Advice, wasted on the young

April 12, 2022

In 1997, Baz Lurhmann released a song called “Wear Sunscreen“, based on text written by Mary Schmich (although I had to look that up). It was a hypothetical speech that would be given to a graduating class and while it contained a bunch of good and interesting advice, the title of Schmich’s essay was “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”.

This month, the T-SQL Tuesday writing challenge is to comment on what advice we’d give to a younger version of ourselves – invited by Camila Henrique – so it’s probably worth highlighting that I probably would’ve ignored it. I’m sure I wasn’t good at taking advice. I’m not sure I’m any better now, despite not being young any more.

Advice to our younger selves tends to imply regret. Things that we’d like to change. Advice to make different decisions or to establish different habits. Advice to cherish things before we lose them. I suspect Schmich suffered from things prevented by sunscreen, or lost friends and relatives. Or maybe she just wanted to have something that would be a good hook for a callback at the end, for the line “But trust me on the sunscreen”.

And the advice I would give depends massively on what age me I’m giving the advice to. There are things that I would tell me at 4 or 5, that are different to what I would tell myself at age 9 a year before my dad died. If I’m talking to myself during my high school years, I would give difference advice compared to what I would tell myself as my kids were growing and going through their own stuff. Maybe I’d warn myself about failed projects, and lost data, and I’d say yes to that thing in 1999.

I would want to say that things will work out. Except that they don’t. When people die, it doesn’t feel like things are working out. When friendships break down, they’re often not going to get resolved. When employees quit or clients leave, well I’m sure you get the idea.

But time keeps on going. The things in the past will remain in the past. We can’t always get them back. Things will hurt. Life will suck. But there will also be times so full of joy that all the shadows disappear for a moment.

I’d tell my former self that. That there will always be good times in the future.

In fact, I’ll tell current-self that. And maybe my future-self too.


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