I’m thinking about who I used to be and who I am now, and what’s changed. I was reading Nassim Taleb’s commencement speech, in which he said that his definition for success was looking in the morror and wondering if you dissapoint the person you were at 18, “right before the age when people start getting corrupted by life. Let him or her be the only judge; not reputation, wealth, standing, decorations.”
It’s an interesting question. While I often feel like I’m still mentally and executively 18 (I know this isn’t true, but I still feel this way and I’m still trying to shake off that skin I’ve outgrown), I haven’t stopped to consider how 18 year old me would feel about 25 year old me. I turn 26 in about a week, so now would be as good a time as any.
Let’s see, who was I at 18? I was a Junior College student, and a very unhappy one. I don’t need to guess– I can go back and look at my blog archives. Let’s see… I turned 18. I tried to quit smoking. I said “I totally intend to go backpacking halfway around the world after NS”, which is something I never did. That’s disappointing. I was passionate about live music, local music. I liked “my mental capacity to reason and understand things” and “my ability to still have faith in the world”, and I disliked “my lack of discipline” and “skinny legs”. I was afraid of “not knowing or realizing when I’m wrong”. I wished I would read and write more. I wrote that I loved to shop and dress up. I disliked herd mentality, wet socks and people who’re quick to judge others.
I wanted to be involved in education somehow, teaching others. I wanted to write, in any form– “informative, social commentary that will make a positive impact on society”. I also wanted to have businesses, get involved with the media (“preferably a print production like a magazine”), and do more for the music scene. I’m not super fixated on any of those things– I see them as indicators of the spheres that I care about, but I’m pretty agnostic about how exactly I get involved.
So… how does Visa-18 feel about Visa-25? I think he’d be delighted that I never had to write a resume– that I got hired on the basis of my blog, to work in a tech startup full of smart people who get shit done without worrying about minor details like what time you get into work, or how exactly you do what you do as long as you get results. I think he’d be amazed that I got married at 22, but he would be very impressed that I have my own house. He’d be impressed that I’ve gained 20kg and have a squat rack at home, and that I’m making progress on no longer being the skinny guy with the skinny legs.
But those aren’t the things I want to focus on. I want to focus on the things that I wouldn’t be so proud of.
Visa-18 would be bummed that I’m not a better musician than I am right now. Music was a big part of my life then, and I’d have assumed that I’d just keep getting better steadily throughout my life. I did play some music during NS, but I basically stopped that shit entirely when I started working. It took me some time to find my footing as a working adult, but I think I’m in control of my life enough now that I can afford to schedule some time to practice and get better at music– knowing that it’ll be something that I appreciate.
Visa-18 would be bummed that I’m less opinionated than I used to be. A part of this is a good thing– a lot of my opinions were opinions that I didn’t necessarily have the right to have. I would get outraged or angered or annoyed at upset at all sorts of things without understanding them much at all. I think I’ve swung to the opposite end since– I’ve tried so hard to avoid passing judgements on things, to be patient and discerning and all that thoughtful-slow stuff that I’ve stopped writing any sort of social commentary. A part of this is because I wanted to be more introspective, so that’s understandable. But Visa-18 would’ve liked me to have been engaged with the goings-on of the world around me in some way. I don’t think I’ve completely betrayed that– I think I’m choosing to focus on developing myself, on becoming better at executing, getting things done, making sense of what’s going on. I have fewer theories being thrown around, but my fundamental sense of how the world works is getting better.
But still, there’s a reason why I’m writing this, why all of this is bubbling to the surface. I feel like I’ve reached the end of one pendulum swing, and like I’m starting to swing back. I feel like I have been playing it a little too safe, and as a result I’ve been… missing out? That’s not the right phrase to use. I have been… accumulating something inside me that hasn’t been properly… discharged (ugh, phrasing). There’s a bunch of tension, a bunch of unarticulated thoughts or anti-thoughts, SOMETHING, I don’t know what yet but it’s there. Stuff I”ve chosen to actively avoid until now because of reasons. But now those reasons don’t seem so relevant anymore. I feel like it’s time to switch modes and start… “being opinionated” again. That doesn’t sound right either. I’ve always been opinionated. I guess I’m just trying to start engaging with the world around me again a little more.
Well, this wasn’t nearly as insightful as I was hoping it might’ve been. Ultimately when I think about it I think 18-yo me would’ve defered to 25-yo me on a lot of things, knowing that I would have more context and knowledge and so on. I do still appreciate our fundamental interests in music, art, passion, travel, conversations, fun, all of those things– just that it’s a little harder now that I need to be self-sufficient. On that note, I’m going to bed.