When Taylor gave me my topic for the week, "One piece of advice you would give your younger self," full disclosure, I freaked. I mean inwardly. Outwardly, I kept on driving home, which is the precise moment in which I shouldn't have been texting. So, y'know, advice #1: don't text and drive ya dunce.
But in reality, I think the reason why I felt lost was probably not what you might be thinking. You see, in an effort to picture myself having the chance to meet a younger me, I came to the startling conclusion that I would much rather have a younger me give the current me some well-timed advice. Isn't that sad? I pictured the younger, probably more mature version of me seeing the current me, shaking his head in disdain, and firing off some words of advice. Or, knowing younger-me, some strongly worded suggestions.
However, that's not the point of this topic, and is consequently a story for another day. Moving along from that idea, I popped a squat and thought about what I would tell Brian circa early-2000s.
There could, in theory and in practice, be many, many things I could tell a younger me. Some cliché, some not. To name a few off the top of my head:
- "Hey man, go talk to her!"
- "Yo bro, stop wasting time! Don't procrastinate!"
- "Whoa buddy, be kinder to everyone!"
It dawned on me then that all of these would fall on deaf ears. One thing that has been pretty consistent with me is my ability to look like I'm listening to someone talking, but effectively retaining nothing important about the conversation. Furthermore, past me would probably not even know why current me was talking to him. So what then, would I say?
Well, there is something that I would tell my younger self. The stipulation of this topic was that I could pick any age to go back to, but this is something that I would even tell the me of yesterday. It's quite simple, but it's something I don't do very often.
Just. React to things.
In the past, I've been known to be exceptionally indifferent about a variety of things. On the simpler, sillier side, I used to be really good at the "game" where you see who can keep a straight face the longest. On a more serious note, my answer to a lot of questions that require my opinion is—you guessed it, "I don't really care."
It comes from the idea that if I don't get in anyone's way, then no one gets in mine. When you remain neutral or indifferent, things tend to bounce off you or just kind of pass you by. It's kind of a double-edged sword, though. When you care about so little, you find that little cares about you. Truthfully, I'm not perturbed by that at all. After all, it's less questions I have to answer. I'm a lazy person.
But if I were given the opportunity to give a younger me advice, and effectively try to change something about myself, I would say that it is of utmost importance to react. Meaning, maybe you should care. I'm not even talking about everything (because, let's face it, there's so many things that I really don't want to care about and would like to keep it that way), but just actually caring about things for once.
The way I am right now, I would say I live a very inconsequential life. There are only a few things that I do that I would consider have any effect. Most of the time, I'm approaching situations indifferently, "whatever happens, happens." While there are some benefits to it (namely, being able to adapt to many situations), I find that I am always lost on this curve, not ahead and not behind. On a completely different curve. As things are happening around me, I actively choose to hop on a different line and take some detours through life. That's no way to live, I'm thinking now.
You and I can go through life just being in the background, being the mundane. It's possible. It's actually extremely easy to do so. But if we're not in some way reacting or contributing to the world around us, what is the purpose of our being? Why do we get up every day, ready to tackle whatever the world throws at us? Is the world even throwing anything at you if you remain indifferent?
Or would you rather attempt to make a difference in this world? I once wrote an essay in a college philosophy course, talking about moral responsibility. In it, I wrote about how we are not necessarily held responsible for doing something if we are uneducated about it (paraphrased). At the time, it was probably my favorite thing that I had written, but now it seems like a convenient excuse to run away from (or remain indifferent to) problems in our world. After all, being educated about things was no one's call except one's own. The thing is, you can't really make a difference in this world if you aren't reacting to it.
I'm rambling now. Anyway, going back to the prompt at hand, I would tell myself of yesterday, a year ago, a decade ago, to just be ready to react to things. The cost of indifference is too high for temporary comfort or relief from the world around you. If you're going to live in this world, you might as well try your darnedest to understand it.
// Brian (circa 2015)