’t just learn the answers to the test, but learn from the people around you. They see life in different ways because they’ve had experiences that you’ve never had and because they know things that you don’t know. Listen to them. You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.

  • Emily

    Stop being afraid of being alone. You can’t figure out who you are until you spend some time out on your own. Don’t be a wimp.
    Also: Don’t marry anyone who isn’t funny and doesn’t think you are hilarious. Because laughter helps you through life’s tough times. Without it, life is terrible.

    • Mark Williams

      Yes! It’s so easy to take oneself seriously. I still do this at 50 but I’m getting better at seeing the humour in it all…

  • Mary R

    I’m in my late 50’s, and yeah the fog is finally starting to lift. What I wish I understood at 22: 1. if you are intelligent, that is power; use it/own it. If you are good looking, that is power, use it/own it. Use whatever you’ve got to empower yourself and propel yourself ahead. I spent way too much time underplaying my attributes to fit in 2. understand specifically what makes you happy and when you feel happiest. It took me decades to internally articulate this, but if you do it early, it can be the foundation of your life. 3. know that people you love (parents, grandparents) are going to die along the way and you will never see them again (unless you believe otherwise). Build an awesome, rich relationship with them and you will carry it with you for the rest of your life.

  • Rebecca

    I wish I’d known that there is no RIGHT way to do life. I grew up very religious, with strict black-and-white guidelines. When I gave up religion in college, I felt like I had been deceived with the wrong system, but there had to be something else out there that was the RIGHT way to live. I put off doing anything with my life because I was waiting for an epiphany about what that was, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes and do things wrong. I thought everyone else had it all figured out and that’s what being an adult meant. Now that I’m an adult, I realize that no one has it figured out and we’re all just stumbling around blindly trying not to screw up our own lives or anyone else’s too badly. And you can’t wait to start life–it just happens no matter what.

  • Aditya Dhar

    I recently turned 24. I wish I had I spent more time, as I was growing up, taming the animals in my head and focusing on strengthening the powers of the higher being through meditation, reading, and travelling (been doing the last two more frequently in the last few years, though). The recent post on this blog really struck a chord. I feel that my mental state is in a constant flux and had I spent more time attempting to calm the storm that brews within, perhaps today I wouldn’t be constantly swinging between optimism and pessimism with regards to my life, and what it will encompass.

  • Sara Thompson

    I wish I’d known that acceptance is the key for me to grow and evolve.

  • Matt

    Contrary to what you wrote, I’d say that while my hustle has unquestionably been the driving force that’s allowed me to have a very fulfilling life, without some timely luck I would have had a much worse time of it. Hustle allows you to take full advantage of random luck, to think that you made it all on your own merit without any trace luck or favorable breaks at all (even if it’s just the ovarian lotto we’re talking about) is probably a bit far fetched. Removing the luck factor from your post I’d have to agree fully. Quite well said.

    At 22 I wish I had known how much oportunity would come my way over the next 13 years. It would have made it easier to make it through what was a pretty lean time. I’d also have been able to pick a choose my spots a bit better and to really focus my efforts on the best opportunities – diversify even less than I did, which was quite minimal to begin with.

  • Emily

    I wish I had known how to love myself instead of obsessing over different girls. I wish I had known that drinking and drugging in order to feel confidence wasn’t going to do anything except push people away and make me so sick I almost died. I wish I had known that my first girlfriend wasn’t my reason for living and, by extension, her breaking up with me was not a reason to stop eating.

  • GemmyB

    I wish I had started meditating much earlier in life. I’ve only recently turned to it to help me through an extremely difficult period, but I see now the value of cultivating the habit of pausing to separate events from the agony of the emotions that frequently accompany them. I believe that if I had started strengthening this ability early on, I would have been better prepared to cope with the challenges that inevitably came at me (and will continue to).

  • Ale

    I wish I had known just how much I didn’t know. I’m sure I still don’t.

    Humility. I thought I had figured a lot of things out at 22, and it turns out some of them were right and many were not. It turns out things aren’t as easy as being smart or cute, getting an A or landing a job. I thought if I did the right things that meant I had life figured out. Except life is a lot more complicated, less predictable and overall much more interesting than checking things off a list.

    Seeing things in shades of gray, in their nuances, in their intricacies, not walking around like I own the place, like I know better than everyone else, practicing real empathy, that’s what I wish I’d known and done at 22, but I’m learning and I’ll probably look back in five years and laugh at what I think I know now.

  • Mary R

    Wait! I have two more observations: 1. As soon as I recognized that leading an “unconventional” life (however I interpreted that) life was OK, even great, things started falling into place. 2. I realized that I had the tools to build a happy life. Then I decided I would. Then I did. (all this in mid-30’s)

  • Peter

    I wish I had realized how much much time I had left in life to find someone good to be with. At the time, I was in a relationship and had just found out that my significant other had cheated on me. I didn’t really know how to react. I had always thought that I had a “zero tolerance” policy for stuff like that, but when I was actually confronted with it, I shriveled up and thought to myself, “can I really throw the last 4 years down the drain? Wasn’t I supposed to end up with her forever? How do I even go about finding someone new?” and I ended up staying with her for a few more years (at which point I found out that she did it again). I finally wised up and got rid of her and found someone wonderful. At the time, being 22 seemed to me like I was ancient. In reality, I hadn’t really even started yet.

    • Jonathan

      I’m sorry she betrayed your trust Peter. It’s great news to hear you got out of it.

  • Jax

    I wish I’d known it was okay to fail and to not care what anyone thought about my failures…. to just keep trying and not feel defeated. I’m still trying to learn that one…

  • To the 22 year old me,

    A couple things, I’ll keep it brief because I know your attention span in short. Failure is good for you, do it some more. You will live past 25, hell you will live to 40 and odds are pretty good you will see 50, take care of yourself. It gets better.

    Thanks for listening.

  • penguin

    i was pretty much spot on at all ages, so nothing…..perhaps that fish are better eaten immediately rather than slapping them on the ice and letting other fellow penguins peck at them.. but i was bound to learn that anyway.

  • Brad

    Dear 22 year old self, Buy Stock in Apple.

    • Louis A. Cook

      I did this when I was 21 or 22 when Roth IRAs came out. Years later that $500 investment paid for trips all over the place, paid off my credit cards twice and the balance is still worth more money than any of the stocks people advised me to buy at the time. -It’s better to be lucky than good!

  • Tyler Coffin

    I wish that I’d known that you cannot possibly own a faith or set of beliefs that is imposed on you by others. And related to this, I wish I’d known that my parents were only pretending to have answers, and that it’s ok to be philosophically unsure.

    I grew up in a very conservative and mildly fundamentalist household. As a result, I acquired some very strong assumptions about other people, my own worth, and what it means to have faith. What I’ve discovered is that opinions can be imposed on other people, but those impositions will break down before the first serious challenge.

    If I’d known that having doubts is not the same as being “lost,” and that abandoning imposed beliefs is not “losing myself” but rather establishing a real foundation for growth, I could have avoided (or embraced less fearfully) a lot of confusion in my twenties and early thirties.

    • Jonathan

      That sounds like a lot of trying times Tyler. I’m glad you’re making your own meaning now.

  • Jill Hoffmann

    I wish I had known that what I believed I was and could be was far more crucial than what other people thought I was or could be.

  • Lindsay

    @ Tim Urban. This is the biggest dinner tardis (I mean table!) I have ever had the pleasure of joining. Gold star idea!

  • Leanne

    I wish that by 22 I had heard the saying “people will forget what you say and forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. Those are useful words to live by.

  • Robin

    I wish I had known about the importance of creating and maintaining those childhood connections with people you grew up with. I’m in my upper 20’s now, and I’m quickly realizing that the child in me is fading away, and I have no one to talk to to remind myself of who I was. My childhood memories, the specific details of it all, are fading away, till all that is left are the really huge moments. But none of the daily, mundane, boring stuff that I now find so fascinating and interesting. I mean sure, I was a child of the 90s, I remember and know about the pop culture and news events,etc. But the sheer essence of my childhood, my childhood friends, my childhood mentors. All of that is gone. And now, older, wiser me feels as though the first 15 years of my life is a muddled mess of grey.

  • Mark Raven

    Hey guys that are 22- when you start losing hair in your early 20’s it doesn’t mean you will be bald by 30. Don’t panic! So many hours of worrying. Wasted…

  • Karla

    – Take care of yourself (body, mind and soul), always, for and despite everything or everyone.
    – Talk more (and ask questions) to your grandparents and your parents.
    – Study what you really-really like, the subject(s) you enjoy and that you can get better every time. You will figure out the way to make money out of it.
    – Learn to be aware of what you truly want in your heart. It is usually very likely to be the same thing/person/idea that you actually need.
    What you think you should want or what you think others expect from you to want is almost never what you actually need to grow as a human being.

  • G.P. Goodall

    1. She’s the one.
    2. Twelve years later you’ll still be writing that novel.
    3. You won’t lose the weight you’re in the process of putting on.
    4. Shave those fucking sideburns.

  • Navi

    Nothing really… I like learning and if I would have told myself advice I wouldn’t have whole hardheartedly understood it.

    I would remind myself to live in the present and stop giving myself anxiety about the future or dwelling in the past and stop living inside your head.

  • Maria Helena

    Nothing. I only know now because I didn’t know back then. (except for laser hair removal. I’d really like to have skipped decades of monthly waxing)

  • Patrick Maguire

    It’s ok, and actually a sign of strength, to admit what you suck at and what you don’t enjoy doing. The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be. As we’re finding our way, the “I can do anything I set my mind to” mentality can be daunting and overwhelming at times, as well as unrealistic. I grew up in a very competitive household (9 siblings) and school environment where winning was a huge priority, whether it be math flashcards or sports. Through a series of disappointments, failing Organic Chemistry in college, getting fired from a job I hated, I learned what I was good at, what I loved and what I hated. I learned that being comfortable with who i am is more important than projecting something that I’m not. I’m 5′ 11.5″, not 6′, and that’s ok. Being honest isn’t about being complacent or “giving up.” It is about sorting through the noise of growing up and finding a mission that inspires you because you’re good at it and you love it. It takes a while and a lot of trial and error to find that out. Take pride in what you do, but after trying as hard as you can, go with your gut feeling, don’t force it, and move on until you find the right fit. Hope that helps.

  • Orkhan Jafarov

    I wish I knew that I don’t have to start my life from scratch every time something goes wrong. Only recently I discovered that I have the option to accept my mistakes and to move on instead of procrastinating, planning a fresh start and telling myself “Starting from tomorrow and until the end of my days I’ll have a perfect life where my every decision will be a right one!”

  • Alex Miller

    I wish I’d been able to discern a difference between pursuing career goals as a means of proving my worth to myself or the world, and building a career based on finding a symbiotic relationship between what makes me fulfilled and has the potential to take care of my needs, as well as contributing something that benefits or inspires others.

    As a musician, this meant that I spent my time working on a music degree trying to live up to perceived standards of my peers and teachers, most of whom were not doing anything that was particularly inspiring or fulfilling for me as a listener. It just held a high bar of elitism that seemed to promise social acceptance and academic honor if I lived up to it, and that appealed to a part of me that was insecure and unsure of what really brought me joy as an artist.

    I spent a long time feeling stuck because I wasn’t doing what was most inspiring to me, nor was the reward from outside enough to make up the difference when I would perform for the public. I am still transitioning out of this, but as I move away from what I subconsciously expected to lead to more status, reward, etc, and towards what I authentically find inspiring and beautiful, I’ve actually experienced more success, financially and socially.

    This isn’t to say I don’t make use of what I learned in school (I do), nor that I recommend quitting a great engineering job that isn’t fulfilling someone’s spiritual needs to stay at home and start a necklace-beading business on ebay. There is a lot of middle ground, and there’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps away from what you know isn’t working toward the unknown and potentially great, which is the path I’m on now.

  • Eva

    I wish I had known at 22 that a better life was not to be found in other countries but within myself, in Belgium.

  • Daniel Rutkowski

    Gosh Tim, your advice helps me out and makes me feel a whole lot better about my anxieties of braving the world.

    One thing that I would have liked to know when I was thirteen? Hm. To be honest, I was thinking of “guh, I wish I knew better about the ladies, bloo-hoo.” But I am content with what I wound up learning over time, and would rather not have all of that information in my head when I was thirteen.

    Probably the recipe for chewy chocolate cookies that I have now. I love those. Who knew rolled oats would make a cookie so good?

  • Tara Southwell

    I heard a story once about a girl and a toaster. One day, the girl, let’s call her Suzy, went to an appliance store and found one of those six-slice-enormous-bagel toasters. It cost more than she wanted to spend, since she was a new mom and pinching the pennies was absolutely a must, but she really wanted that awesome toaster, so she bought it. A couple of years later, after toasting a million bagels and slices of bread, after having to be adjusted constantly, the slices flipped, and the overall toasting performance degrading into a ballet of burnt bread, the toaster died. Suzy, of course, was furious. She spends money she really doesn’t have on an awesome toaster just to have the thing die on her like every other toaster. From the moment she wanted that toaster she was predestined to be pissed-off, because nothing is permanent. She was laboring under the illusion that the toaster would be exactly the same as the day she bought it, forever. I wish I had heard Suzy’s story back when I was 22 (or even a teenager, for that matter), because understanding that things never stay exactly the same and we don’t actually have any control over anything other than our own actions would have saved me a lot of heartache.

    • Navi

      Change is the only constant. 🙂

  • When I quit helping my children they figured things out faster.Then it was their success

  • Slvrscoobie

    I wish I knew about hair care. Spent my life until about 23 thinking only Italian mafiosos used ‘hair gel’ (greasy slicked back hair) and looks like an idiot because of it.

  • Veronica

    I wish I had fully understood that I can’t control the choices of anyone except myself, and that being angry over the choices people I love make is a waste of time and only hurts myself. I wish I knew that when people do disappoint or hurt me, the best thing to do is understand that it wasn’t personal and to love them anyway.

  • Trevor John Thompson

    Oscar Wilde said it best: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

    While i was certainly aware of the aging process, at 22 i had no visceral appreciation of the coming inevitable accumulation of minor wear and damage that manifests as a steady decline in acuity and ability, both mental and physical.

    At 22 one has just finished “growing up”, and might be forgiven for seeing only unlimited prospects ahead. It would be very instructive to have access to an aging simulator that could give you a taste of the limitations you will likely experience in 12, 24, 36, etc. years.

    Would i have done things differently? More stretches and warm-ups, maybe. But mostly i think i would have better appreciated the energy, stamina, and endurance i enjoyed then.

  • Roxana

    I’ve been reading many of the posts and I still cannot believe just how much of the stuff that’s here can be found in this … song ..! Yes , song 😉
    Please , please watch this … find it absolutely awesome ..!

  • Alyssa

    I wish I’d known that admitting weakness was strength, not weakness.

  • thinkingaloudinla

    I just love to read that there are lots of other people at the dinner table who have to wrestle with the “monkey mind”. May I suggest we set up a little table where they can meet and mingle?

  • thinkingaloudinla

    The monkeys – that is! ; 0

  • Val K

    I wish I knew that I should not fear much, if anything at all. Unfortunately, I was raised in constant fear: what if you don’t know enough? what if you mix up with “wrong crowd”? what if you can’t earn a living? what if you have to serve in the army? what if… – endless list. Now I know you should just try, whatever it is you REALLY want.
    Also, I wish I knew that grown ups don’t really know any life secrets just because they are older. (Some actually stay at the kindergarten level of intellect and maturity until their death.) I always thought I would acquire some wisdom with age – I realized since that wisdom can only be acquired through trying to do stuff and digging inside yourself until you find the truth. Well, maybe occasionally by observation 🙂 if you get lucky.
    I now get this reoccurring comfy feeling – like, “the universe knows better”. Meaning, sometimes I struggle against all odds, push with all my might (and some) – and in the end, it would all be wasted. But a bit later, I would totally see why, and how it was actually to my advantage that I failed to achieve that thing which I was striving for with such determination! These days, I sometimes manage to skip the try-and-push stage – straight to the a-ha! moment 🙂 I wish I had a hint of this when I was 22.
    In short, worry less, fear less, dig inside yourself – this is what I would want to have known then.

    Great topic!! Great format for interaction!! Love your posts!!

    • Instant gratification monkey

      Wow and yes. May I ask, have you ever taken a risk and not been awarded for doing so?

      • Val K

        well… it’s a tough question. There were many situations in which I have taken risks (= acted in a way that was not the safest/most comfortable/most “logical”) and these situations developed not the way I thought they would. However, as far as I can remember, this would ALWAYS work to my advantage in the end. Sometimes I just needed to zoom out of the detailed level of my life to see how these “failures” or “misfortunes” worked to my advantage in the end. Like being laid off on the day I signed the mortgage papers 🙂 For a few months, it seemed like a terrible catastrophe – I was devastated and desperately looking for even a survival job! In the end, I found one that I didn’t dare to dream of before 🙂

        • Instant gratification monkey

          Thanks for answering!
          Since I started paying attention this, I’ve not heard of any case, where taking risk for things your guts said you wanted has not paid off. It’s crazy we are still afraid of taking risks!

      • Val K

        well… it’s a tough question. There were many situations in which I
        have taken risks (= acted in a way that was not the safest/most
        comfortable/most “logical”) and these situations developed not the way I
        thought they would. However, as far as I can remember, this would
        ALWAYS work to my advantage in the end. Sometimes I just needed to zoom
        out of the detailed level of my life to see how these “failures” or
        “misfortunes” worked to my advantage in the end. Like being laid off on
        the day I signed the mortgage papers 🙂 For a few months, it seemed
        like a terrible catastrophe – I was devastated and desperately looking
        for even a survival job! In the end, I found one that I didn’t dare to
        dream of before 🙂

  • Caroline S

    3 things
    1. That it’ not about doing things perfect. That I perfectly feel and know what is most important to me.
    That it’s not about suceeding at these things, but about trying these out. Truly, with all my force.
    If it doesn’t work it’s just fine, no what-could-have-beens and truly no problem at all.

    2. That there for any one person there are multiple ways to look at life.
    Too long I’ve taken the ‘existential’ pessimistic. life is a ‘wunschkonzert’, (in German you say that life is exactly not that, but bullshit. Works only in German, sorry guys)

    3. That life is not about thoughts (‘I’m more of an idea man’), but your Actions shape your life and happiness. Of course you are still allowed to think about the universe and all it’s all 24/7, just let actions follow and let them flow as immediately as possible, cleans the head too, by the way.

    4. That life is not happening in te future. If you are not a rock star now, you are not a rock star.
    If you feel like you should be one, see 3.

    5. That there are people that think just like you and truly understand you.

    5. How Truman capote did it and how to count to three.

    6. How scary it is to miss your floor and walk up to the attic at 1am because you are writing this comment. Not that scary anymore 30s later actually.

  • Gem Blackburn

    I wish I had known that no one is watching…not really. Most of the time people are so busy in their own lives that they’re not focussed on me. Did I say a stupid thing? Maybe? But the likelihood of anyone else thinking about my slip up, six years later, at four in the morning is highly unlikely.
    I can let it go. I’m allowed to fuck up, next time I can fuck up better. One day I may not fuck up at all. I am only the centre of my universe, not everyone else’s.
    I spent 35 years feeling judged, by my mum, by society, by my partners & then I asked them what they actually thought of me. The answers were a surprise, they are proud, they love me & think I’m a great person.
    I don’t need to do other people’s thinking for them, the voice I heard in my head was not theirs, it was my own harsh interpretation of it.
    I wish I’d known how happy I am is my decision, nothing outside me can effect me, my self worth & self esteem are my responsibility. To feel good, I have to do good. That I can restart my day at any time, I don’t have to wait for it to implode.

    I wish I had know that I was probably never going to look better & to revel in it!

    • Caroline S

      But you’re also the main character in your life’s story. Isn’t that great? We all get to play a main character, no one gets a supporting roleOnly. I love this new dinner table, but need to go to sleep!!!!

  • Instant gratification monkey

    Best names are gone fast on the web

  • cybernetichero

    Got married at 22. Wish I had known what a wrong thing that was.

    • Brad

      I got married at 23. One of the best decisions of my life. I think the important things is to get married for the right reasons. I think some people have the impression that being married will ‘solve’ things, but in reality it takes work, just like everything else.

  • Steven Reed

    I’m not 22 yet, but what I wish I could have told 14 year old me is that there is nothing wrong with being known for something. All of my life I hated the concept of being recognized for one singular thing, but looking back it would have been really amazing to have been the “guitarist,” the “gym rat,” the “surfer.” I really haven’t established an identity because I never anchored myself onto anything, and because of it I was a back seat driver to my own life, letting people identify what I should be doing or what I should enjoy, and hating myself for not.

  • Mike Hunter

    I wish I had known video games were going to get so small you *could* carry them in your pocket. I would have told myself, “Just wait, dude, it’s going to be awesome. Only you’re going to be so old you won’t care anymore.”

  • Felipe Lisbôa

    I’m 20 years old now. 5 years ago I was just an ordinary teenager, with an ordinary life, haging out with people who I considered friends, but it was not a mutual feeling, entering high school and hating all that. I hated the arrogant rich boys who could get all the girls they wanted, the arrogant pretty girls who just hung out with the arrogant rich boys, the fashion show that was the school hallways, the same old boring teachers and their lessons and I remember that the only thign in my mind at that time was: “God, I want to get out of here! Once I get out of school, I’m done. I finish life!”. Now, I’m 20 years old, I started to studying architecture in college, but I dropped, then I started working for my father in the store he manages, and I dropped, I tried to meet new places, started a plan to travel to Europe, but I dropped this idea too, just because I don’t feel motivated to do all this things. I feel like I finished life. In all my school years, I just thought about getting out of school. I never stopped to think about a job, a carrer, having a family, friends. I never REALLY stopped to think about that. And when I start to do something new I just think: “What’s the point of that?” Why am I struggling and sweating just to get a chance in one million to fulfill my dreams? And what are my dreams? How am I sure that this is not my parent’s dreams, or my friend’s dreams, or my brother’s dreams or even society’s dreams?
    I just don’t think that all the struggle is worth the prize.
    If there’s something I know now that I wish I had know 5 years ago is: There’s way more things in life after high school than I can imagine, even now. I would have planned my life, I would have talked to teachers, I would have been a better friend, a better brother, a better son. I would have been a better me.
    And I try to be a better me every days, but I have this problem with motivation…
    Sorry if I wrote something wrong, my last name is “Lisbôa”, so you can imagine that english is not my native language.

  • Jason Gonzales

    Wow, 22 was LIFE CHANGING for me. Okay, here goes, I was learning a lot about myself during my 22nd year as a human. It was the year I started thinking for myself instead of what I had been told my whole life. It was definitely a transitioning year. I was what people would refer to as a “metal head”, I had (sort of) long hair, my ears were pierced, my bottom lip was pierced twice on either side of my soul patch, and I had a goatee long enough to braid. But I decided to change all of that for reasons I’ll explain in a minute. I cut my hair, went out and bought some new clothes, took all of the Pantera, Alice in Chains, and Black Sabbath posters down, and took the lip piercings out.

    I lived by myself in a one bedroom apartment in the student ghetto, went to college, worked part-time at Hot Topic, and played A LOT of Sim City when I was supposed to be doing homework (Instant Gratification Monkey).

    You see, one day I realized something I had been in denial about for awhile: I was gay. I didn’t want to be gay because I REALLY liked my life as a straight guy. I genuinely loved the music (and still do to this day), I liked my circle of friends, the bars, the concerts, and somehow I thought that being gay meant I had to give all of that up. This was also the reason why I decided to change everything about me, you see, I was VERY sexually frustrated as I was STILL a virgin (yes, at 22) and my thought process was, ShitIfIGoToAGayClubAndBringBackAGuyToMyApartmentWhatWouldHeThink, (Social Survival Mammoth).

    I’ll leave the details out of this post, but everything turned out MUCH better than expected and I ended up coming out of the closet and all that fun gay pride stuff.

    So, what I would have told 22 year-old Jason is that, life is actually really, really awesome living as a gay man. I would probably go into details as to the reasons why, because I know that 22 year-old Jason would need some convincing, but this post is getting long enough and I don’t want to sound like my life is any better than that of a straight man just because I’m gay, because that’s just dumb, and simply not the case.

    Maybe I’ll start an “It Get’s Awesome” campaign for post-pubescent gay guys struggling with coming out of the closet.

  • Sameena Shaikh Dixit

    At 22, I wish I had the realization that our parents are not going to be around forever. Like anyone else, I was busy being a 22 year old kid exploring & aspiring more from life. Having lost my Mom at 26, in a very sudden unexpected way, the sudden loss left me with a kind of grief that numbed me in ways which I can’t explain. Surely life goes on and one tries to keep the memories alive and move on, but knowing & truly appreciating that you really can’t take things/people that form your inner circle for granted at 22 and that one has to consciously strike that balance in an ever distracting world would have perhaps put things in bit more perspective.

  • Jen

    I wish I had known (or rather understood) that extremes are impossible. At 22, I was always on the hunt for “the best”, “the most”, “the worst”…you get the picture! In my quest for the extreme moments I wasted all the moments in between. Sadly, those are the moments that really make up life and I wasn’t really present in those moments.

  • Jacob Nestle

    Five years ago, I was eleven.

    As cliche as it is, saying “That girl you hang out with, she is going to kill High School for you” would actually have been good advice.

  • jediwes

    This is one of those tricky topics that’s tangentially time-travel related and also linked with how one feels about how their life has turned out. If one has many major regrets, then I can see how making a major change would be appealing. However, if one sees the various major milestones or turning points as an important part to who they are today, then any change can set off the butterfly effect.

    At 22, I was just finishing college and on the tail end of my first LTR, which would end unpleasantly and lead to a pretty dark period in my life. And yet, it was also necessary for my own growth, and eventually would lead to meeting my next girlfriend who was on the other end of the spectrum from the first one. And while I would eventually make mistakes with that girlfriend, I also learned a lot from her, and I wouldn’t change that (much) either, as while I don’t think we were ‘meant for each other’ in the long run, she became a better best friend (than girlfriend). So relationship-wise, I now know that taking my lumps was part of my own development. If anything, there’s perhaps wisdom I’d pass onto myself there at 32 instead of 22.

    The only other thing I can think of would be to impart some financial/career advice to myself about fiscal discipline (and especially about overspending on the first GF – ‘me, it’s not worth splurging on her. Cut your losses.’). My career since has been very ”drifty’, and could have been accelerated if I had more of a career guidance counselor to teach me how to handle work politics as well as advocating for my own advancement. Waiting for others to ‘recognize’ one’s contribution is far slower than understanding how to demonstrate one’s value in a annual/quarterly review.

  • Daniel

    1. You don’t need to plan out your while life. It’s okay to not know what you want or have any clue what is going to come next, because it’s impossible to know that. Uncertainty is uncomfortable, but certainty is absurd. Sometimes you just need to do something or move in one direction to figure out what you do or don’t want. Preparation is important for a lot of things. But if you become too rigid and closed-minded, you close yourself off from being able to recognize the fantastic, unexpected things that life has to offer.
    2. It’s okay to live a normal life. The mega famous and uber successful are anomalies. While most of the very successful people in the world got to where they are through hard work, almost all of them had an incredible amount of luck. The heroes of our time, Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg, are rightfully idolized, but never would have changed the world the way they did if any of them were born in a different decade. Do what you can to be the best version of yourself, and let that be enough. If you reach legendary status and people talk about you for generations to come, great. But who cares, you’ll be dead anyway.
    3. Live a life that feels good to you on the inside, not one that looks good on the outside. The rat race that most people are involved in (but will hardly ever admit to) will be a regretful one. Think of the eulogy that would be given at your own funeral. What would you want to be said about you? Live that life instead of the life that is written on your resume or meticulously crafted on your Facebook account. No one ever sat on their death bed and wished they spent more time chasing promotions, or bought a bigger house, or had more Twitter followers. It’s also okay to be a different person than what your family and friends and society expects you to be.
    4. Happiness is a choice. Someone is happy with less than what you have. The happiness of your life is dependent on the quality of your thoughts. You can choose to not flip out when someone cuts you off on the freeway. You can choose to not be annoyed when there aren’t enough cashiers working at the grocery store. It’s difficult, but it beats going through life being miserable.
    5. No one ever becomes completely comfortable with every aspect of themselves. Everyone has insecurities and things that scare the shit out of them. Being vulnerable is part of being human. We all want to be accepted by our peers, and it’s okay to want a reminder that people still like you despite your flaws. The more we become aware of this, the better we can connect with others through compassion and empathy, free of judgment. We’re all in this together, doing our best to get by.

    • Johnny

      Best reply by far!

      • Daniel

        Thanks, Johnny!

      • Zoa


    • Georgia

      Thank you for this! I’m seriously putting this on my fridge and reading it everyday.

      • Daniel

        Wow, glad I could be of some help!

  • Lindsay Brownell

    As a pre-teen and teenager, I never really mentally came to terms with the fact that I was growing up and becoming an adult. I spent a lot of my teens and 20s trying to reclaim my childhood while simultaneously embracing things that came with adulthood, like drinking (responsibly!), renting apartments, getting a job, etc. I wish my younger self had been told that doing that was stupid and I wasn’t helping myself in any way. In fact, I think it stunted my ability to form relationships with people, the kinds of relationships I hoped to have as an adult (lifelong friends, mentors, romantic partners, etc). I feel that I’m emotionally about four years behind where I should be, and I relate much better to people who are younger than I. It’s kind of annoying, because I’ve finally accepted the fact that I can’t really do anything about becoming an adult, but I can’t just instantly fully become one; I still need to go through that development process. But I’m learning.

  • Tony Birch

    I wish I had had faith in God and done what was right in God’s sight. It would have been awesome to truly know and walk with God from that stage in my life.Through a steadfast commitment to God, I would not have made the harmful and foolish decisions I made over the years and I would not have lost so much time. I would have sought wisdom and understanding, and worked a whole lot harder at EVERYTHING I did.

  • mtnchk

    Hi, I will have to say that I have not had time to read everyone else’s comments.But what I have learned that I did not know when I was 22 is that there most of the time there is a way to see the world in a way that everyone takes into account the other person’s perspective. If you do this most of the time you can have a win-win or at least a diffusion of a conflict that might seem like a no win situation. When you see a situation truly from the other persons perspective, or realize that the other person is just coming from a place of vulnerability it is so much easier to connect with them and come up with a solution or let go of your need to control the situation.

  • mtnchk

    Hi, I will have to say that I have not had time to read everyone
    else’s comments.But what I have learned that I did not know when I was
    22 is there most of the time there is a way to see the world in a
    way that everyone takes into account the other person’s perspective. If
    you do this most of the time you can have a win-win or at least a
    diffusion of a conflict that might seem like a no win situation. When
    you see a situation truly from the other persons perspective, or realize
    that the other person is just coming from a place of vulnerability it
    is so much easier to connect with them and come up with a solution or
    let go of your need to control the situation.

  • mtnchk

    Hi, I will have to say that I have not had time to read everyone
    else’s comments.But what I have learned that I did not know when I was
    22 is that most of the time there is a way to see the world in a
    way that everyone takes into account the other person’s perspective. If
    you do this you can have a win-win or at least a
    diffusion of a conflict that might seem like a no win situation. When
    you see a situation truly from the other persons perspective, or realize
    that the other person is just coming from a place of vulnerability it
    is so much easier to connect with them and come up with a solution or
    let go of your need to control the situation.

  • Shanghighed

    Don’t do coke. Or strippers.

    • Shanghighed

      …or take yourself too damn seriously.

  • Mary

    i’d wish i know…. that … eating too much rice every single day is just instant gratification. now i have to payback with the extra securely stored calories.

  • Anon

    I wish I realized that happiness is a choice we make in life and that it is hard work to remind myself of that choice every moment of my life. That’s 5 more years of happiness I could have had! Hehe. Here’s to at least five more..,

  • Linda Christopher Watson

    not to let other people tell me what to do.

  • Stephanie Lagos

    At 22 i thought i was so smart, wish i’d realised how much i didn’t know and that being good at anything requires a lot of hard work…intelligence will only get you so far

  • Penfold

    I wish I had spent more time with my parents when I had the chance.

  • Jessie Hurst

    I would have loved to know the following 10 things when I was 22:

    1. Nobody really cares what you are wearing or how you look – they’re busy worrying about what other people think of how they look. Silly circle round and round.
    2. High heels make your legs look killer, but they are going to f*ck up your back. Only wear them to parties.
    3. Everyone is as sh*t scared as you are most of the time – the very few calm ones are either zen or better at hiding their fears.
    4. It’s ok to be scared. Just don’t wallow in it.
    5. Read more books and watch less TV. Make it a goal to read at least one book a month.
    6. Don’t let someone else put you down for your taste in music. It’s a form of art and nobody’s taste is superior.
    7. You can eat and drink what you want now, but when you get to your mid-twenties your metabolism will come to a screetching halt and you will have to start eating more carefully.
    8. Don’t think that you can just quit smoking when you want to – you need to understand that you are an addict first before you can decide to quit.
    9. Your parents did not raise you to the best of their abilities and neglected you – but you turned out ok and can now start re-raising yourself to become the person you want to be. You do not have to be the result of poor parenting – you can choose a different path.
    10. Your purpose in life is not likely to reveal itself to you in a moment of epiphany with the clouds parting and the sun shining down on your head. It will reveal itself when you are doing something that makes your heart sing and make you want to jump out of your skin from happiness. That might just be your purpose.

    • Chris M.

      I want to print this out and stick it on my refrigerator. Brilliant!

    • This comment made my heart sing. Especially #2 and #10 had me laughing!

  • Bogdan Voicu

    I am still wondering why you picked this age: 22. It strikes me because most of my current life revolves around the decisions I made when I was that age.
    But getting straight to the point: I wish I knew that life is not that complicated. As I was 22 I had a lot of “tough” decisions to make: marry (or not) my gf as I found out she is pregnant (we knew each other for just a couple of months), choosing a career path as I was about to graduate university and I received two very appealing but different job offers, finding a flat to rent, managing my own financial situation without any help and many other things. Eventually everything turned out much better than expected but I still have the feeling that back then I was more stressed than ever and because of that I was just about to make the lives of my close ones as well as mine a hell. Currently I am still having a hard time making decisions of any kind, but I like to think that I am better at avoiding augmenting possible negative consequences in my mind.

  • Kate

    I wish I’d known that it’s NEVER that serious! Thinking back i should have thrown all caution to the wind and taken a Gap Year (unheard of concept in most traditional African families like mine) to travel around the world. Just backpack through Europe and the Americas, and then come back home and finish University. I have done most of my travelling in my late twenties, which was great as well but i had more responsibilities and less time… and standards on where i can and cannot put up for the night. My accommodation and travelling means standards when i was 22 with no income were much lower.

  • David

    Having life thrust upon me at 21 with the birth of my first child the list of “things I wish I knew at 22” is way too long to write out here. Suffice it to say that if I knew all the things I know now back then I would have been a much better parent to my children, better husband to my young ex-wife, and smarter about my career choices than I have been. Many people in there twenties have the opportunity to experience a lot of trial and error. When the responsibility of parenthood and marriage is introduced at such a young age that luxury is taken away. I don’t want to suggest that making missteps in your twenties as a single person does not create suffering and pain but with others in your life who count on you the mistakes you make are magnified and may have lasting negative effects on those you love. So if there was one thing I wish I knew then that I know now it would be that the people in your life are the most important things you will ever encounter and need to be attended to every day in every way that you can.

  • Guest

    That when you get old the kids you so lovingly raised would be abusing you when you are old and sick. My mama passed when I was 20. I bought the home I am still living in at 22. And yes, 3 of my adult kids still live here. I pay all the bills and they do all the bitching. 🙁 I WANT OUT.

  • Jay Kay

    I’d wish I’d know what was important… being slightly older than 22, I can now look back (with the aid of a nice set of beer goggles) on what I did right, and what I did that was ” just a bit outside…”
    Some things in life you need to learn the hard way (like those hard earned college educations – and then realizing that the piece of paper or sheep skin was a “pass” and now you needed to learn “real life” and a “real job”, others should be skipped (like knowing deep down you should pass on the lousy job that really isn’t for you but take it anyway – those jobs can suck the soul out of you faster than you can say Dilbert.)

    In other cases, take the risk – start the company, go spend 2 years ski-bumming in CO teaching the disabled how to ski bumps, take 1 or 2 months off between jobs and tour the world – I strongly recommend a camper with a bike, so you can really enjoy the local markets…
    Give freely of yourself – you’ll be surprised what life gives you back (no really) even in sarcastic, self-centered NJ… a friend asked if a son of their friend’s friend can stay with us for a few weeks to see NYC. We said OK… 2 years later we had his camper and bikes to use touring eastern Europe and sample some fantastic markets.

  • Max Agner

    I wish I had known at 22 that I am my best friend. I wish I had known that all the love and attention I was craving so much could be attained if I had loved myself then as much as I love myself now. I wish I had known that I could feel love and attention from within and think about myself well without imagining what the rest of the world might be thinking and striving so hard to get the rest of the world to love me.

  • MissMaryMem

    I wish I’d known I would live this long. I’d have taken better care of my body. If I’d kept up running, ballet, yoga, etc., I might not e so stiff and clunky now.

    • Vancesca Dinh

      It’s never too late to start!

  • Willy

    I wish I could have sat at the WBW dinner table when I was 22. Honestly, is there a more interesting, intelligent, sensitive, sensible and all-around awesome community of people around the world than the WBW community? Just when I think this site can’t get any better, Tim comes up with this. WBW is just an amazing phenomenon!

  • Adina

    First, I’d like to say a huge thank you for having this awesome blog with this awesome new forum. This is exactly what the Internet is supposed to be like.

    I wish I would have known at 12 – I’m 17 today – that it is okay to stay childish for a longer time than I did. I thought that school was so important, and in some ways of course it was, but I wish I would have spent more time with friends and had more fun than I did. I’ve only recently come to realise that not everything is in books or on google, but that you need to talk to people to find out about things.

    • Carl K

      That should be WBW’s tagline. “What the internet is supposed to be.”

    • Fletchworth

      You’re exactly right – I’m 19 and the one thing I regret about my childhood is not building a solid social life before I graduated high school. After high school, the amount of people you interact with on a daily basis who are your age and have similar interests with you goes from twenty or thirty to about 5. It’s a huge change.

      At some point you also have to decide what you’re going to do with your twenties – is a big decision. You’ve never had to decide what to do with your life before, why now? As a teen your connection with your parents and family in general is a lot closer than it is after you leave home. Don’t leave without SOME kind of plan, even if it’s not what everyone wants you to do.

  • NE

    Be nice to EVERYONE along the way. Seriously. It’s worth your energy.

    • Arek Taylor

      …you never know when, or under what circumstances, you will meet them again.

  • Mer

    I wish I wouldn’t have spent my early 20’s reading women’s magazines like Cosmo, Glamour, Marie Claire, etc (I’m female). Wish I would have known that these magazines are basically just beautiful, glossy advertisement books that aim to make you feel not good enough so that you go out and buy stuff. I wasted a lot of time, money and energy!

    • muislot

      I couldn’t agree more!! Thankfully I boycotted those magazines at age 16.

  • Amir

    I wish that I had known that reasons for pursuing long term goals can change and even so much that the goals themselves change and that these changes are okay. After my undergraduate degree, I pursued a PhD in Chemistry and I was very ambitious. The PhD turned out to be a far more challenging process than I ever imagined and it forced me to examine my lifemore deeply than I ever intended to. At
    the end of the degree, I had learned a lot about what I really valued and as result a lot of my initial reasons for pursuing a PhD weren’t there. Long story short, it took me far too long to let go of those initial reasons and the person I thought I should be, rather than just accepting the change and evolve. This challenge still presents itself when I engage in long term projects but I am better at accepting the fact that theperson I am going to be in six years might not be exactly who I am today.

  • You have a choice: to be right, or to be happy (still struggling with this at 67)

  • Chris

    Saran wrap is my kryptonite.

  • Unqlefungus

    It’s only Friday and there are already 814 comments and god only knows how many replies. They are fascinating, enlightening, sad, hopeful, wise and hillarious. Congrats, Tim. You have just created the best ride in my dark playground, and I may never get anything done ever again.

  • Christian

    At 22 I wish I had known that it is more important to make a choice and live with the consequences than to allow others to make the choice for me.

  • Apple

    At 22 I wish I had known that you need to invest in your relationships. You need to make the time, especially without college or high school or living with them or any other built in system to spend social time with them regularly. This includes family and friend relationships.

  • croddam

    I wish I understood at 22 that nothing in your life will matter if you continue hating yourself. You’ll find no joy in a life with self hatred. You’ll find no love or passion when what you seek is death. Trying to replace what’s missing with a relationship or activity is pointless when anything you accomplish is tainted by your shadows of doubt and worthlessness. Refusing to correct the habits that continually sabotage your prospects as well as lying to yourself that all those bad habits would magically fix themselves, if only you could find the career where you ‘fit’, will only lead to wasting unhappy years on distractions. Realize distraction will only take you so far but eventually to stay alive you WILL have to face yourself. You don’t need to waste so many years when all that’s needed is to Trust in yourself and everything will follow.

  • I wish I’d known that being genuine and kind can actually be a smart business strategy. I entered the business world with a good job but tons of misconceptions about how my typically nice-guy attitude would fail or need to be couched to succeed in business. Six years later, I want to go back and tell 22-year-old me how dead wrong I was and how to never compromise your values or personality for a job, ever.

  • Pingback: What I wish I had known at 22 | Mental Health Recovery and Wellness()

  • Big Wally

    Should have dug the grave a little deeper. Got to go, guard is comi

  • Bonnie Neighbour

    I wish I knew at twenty-two how resilient I am. At twenty-two, working as a teacher, the brick wall of strength I thought I was, was beginning to crumble. At the time I didn’t use the image of a brick wall for myself, but looking back it seems to fit how I saw myself, a strong, solid wall standing firm on my beliefs and world view. A fairly recent college graduate I had weathered the college years while working, being in band, orchestra and chorus, taking classes, making a home, spending summers overseas, and having friends. The first year on the job after college when I was twenty I saw myself as a bit of a super woman. I brought instrumental music back to a school that had none for many years, I designed and built sets for the local community theatre, I founded a community orchestra, I worked part-time to stretch the tiny teacher budget I was living on, I had friends, I created a home for myself. I had black-and-white values that shaped my life. I was a brick wall, strong and solid.

    But some of my bricks were beginning to crumble. It was tough making ends meet. I was beginning to juggle bills with my desire to find comfort in things that needed buying. The small town I was in wasn’t proving to nurture my need for a lively, vital hometown. My colleagues at work no longer saw me as a novel and entertaining stranger but rather as the outsider. When I reported a fellow teacher for sexually harassing/assaulting me the Superintendent dismissed my concerns as inappropriate rather than his words and hands-on behavior as inappropriate. I began to question myself. A disastrous encounter with a brother of one of my students knocked me off balance leading me hide and cower. My insecurities were mounting. My sense of balance was teetering. More of the bricks that formed me – the brick wall – were crumbling and my vision for myself became clouded and dim. By the end of my time there it was as if all that remained of me was a brittle shell, I was no longer a strong, solid brick wall. I could barely get from my bed to the kitchen, let alone get out the door and go to work so I resigned in defeat. All that remained of the brick wall that was the dust. I became dust. Dry, broken brick dust.

    My metaphor changed and I began seeing myself as billowy, diaphanous fabric, perhaps chiffon. There wasn’t much substance left to me and I fluttered around depending on what was happening around me. I worked thirty jobs in the next fifteen years and moved fifteen times. I worked two or three jobs at once when the wind inside my head was blustery, and no jobs when the wind died down. Many of the moves were because I’d burned too many bridges in my living situation. I juggled too many bills. I’d hurt too many relationships. At first I saw my chiffon metaphor as being iridescent with rainbow reflections projecting off me, but as the years went by, the rainbows faded and the fabric wore thin. I wrote an essay about the diaphanous rainbow projecting fabric that was once me no longer billowing but rather barely holding itself together where the threads had worn thin. A strong breeze would cause the edges to just fall away. Soon I would cease to exist. I entrusted the essay to a therapist who put it in a folder in a locked file cabinet, we never spoke of it. I was devastated. I thought if I told her how fragile I was she could somehow knit me back together. Where I once was convinced I was a brick wall, I came to believe I was nothing but disintegrating threads.

    I am neither a brick wall nor disintegrating threads, but rather a strong and solid, billowy and diaphanous human, a beloved child of God, a smart, funny, caring, imperfect, resilient human. If there is a metaphor that serves me now I guess it would be a tree. My roots are deep and strong from the years I’ve spent working on my wellness, the hundreds of hours in self examination, and the depth of my relationship with and understanding of my creator. My trunk is tall and strong, but doesn’t crumble or snap with pressure, it actually morphs itself around the pressure and incorporates it into itself. When pushed by the wind, it bends and flexes. My branches and leaves may billow about in the wind, much like the diaphanous fabric I once saw myself as, but when wear and tear happens to the old leaves they become as rainbows, and as they fall away my tree bears new leaves! I do not fray and disintegrate, Just as the tall and strong, flexible and colorful tree, I too am resilient. How I wish I knew that when I was twenty-two.

  • stacecase

    I wish I had known that no matter how much you love someone else, you cannot make them love themselves.

    • Jonathan

      Wow too true.

  • Maps

    Although it flies in the face of this question and may seem hopelessly paradoxical to me, the thing I wish I had known at 22 is that I shouldn’t have been so concerned with what I wished I had known at 21.

    That is to say, I spent a great deal of my early 20s unhappy because I was constantly thinking about how things could have been better if I had done things differently. “If only I had known more when I was 18, I would have chosen to go to a different college.” “If only I had known more at 20, I would have not broken up with that girlfriend.” “If only I had known more at 21, I would have gotten a different job.” Somehow I thought that if I had done things differently my life would have turned out better. And while that gave me an overall regretful and negative outlook on life at 22 (and that certainly sucks) it doesn’t stop there.

    It also caused me to try to backtrack from the path I was on to rectify the perceived poor decisions I made in the past. I thought, “I wasn’t just going to wallow in my sorrow, dammit. I was going to do something about it.” When I was 22 I regretted never studying abroad like my friends did. When they got back from whatever magical land they went off to, they had amazing stories of how great the experience was and how much they grew from it. And so after I graduated, I went on multiple trips to foreign countries. These should have, and could have, been wonderful experiences for me. But I was too busy comparing my own experiences to those that I regretted missing out on with my friends a few years earlier. And I didn’t get those experiences that I expected to have gotten when I was 19, because I wasn’t the same person I was back then, and I wasn’t in the same situation I would have been in. These trips shouldn’t have been a waste of time, but they felt like it to me because my expectations were rooted in the past. The same disappointment followed chasing after an old girlfriend I wished I hadn’t broken up with back then, only to realize that by the time we got back together we had grown into very different people while we were apart and we were no longer at a place in our lives where we could be happy together. I did the same thing entering a masters program in new area because I regretted my major in undergrad, only to find myself tied down to a job I hated in order to pay off the debt I incurred in pursuing this extra education. All of these things turning out negatively just lead me to regret my earlier choices even more and also regret my attempts to revisit them. A serious spiral of regret.

    So now that I’m 30, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t be looking back at 22 thinking, “What could I have done?” I should be looking forward to 32, thinking, “What can I do?” That’s not to say that you can’t learn from the past. But just don’t live your life trying to go back to fix the perceived mistakes you made in the past. Start from now, and move forward.

    Also that Saran Wrap thing. I just learned that. Just now. From you. I had no idea. Dammit. Regret.

    • Jonathan

      This was a good post Maps… It feels like you’ve given me a gift of awareness. Thank you.

      • Pete

        On the topic of ‘awesomeness’ the giant child in me wants to point out the cute little saying in Kung Fu Panda… The past is history, tomorrow is a mystery, todayis a gift that’s whys it’s called the present.
        I feel silly taking that from a kids movie but the underlying message to enjoy and make the most of the present without concerning youself of the past (what I could have done) or the future (what if x,y or z happens).

  • Ramana Krishnan

    I am 27 now. So, the 22 me isn’t that far in the past. Hardwork, persistence, and pursuing something – anything – are things that a lot of others too have identified as an advice being given to their past self. I’d do that too but probably not emphasize much because those are things I can still try & implement but fail to do so for pretty much the same reason(s) I’d have failed to in the past.
    The biggest piece of advice that I would give to my past self that I think the past me would’ve followed is to relentlessly travel! Steal holidays and travel! Don’t over think, just travel. Just board the interstate bus to whatever place and travel. Everything will fall in place, just travel! 🙂

  • Jillian

    I wish I would have known how much of a struggle I was going to have with my weight. I may have made some better decisions and gotten into better habits then so that I wouldn’t be retraining my habits now.

  • dagrrl

    I wish I knew at 22 that despite the seeming vast largeness and separateness of the world then, how actually small and connected it was and is

  • Paul

    I must be a little below the usual age range for this site; I’m just about to turn 22 and I love this place, I’ve been following the posts all year after discovering my favourite one, Putting Time in Perspective. I imagine when I look back later, I’ll regret not stepping out of my comfort zone more (something I’m working on) – looking back five years ago from now, I wish I’d known then that a lot of my problems are caused by depression, rather than myself, it might have improved my self-esteem. Ease up on the perfectionism, past me, you’ll thank yourself for it.

  • Dave Ross

    Interviewer: “Hey 22 year old Dave, What do you want? Where do you hope to be in 10 years?”

    Dave 10 years ago: “I want to be a doctor! With a big house, nice car, great family. I will be helping people, and will be respected and admired. I will have the resources to buy what I want, and give my family the things and opportunities that I didn’t have. Wow, it will be fucking amazing.”

    This is why I really think I need to get into journaling. To remember the kind of shit that was going through my head at various periods in my life. I am sure mine would have read something like the above, and reading it now would make me blush with embarrassment given my current state of mind (which will be fun to reflect on in 10 years as well suspect). Anyway, here’s my take:

    The biggest help would have been to hear from my future self (because I wouldn’t have likely HEARD it from anyone else) the following:

    1) Seriously, you don’t know shit about shit.
    2) EVERYONE is in the same boat as you in not knowing shit about shit. I mean that. EVERYONE. Certainly there are those that are further along in the wisdom and personal growth department, but we all have our hang-ups, and literally nobody has it all figured out.
    3) It is completely ok to not know shit, and you will spend the remainder of your life figuring shit out (and even still, you probably won’t). Those who actually know some shit are often easily identified by the degree to which they admit to how much shit they DON’T know.
    4) Take every piece of advice for what it is, and with a grain of salt no matter what.
    5) At every decision point you face, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE consider internal and external motivations for deciding one way or the other, and almost ALWAYS (except when it comes to someone you love) weight the internal motivations much higher
    6) The most important thing is to EXPERIENCE and SHARE EXPERIENCE. Do not take for granted the opportunity to experience something new. That is best done when shared with others, especially those you love and who love you.

    In reflecting on my life to this point (32 years), I realize that I have spent an indescribable amount of time caring about what I SHOULD be doing- and often times that is related to parts of life and culture that at the end of the day are mainly constructs rooted in the material and mundane: I thought that growth as person meant academic and career success. That the acquisition of STUFF is what would make me happy. Work hard play hard. I thought that having prestige and a respected place in society would be fulfilling. And yes, I thought that it will feel good to have a life others would be jealous of.

    In truth, what I have found the most value in so far are experiences not things, and the realization that my internal motivations and desires (when I am being honest with myself) are much different than I would have let myself realize 10 years ago. I have been around many successful and wealthy people that are so insanely unhappy and/or unhealthy (mentally/emotionally especially). I have been around people living simple, unremarkable (by many definitions) lives that spend the time they have doing what makes them happy (and often times, I’ve found that includes making others happy).

    Well, my life hasn’t stacked up to my 22 year old dreams…but I am glad for it, because I have come to realize that those things, and what it would take to have them, is not what would make me happy. Anyway, I respect the process of figuring myself out more now, and value my time to question, think, and wonder about things far more than all the STUFF and PRESTIGE that I was coveting then. Don’t get me wrong- still like nice cars and big houses…but I am better about separating out the motivations, and figuring out what I am really after and whether that will equate to happiness.

    Still figuring shit out…

  • Mikael Giorgio

    It is interesting you picked the age 22.

    My life had a full change at 22.

    It was 2010, and I was just finishing law school (in latin countries you graduate fast!) and of course I felt like a smart ass (first thing I would have change, more humble). During that year, I went back to live to Europe to study, and had no idea how to handle money (I spent all the money for one year in 6 months. I wish I was more calmed on my life, less of a drinker and better with my finance). At 22, I came out of the closet as a gay man publishing it on a blog, making it very very loud and making my family had a hard time. I wish I would have just came out without screaming it to the world, it would have been nicer and more exciting to have that little secret for me to only share to my very special persons. It was a year full of changes. My first boyfriend (which I absolutely ruined our relationship, due to my drinking -at that time- and my lack of loyalty.). I also wished I was more athletic and into sports, youth is a mask…

    So few things I wished I knew:
    1. Discretion is better than publicity.
    2. Be careful with your money.
    3. Be loyal and respectful.
    4. Alcohol is not your friend. I didn’t do drugs, but drugs ain´t good either.
    5. Reputation is hard to reconstruct, so you better take care of it.
    6. Nutrition is important.

    Now I know many things that I want to keep on practicing. Im not a drinker for the past year for instance, and for everyone out there keep in mind that life is just a circle. Events that occurred you before, will occur over and over again, unless you make a life changing decision. Its up to you!


  • Mikael Giorgio

    It is interesting you picked the age 22.

    My life had a full change at 22.

    It was 2010, and I was just finishing law school (in latin countries you graduate fast!) and of course I felt like a smart ass (first thing I would have change, more humble). During that year, I went back to live to Europe to study, and had no idea how to handle money (I spent all the money for one year in 6 months. I wish I was more calmed on my life, less of a drinker and better with my finance). At 22, I came out of the closet as a gay man publishing it on a blog, making it very very loud and making my family had a hard time. I wish I would have just came out without screaming it to the world, it would have been nicer and more exciting to have that little secret for me to only share to my very special persons. It was a year full of changes. My first boyfriend (which I absolutely ruined our relationship, due to my drinking -at that time- and my lack of loyalty.). I also wished I was more athletic and into sports, youth is a mask…

    So few things I wished I knew:
    1. Discretion is better than publicity.
    2. Be careful with your money.
    3. Be loyal and respectful.
    4. Alcohol is not your friend. I didn’t do drugs, but drugs ain´t good either.
    5. Reputation is hard to reconstruct, so you better take care of it.
    6. Nutrition is important.

    Now I know many things that I want to keep on practicing. Im not a drinker for the past year for instance, and for everyone out there keep in mind that life is just a circle. Events that occurred you before, will occur over and over again, unless you make a life changing decision. Its up to you!


  • Tripper

    Two things.

    1) It will get better. Sooo much better!

    2) Live in the moment. Be ‘zen’. I spent too much time in my youth chasing things. Will I find the right man? Will I get the right job? Am I thin/pretty enough? Am I smart/funny enough? Once I get this job, things will be better. If I date/marry this guy I will be happy. (very much like Tim’s post about pixels) The older I get, the more I am able to enjoy the little things in life, that many people rush through. I have to wait for an hour at the doctor’s office? Sweet! I brought my moleskin to draw in! Long drive with the kids? Great! Let’s play ‘what I’d do if I won a million dollars!’ Stuck in traffic? Crank the tunes!

    Life is not a dress rehearsal. You only get one shot, so enjoy each and every moment. A few years ago my family was at a waterpark, and my son broke his leg. Most of our vacation was spent at the hospital instead of playing and sightseeing, but all I could think about was how grateful I was. There were parents there whose children would NOT be okay. Mine would be fine, and we were all together. We rented a wheelchair and still did some fun things. It wasn’t the vacation I had envisioned, but it’s one that I still have fond memories of.

  • doggonefun

    I wish the 22 year old me knew:

    – the power of a sincere smile all the way through the eyes;
    – the healing of laughter, especially the can’t-stop-it-kind;
    – the feeling of random acts of kindness, do it often;
    – the importance of meditation.

  • Ell

    I’m 22 now, so these are perfect–truly enjoying reading them!

    What I wish I knew 5 years ago–and have to remind myself to keep in mind as of 5 minutes ago:

    I wish I had treated every opportunity like it was the dress rehearsal instead of the concert. There were so many chances to step out and fall flat on my face that I took too seriously. A.) Who in the audience remembers the show, and B.) Who even remembers you? They’re all off drinking Tequila somewhere, and I’m here without the experience and added motivation to practice harder. A loss in the present becomes a gain in the future if it creates positive change.

    I wish I made more of an effort to connect with people. I wish I chatted with the “basic” girls (don’t know how else to put this), even if it meant taking Instagrammed duck-face selfies……and I wish I had dated all those interesting guys, even if I ultimately saw dead ends in their eyes. Letting people leave their imprint and doing the same infuses life with meaning.

    I wish someone told me that when it comes to academics, I’m free to jump out of the box and create ways to command material instead of passively accepting it. Fixing gaping holes in my knowledge is now a full time job (hey, I’m in college!), but I’d be in a much better place with earlier effort. Also, I wish someone told me how important grades are. I have the worst grades in the easiest classes because I couldn’t take them seriously, and Grad schools gonna wonder! If you do the work now, you’ll have the credentials later to impact the bureaucracy. Or..so I’ve heard.;)

    I wish I had paid less attention to my religious standards in relation to my life, and more to the implications of loving others in relation to their lives.

    And, of course, I wish I ate more pizza.
    Let’s be real.

  • Ben C

    I wish I had understood that, on a basic level, we’re all the same in that we’re just people looking for happiness in the best way that we know possible. We’re all learning how to get better at it along the way. This basic understanding opens up your world to compassion for others and for yourself. Shit changed my life.

  • Life has been like following a road. Every now and then you come to a fork and must decide which direction to take. Sometimes the longest route will be the quickest way to reach your goal, but you won’t know this in advance as you don’t have a map. And some of the roads you choose will be one-way traffic, but you won’t know this either, until it’s too late to turn around.

    I wish I’d taken a bit more care in choosing my directions at 22 as the older you get the fewer your choices. I’m sure Tim could draw a really excellent diagram to illustrate all this!

  • C


  • Mike R

    I wish I knew how high Apple’s stock price would be by now.

  • JaneyMae

    I wish I had known that I was a good and valuable person who deserved to be treated as such. I wish I had known that rather than believing “you’ve made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it” I could simply say “I made a mistake and now I am going to stop the mistake and pick up the pieces of my life”… I wish I had known that I was smart and valuable.

  • KIC

    I wish I had known that whatever I had started then, I’d be an absolute master at by now (13 years later)

  • Bluelily24

    How quickly things can change! Hardwork and perseverance will always pay off. Just remember to never get too comfortable working in a position that doesn’t align with your dreams.

  • Addis Regassa

    It seems I lean towards the younger side of the WBW community at 16. Not a lot I know now would have been of use five years ago. It is, after all, quite a young age to start digging into the (deceivingly) pristine terrain of adult life. Although I can think of one major token of wisdom: enjoy youth life and don’t rush into being an adult. A bit overused by older folks, but I understand why now: as another member commented, it’s all an uphill battle in adulthood, even adolescence.

  • Mike

    22 was fifteen years ago. At the time I was very worried and concerned because I wasn’t immediately successful out of college (why generation y yuppies are unhappy). I was sad and felt like a failure.

    Fifteen years later I’ve got a career, family, things are good. So why did I spend so much time worrying?

  • IrrationalNumber

    It really is worth sticking around past 30, particularly if you prepare for it.

  • ambar.m

    At 22, I had just graduated with an engineering degree, but was facing a major crisis in my personal life. At that point, I had a job, and thought I was doing okay career-wise, but my family was going through a really rough time, and everything looked very bleak.

    I wished I had known that things would improve dramatically at that point. I was feeling quite sad, and was extremely worried about my family and our future. It led to a lot of sad and depressing thoughts, a lot of worry and anxiety, and a lot of stress-eating.

    I know most of us go through such moments in life, but what would have really helped at that point was the assurance that things would improve, that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I had no one to provide me with that assurance, and would often feel that I was totally alone.

    On the other hand, I slowly managed to find the strength to face my problems, and today am doing very well. I still face some of the problems I did at 22, but am now much stronger, much better equipped to face them.

    So, in summary, I wish I had known that all problems fade, go away, with time, when I was 22. One just needs to persist, to be strong for long enough.

  • ScHmo

    i wish i said YES more… a lot more. to sketchy opportunities, to mirky invitations, to challenges that were beyond my abilities, to a cup of coffee, to another beer (o.k. i said yes to that many times), to many moments out of my comfort zone, and to love, especially to love and intimately connecting with others who were not like me but who now i realize were just like me. it makes our lives so much richer.

  • llazer

    I wish i learned discipline much more earlier. I struggle so much with addiction and procrastination these days. Its horrifying that, even though you knew the nature of the struggle, it doesnt makes it much easier. Discipline takes times, the earlier the better. I wish my current self could mentor my younger self. It would be infinitely better.

  • andrew j


  • Maroonjacketgirl

    Things I wish I had known when I was 22:
    1. Just because I am close friends with someone, I cannot share all their interests. And if I don’t, that does not make me a bad friend. I saw my friends turning to other people to discuss their hobbies, common interests and that made me feel guilty. But I wasn’t interested in those activities and I couldn’t fake an interest. Its ok to have and be just activity or interest friends with someone. That in no way is reflection on your friendship.

    2. I do not have to be the life of party for people to like my company. This was a pleasant surprise. I thought since I talk less, don’t contribute much, friends will not miss me much in parties. No one cares if I go or not. But they did! 🙂 I guess what I am trying to say is after a point, people relate/connect with you and not your attributes.

    3. If you are a curious, driven individual in general, but you still cannot get yourself interested in improving your skills/ knowledge, when it comes to work, chances are, you are in the wrong job. This was the most difficult to realize and later to accept as well, but eventually when I saw myself drawn to investment banking aspect of the work more than IT programming, there was no denying it. I am not an advocate of ‘follow your dreams’ per se, but it is true that sometimes, the career choices that you made in late teens/ early 20s may not be your calling.

  • hipNO#

    I thought when I was 22, well, I didn’t think much, or as much as I do now…I thought there were no barriers to what I could or couldn’t do. But only a few years ago, I realised if circumstances had been different in my teens to early adulthood, perhaps I would have been a famous architect, or surgeon with all these accolades and buildings as testimony to my success in life! And only yesterday I considered these musings, and realized if I was an architect, there would be all these structures either still standing, or torn down by the new breed of Architect – either way, my current ego would have been shattered; and I could have never been a Surgeon as I cringe at the sight of blood, or anyone who cuts themselves, or the thought of operating on any body.
    So, now at my age, today, I realise there were no barriers to what I could or couldn’t do, because I didn’t know at the age of 22, what or where I would be right now…and that if I had have been a fierce participant and centurion within the System i would now not be where I am today and would have still been fighting to keep my place in the System as well as encouraging, educating, directing others to keep IT going, at the expense of other beliefs and ideologies.
    Well, here I am now, content that I still do not know yesterday, what tomorrow will bring for me…and that what I do today will give me an inkling as to what tomorrow will be.

  • mattayoh

    I just turned 23 yesterday so I don’t have too much hindsight to work with here but thinking back I think getting a jump start on accepting and flowing with my surroundings would have been appreciated. It’s a life lesson that I was exposed to before 22 but traveling has made me appreciate it even more. I’ve found recently that my low points stem from not accepting my current situation or, as a few dinner guests have mentioned, being stuck in the past and comparing my surroundings to some odd convoluted standard based on how I think things ‘should’ be. When I appreciate my life and count my blessings I tame my inner struggles and flow with myself.

  • Leond

    1) Try to recognize when you feel envy or admiration, the first is due to ‘the animals’ (according to Tim framework) the latter is one of the best state of mind, and is the source of some kind of good power for doing things or changing aspects of your life that you do not like.

    2) Thinking about future problems is a strategic thing BUT when the problem pop out, you know..you didn’t thought about it and I guess this is simply by definition.

  • CaZ

    don’t try and be clever, just live and learn, but don’t forget to do both..

    • CaZ

      also, ‘Tim..’ Your answer is balls. Contact me if you want to discuss this further.

  • llllll

    Wow I just turned 22 today so I’m really glad to be here! Anyhow, when I was 17 I wish I told myself to start more hobbies and stopped thinking of what others thought of me. Improve my confidence and getting to know other people instead of feeling that I’m being judge.

    • Misstelle

      That is such a great attitude!

  • Joey

    I am 26, married and will be a father next month. When I was 23, I wish I have read more lifeblogs like this one that you have. FYI, you are really doing some impact in people’s lives.

  • cj

    choose a partner you can talk to

  • Donna

    Healthy eating habits.

  • Jose Villalon

    That worrying about the future was a futile excercise. Yes, one can partially create ones destiny and add a little luck of being in the right place at the right time; but I wasted a lot of productive energy and time worrying about something that I know now, at 59, that was ultimately futile! Work hard, stay focused, live your own life -but stop worrying about the crap that could happen …

  • Aditi

    So I’m 22 right now. Things I wish I knew 5 years back –

    1. Listen to your parents. They know what they’re talking about. (in my case mine have been right for 95% of the time)
    2. Stop being so angry at everything, no one is against you.
    3. Sitcoms are a waste of time(especially when you’re a teenager). I spent hours, rather days watching StarWorld, when I could’ve done something so much better with my time.
    4. Dreaming is stupid. Shut up and act.
    5. Read that book. It most definitely has something that you don’t know yet.
    6. Weed doesn’t harm your health, only kills your time in so many ways. You could be doing something creative or learning a sport.
    7. My secret behind success and/or being good; is something is not quitting. You won’t be good at it when you start, at times you will be humiliated. But stay at it. Don’t quit.
    8. Become a morning person. Please go for that run.

    9. Time only goes. Live in the moment.
    10. Spend time with people who make a better person out of you.

  • JT

    What would I have wished to know when is was 22. This 22 is milestone of sorts, because I believe 22 is the time when many people get into their career. This is why I guess this particular number is significant.

    Interesting enough I am at age where 5 years back I can look back at when I was 22 and tell myself certain things. Things like since staying alone as a bachelor starting off an individual life with own money. I would have to so learn life skills like cooking ( avoid having takeaway 24*7) – you realize how much portion of your income it eats up.

    I would have asked myself to take some risks enjoy this period of nothing being completely responsible, go out travel, don’t be completely corporatize, don’t fall under the 9-5 eat sleep eat cycle, that can come later in your life.

    I would also told myself, don’t lose contact with your college mates, those are your true mates. The ones in office can be definitely be your friends however you really never know their actual intention.

    I would have also told himself, there no age to young to invest, looking back years I have paid rent, it would have been smarter to group invest in real estate and 4-5 years later sell it off getting definitely more than you have invested.

  • vague

    You can’t please everyone. Listen to your guts. If something tells you that it’s wrong (it=person, event, place), chances are that your guts is right. I am person who reads a lot, yet I wished I read more books that make you wanna self-improve rather than tell you stories with happy endings. Love is overrated. All you need for a happy relationship is that person who knows all the ways you’re crazy in, and yet wakes up next to you every morning and makes you grateful that you ended up here. And sex that gets better with time. People like this are difficult to find but once you have them, they are priceless. People in your life are the best thing you get. After your own self. So, make surw that you like your own self first.

  • Laura

    I wish I’d known the power of gratitude as the most direct path to clearing out all the junk – envy, anger, resentment, frustration, boredom. As humans, I think we’re wired such that feelings of gratitude make it impossible to simultaneously harbor nasty emotions. And I wish I’d known the power of exercise-induced endorphins to put everything into perspective. Turns out that kickboxing is a pretty potent cure all.

  • Alex

    Life is not a dress rehearsal. Oh, and it’s about it creating yourself, not finding yourself. Oh, and smile 😉

  • michaelwmann

    In the last 10 years I missed out on friends and relationships, let stress get in the way and never learned to let things go.

    As such…

    1. Find two friends – I wish I had spent less time building my career and more time building my community.

    2. Send your negative Nancy home – I wish I had laughed every single moment of every single day.

    3. Let the rest go – I wish I had known there will never be a point in your life when it’s the right time to do a great thing.

  • Innocent Bystander

    Don’t accept rules just to try to be normal. That goes for life in general (I followed the traditional school->work->marriage->children route because I thought I was supposed to), societal norms, laws, traditions, religious customs, etc. Women roles, the electoral college, polyamory, gays in the military…question it all. You don’t need to challenge everything, but think it through. Don’t accept things just because that’s the way they are or have always been. I know it normally goes the other way, but I am so much more progressive now than I was when I was younger.

  • ben lee

    im only 24 y/o but already 9 levels of fucked up when i was 19, so how about i give this piece of advise to my 15 year old self, hoping to at least do the citizens of earth a public service..

    Family – so listen up you ungrateful little blacksheep whiny son of a bitch..you don’t throw family away, EVER! important stuff like that might be hard to come by later on when you need it, to paraphrase Dean Winchester..
    your older sister who ran away from home will make a reappearance shortly after you turn 16, pregnant with your first niece..shortly after, she will decide to run away again, saddling you and your 14 year old little sister with the responsibility to act as surrogate mom and dad to your wonderful niece while your parents are working abroad, striving to establish a foothold for a better future for you..
    your niece is one of the most wonderful things that will have ever happened in your life..so quit bitching about it to your friends and dont even think about holding a grudge against your older sister against it..she is what she is, and the only thing you can do about it is to accept her, irresponsibility and all..
    also, while you struggle with the difficulties of being a college student, surrogate dad to your niece and little sister, good brother, and wonderful human being, dont forget to have some compassion and sensitivity as well..entering puberty is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a normal teenager, let alone to a 14 year old little girl..do your best to be sensitive as you teach your little sis the bees and the birds talk and about all the changes happening to your body..be sensitive and understanding, both of you are already uncomfortable about it, dont make it worse by turning everything into a joke..
    when you turn 19, you will have the chance to immigrate from the shithole of a homeland that you have to a better country, where you get pure and honest chances at obtaining a better future for yourself as long as you work hard and honestly for it..dont forget the sacrifices your parents, especially your wonderful mother has made to ensure that you get that..
    this is also the time that you discover the full story behind the persona of your asshole dad, whom you have always clashed with behind closed doors..know that he is a manipulative asshole, who works harder to obtain a positive public image instead of working hard to be a better father and husband..he has been secretly hurting your mom, both emotionally and physically..he has also multiple affairs with different women, all on top of maintaining his squeaky clean image as likeable guy who was twice appointed as a mormon bishop and whom everybody in the community, except for his family, can depend on when the going gets tough..have a heart to heart talk with your siblings and encourage your mom to divorce his ass right away, assure her that you and your siblings dont really give a shit that people would give us a hard time for coming from a broken family if she kicks your dad out..hopefully, she will listen, so that things doesnt have to come to a point where you will find yourself wrestling your dad in a kneeling headlock on the kitchen door after walking in on him whaling on your mom while waiting for the cops to come throw him in jail and have a judge slap a restraining order against him when you’re 20 years old..
    no matter how drama filled your family becomes, do your best to be there for them,.be the man in the family that your dad has never been..
    you are sandwiched in between two sisters..no matter how much they snarl at you and tell you how much they hate you, always keep in mind that you are not just the pesky brother who annoys them 24/7, but also the dad they never had, and the benchmark to which they will judge future spouses against..no matter how moody your little sister becomes, never give up on her..be there for her..being a pre teen in a foreign land and bullied for her roots and skin color is no small matter for her..take all the hurts and pain she throws your way and hug her anyway..your pain and hurt does not matter..put on a smile and a cheerful attitude..fake it till you make it..its not just all about you anymore..man up,.

    Love – you were raised single handedly by your amazing mother along with your two sisters..if you ever turn out to be the nymphomaniac man – slut that i am right now, i will reach across the time-space continuum and give you a resounding slap from the future..learn to respect women..never get into a relationship with a woman unless you really know what you want..don’t string them along..while one night stands and random hook ups make for an amazing story to impress your friends, remember that at the end of the day, they will be the ones coming home to loving girlfriends, fiancees, and wives, while you return to an empty home, eating your meals cold and alone, celebrating the holidays at your workplace cus you have alienated your family and no woman you’ve been in a relationship with is crazy enough to give you a second shot, and the only women you will find available during the holiday season are the ones that you can negotiate prices with..
    shortly after you have turned 15, you will be steadily dating a girl named catherine..do NOT fuck with her! while its true that you will fall sincerely in love with each other, your relationship will be severely tested when you have to move to another city where your relatives are so that you, your lil sis, and your niece will no longer be alone..if fate is really inevitable and she finds herself falling in love with her best friend, just stop right there..let her go..do NOT use your connections to terrorize her into staying with you..dont be THAT asshole..
    you will meet other amazing women later on in your life..i have ended up alone by being really secretive and compartmentalizing my self, never really fully letting anyone in..do understand that being in a relationship with someone involves you having to let them in FULLY into your life, all the shit and drama included..that’s where solid relationships are based on, not on wowing them with crazy and romantic date ideas and plying them with jewelry and riches that you haven’t really earned yet..
    if you want to be like some of your patients who die alone with no one by their bedside, then be my guest, take the same self destructive path that i have taken..

    Life – your life, unfortunately, will be one of those kinds that will be specked with grief and suffering..its important that you don’t lose your shit over that fact..the law of random distribution dictates that, well, in a nutshell, shit simply happens..either you roll with it, or wallow in it..there are people who win the lottery more than once in their lives..there are also people who never experience death or serious suffering in their lives until they are well older than i am right now..shitty for you, but you will have to get used to it early on..before you graduate from high school, you will have already lost several friends due to unfortunate circumstances..you will also endure a lot of personal pain and suffering.. make the best out of it by striving to learn from those shitty life lessons instead of going all emo about it..you will NEVER be able to control how life unfolds for you..learn that now and be at peace with it..the only thing you can control is how you react to it..whether you treat it as a life lesson or as an excuse to be the cynical and bitter asshole that i am right now..

    Friendship – right now, your friends are treating you like one of the best things that has happened in their life..learn to accept now that you’re doing it not because youre a great friend and awesome human being as they say, but as a means of forgetting the shitshow drama that is your life right now..you have already made a great choice of friends, but the only thing i can say is, learn to think about yourself and be selfish too..don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask for help if the world gets to be a little too heavy on your shoulders..they are awesome people and they can take more than what you think they can..they have accepted you at your most insane, jackass moments..what makes you think that they will run away from you screaming if you open to them about your fears, problems, and family drama? open yourself up to them if you want to make a connection with them that can withstand time and distance..i have just had a skype call with our friends during the group’s anniversary celebration on August 23, 2014..i was shocked when they awkwardly didn’t know what to talk with you about when you finally get the chance to see chat with them face to face..and i was depressed too when i learned that i don’t really have anything anymore that both sides can relate to..the person that they say they miss during the group chats and messages to you is THE MEMORY and IDEA of who you’ve become, not the real you..

    Work – thanks to your upbringing, you already have a latent instinct to be a hard worker..you don’t need to change anything about that..however, don’t be afraid to rock the boat with your bosses because you don’t wanna tarnish the reputation of the filipino community in the country you will eventually end up in as hard workers but quiet and pliant regardless of assholes in management..you will end up choosing a profession where you literally hold human beings’ lives on your hands..step up and make your voice heard..there will ALWAYS be work available for nurses, not to mention hard working and extremely marketable nurses like you..

    Final words – try to save as much money as you can..im already doing a bang up job at being financially responsible but that’s not what im talking about..i mean, save as much money as you can, beg, even borrow as much money as you can from parents, friends, relatives and anyone you know who will be willing to..
    what to do with all that money? invest a fuckload of it on Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and use the rest to buy back your families farms, lands, and your grandfather’s (supposedly) empty copper & gold mines..while money cannot buy you happiness, it will free up a considerable amount of time for your search for true happiness..

    • Guest

      Your posting is absolutely beautiful and has brought tears to my eyes. I wish you the best of luck in life now and in the future, Please stay strong not only for your niece and your siblings but for yourself as well. I have faith that you will find your way and you will succeed. 🙂

    • D.L.F. Rodgers

      Your posting is absolutely beautiful and has brought tears to my eyes. I wish you the best of luck in life now and in the future. Please stay strong not only for your niece and your siblings but for yourself as well. I have faith that you will find your way and you will succeed.

  • Roger Grobler

    You are 22. Yes: You are bullet proof. Take risk. Big risks.

    Fear regret only.

    Don’t concern yourself with money,

  • Steve

    I wish I had known you are NOT invincible. (I thought I was). Wear a helmet when playing contact sports. I suffered a brutal concussion at 24 that haunted me for years.

  • Gabe

    For me, it’s not so much of what I wish I knew, but how I wish I was. At 22, it’s easy to be myopic; not much more is expected of (or taught to) us – depending on our social background, of course – than to graduate college, get a job, get married, buy a home, etc. Had I known the transformative effects of simply be curious about the world outside this bubble, I can only imagine how much more rich my life could have been. So, if I had to pick one thing for my 22 year old self to experience that would have the biggest impact on shaping his future, it would have to be travel internationally earlier. I don’t have many regrets in life, but studying abroad (or any extended trip abroad), is probably the only thing I would have done over in college. All of my good qualities I’m proud of today stemmed from having my mind blown that first time I stepped foot on foreign soil many time zones away. That single experience opened the flood gates of my curiosity, ultimately leading to treasure troves of insight, inspiration, and perspective. It’s also what led me to be another fly on the WBW flypaper 🙂

  • Bubbles

    I wish I knew at 22 that most people don’t know WHAT they’re doing and they’re just winging it. The saying ‘faking till you make it’ was only a later epiphany!

  • shetries

    When I was 22, I graduated and decided to travel round the world for a year. I set up life in Melbourne, made great friends and tried to learn about myself. Now I am 27 and I’m a bit lost. I’m back in England, working, in a comfortable (I have learnt this is a dangerous word) home, in a loving relationship, with a great job full of potential. But I am lost. May be a better question would be, what should my 22 year old self tell my 27 year old self?

  • Grazonkel

    – Save 10% of your income every month.
    – Milk your parents: stay in school. A brain surgeon can become a fisherman anytime she wants, a fisherman can’t become a brain surgeon anytime he wants.
    – Make your hobby (or passion) your work. At least half of your waking life you’re at work. Enjoy it.
    – Respect your fellow man, I’m an Atheist. My best friend is a Jehova witness. We both tell other people we don’t understand how such an otherwise smart person can have such a weird idea of our life’s principle.
    – Do what you really want without infringing on others. you are part of a society. Freedom with responsibility makes you a better person.
    – Your dreams become your goals and are achievable. Maybe not exactly the way you think, but pretty close.
    – Woulda, coulda, shoulda, is a waste of time: Learn from your mistakes and move on.
    – At 22 you have no responsibilities yet (Hopefully): Go crazy, travel, experiment, enjoy life. Once you are married your family becomes more important than you and you won’t or can’t do “crazy” things anymore.

    • kamau

      “Milk your parents: stay in school.” great!!

  • Bobby Walsh

    I turned 23 several months ago. I wake up with my partner next to me and am always extremely appreciative for having her.
    I started my career after college and began moving up the corporate latter too fast. Eventually, it began to consume my life and all my energy. So I quit (with a bang) and moved. Now I’m immensely poorer with less possessions, but I haven’t been this happy since I was young and my father was still alive. I couldn’t have done it without her.
    Being so close to 22 I know I don’t have the experience or time to offer much advice. But I do wish I could tell myself to not worry so much, about anything. Not to worry about doing things in the cookie cutter way of life. Not to worry about money. Not to worry about weather or not the woman I loved would move back. Or things that can bring you down and take away your hope. Life is filled with ups and downs, and they don’t define you, how you handle them, does.

  • Danny Lee

    Mistakes are constant, don’t let them dictate your life.

    When I was 22, I was worrying about what i did wrong 5 years ago. (school,relationships,career)
    When I was 17, I was worrying about what I did wrong 5 years ago. (social image, horrible child, future planning)
    This is a vicious cycle that is hard to get out of.
    Live today for what it is and learn from your mistakes. Take action now so that that when you look back 5 years later, its not what you did wrong but what an amazing journey you have been on to become a spectacular individual.

  • Ali M


    By which I don’t mean I wish I knew nothing (although that’s probably fairly accurate), but that there’s nothing I can think of to teach my younger, naive, self.

    Sure, I didn’t know what I wanted to “do” (not sure I know now either, though), I was pursuing the wrong girl, and I didn’t know last weekend’s lottery numbers – but I was young. That’s how this shit works, isn’t it?!

    My own philosophy is that there’s no point wishing for a different past. That’ll just hold you back from a different future.

    So, in case my 22 year old self ever travels forward in time and reads this, my message is as follows: make your mistakes, learn from them, and enjoy it.

    And, as a reader from the UK, what the fuck is one of those Saran Wrap things?!

  • Angela Riley

    I wish I had known what a strong woman I am! I would have traveled more, and moved to a new city with my friend, and had a completely different life than what I have now (although I am very happy being a stay at home mom). Thanks to your post on the Mammoth, I finally realized it really doesn’t matter what others think of my actions/opinions, etc. As long as I was happy and proud of these things, then it doesn’t matter what others think.
    I also wish I would have lived with no regrets, that’s something I still struggle with sometimes, but feel I am overcoming by leaps and bounds recently!

  • Meghan

    As a current 22 year-old, I would like to take a moment to thank each and every person contributing to this conversation. Your views of the world are inspiring, enlightening, and refreshing. The WBW community has helped me make a little bit more sense of this crazy thing we call life. Looking forward to more posts!

    • Fernando G.

      Same here, I really appreciate it. Been reading WBW for a little over a year and I learned a lot from it.

      Thank you all very much for the advices, many of which I’ll keep in mind at all times, and whatever it was that you wish you had know at the age of 22, I hope it hasn’t caused you too much trouble.

  • Deborah J

    Not one of my biggest life lessons but I wish I had’ve known what a load of rubbish girly magazines such as Cosmo and Cleo are and how bad they can be for your self esteem. Beauty comes from inner happiness and confidence not the latest anti wrinkle cream, funkiest jacket or bone-thin figure. And there’s a lot more to life than beauty anyway…

  • D.L.F. Rodgers

    Here’s my answer: I
    wish I would have known then that good guys don’t always win and they don’t
    always get the girl. That right doesn’t
    always prevail. That the “good” is often
    overworked and almost always left to finish the job alone. That bad things very often happen to good
    people. That monsters are very real and
    that death is not the worst thing that happens in one’s life. That most won’t
    say they’re sorry or thank you or even bow their heads with humility. I wish I would have known that following the
    rules doesn’t make you any happier and/or content later on in life. I wish I would have known that fortune
    cookies are for entertainment purposes only and not to be taken so seriously. For you see if I had known all those things,
    I would have been more selfish with my time and money and feelings. I would have worked less and taken care of me
    more. I would not have raised my hackles
    and championed for others just because I thought it was the right thing to do. And if I did, I would have done it for green
    money in my bank and not for good feelings in my heart. I would have spent more money on my wants and
    needs and less on others. I would have been
    a person with the dreams and goals of a 22 year old and not the responsibility
    and determination of a 50 year old. I
    would have drunk, smoked and doped. I
    would have laughed more and not taken it all so seriously. I really believe I would have been happier if
    I would have known these things, far happier than I was.

    The only good thing about it now is that I can lay my head to my pillow and
    rest easy. I can look in the mirror and
    be comfortable with what and who I see. I
    can point out others’ lack of courage, strength, care, compassion and
    consideration and do so without fear that someone will call me out and tell the
    world that I am not who I say I am or that I have not done what I say I’ve
    done. I have afforded myself the right
    to be a first-class bitch and bitch out all those who lie, cheat, steal,
    disregard and act as if they are owed the world without paying the fucking bill
    or leaving a tip.

    I guess if I had it all over to do again, be 22 years young with the knowledge
    I have now, I would have done nothing but wring my hands and sing the woe-to-me
    song while someone else marched in, took charge and cleaned the fucking mess
    others left. I would have given nothing,
    paid for nothing, and done nothing for no one but me.

    I am too old to change now; my course has been set and I wouldn’t even know how
    to begin to change. So I keep giving and
    paying and doing because like an addiction, I don’t know how to stop. And like an addict, I keep looking for that
    moment of clarity when all this will make sense. Somehow I don’t think it ever will, but that’s
    okay, because in my next life, I’m going to remember to be 22 and that’s all.

  • Sally

    When I was 22, I didn’t have the dream job yet, or the life I wanted. I felt like a failure. I spent years trying to get it. Now, at 51, I wish I could have told my younger self not to worry so much about it. I thought the status and pay would make me feel secure when, now I know that is an illusion. Today, I am a teacher with none of the trappings I thought would make me happy. I connect with young people everyday and It is wonderful!

  • SD

    Understanding women. Understanding when is nothing logical and things just happens and understanding their simple, basic, intrinsec mechanism.

    After all, it was not a big drama, things turned out pretty good at my 37. Actually, the “enlightement moment” was around 30.

    But at 22, I smile now remembering some drama created for things without any actual consequences.

    The other thing I would change it would not be around 22 and women, but around 30 and about how I managed my first business. It should have been a lot more responsible.

  • Phoenix

    I am only 14 but I would tell my younger self to take more advantage of the opportunities offered because it will only get harder to start as time passes. Also, get into a good habit earlier to save the effort of attempting to rewrite bad ones.

    • Emily </