A friend asked tonight if we could go back and tell our eighteen year old selves to change paths, to choose a different major in college, would we?
There were some practical answers passed around the table, but my initial answer was no. I like where I am, and even though it has absolutely nothing to do with what I studied, I liked learning what I did. I tried to think of a change, and then realized that even my slight theoretical difference would have likely ended with me being worse off.
I drove home tonight, in the sultry Georgia heat, with the top of my convertible down and the music up loud. Suddenly, as had happened several times earlier in the day, the sky opened up. Rain poured, I clicked on my windshield wipers and thought: Oh shit. I have a power roof. The car has to be completely stopped before I can put it up, and driving on the highway, that was going to take a minute. During which time I was sure I would become properly drenched.
The funny thing was, as I continued driving, carefully shifting lanes to the right, I realized something that astounded me. I wasn’t getting wet. Not beyond a light mist anyway. And this was a two-click-windshield-wiper rain.
I continued driving, completely baffled at this new truth. Sure, it was probably just basic physics when explained out in black and white. But I was simply amazed.
And I realized, in that moment, that what I would tell myself if I could go back to eighteen was this: It doesn’t matter if your convertible top is down when it starts to rain as long as you’re driving fast enough.
In other words, be bold. Be brave. Throw yourself into life. Don’t stand out on the side worrying that you’ll get wet if you leap into the torrent.
Obviously, this isn’t perfect advice for everyone, and some eighteen year olds are already too reckless for their own good. But I was one who stepped away from life rather than experiencing it, and generally because I was afraid. Of being laughed at. Of not being good enough. Of not mattering. And of some indefinable idea of disappointing myself and the people around me.
I wish I could go back to that eighteen year old and tell her emphatically: Love yourself now, because who you are now is so valuable. But don’t be afraid to take a risk because who you can become is just as amazing. Cherish who you are and give yourself room to grow.
Rain falls. You can get wet. And sometimes that’s painful, and I don’t mean to make light of that. But don’t be so afraid to take a chance that you miss out on experiencing your life.