By Kaden Boock
As I grow older, I continue to look back and cringe at things I’ve done in my earlier years. I constantly recount and question why I made certain poor decisions, why I chose ugly hairstyles or clothes, or why I surrounded myself with toxic people. Although it’s not my favorite thing to cringe at myself and regret past choices, it can also be incredibly uplifting to see how far I’ve come. I know I’m not alone in this, because it is a part of the human experience. We’re meant to grow and learn from our mistakes in order to gain wisdom and not make those same poor choices again.
As a 21-year-old now, there are so many things I wish I could go back and tell my younger self. There are a multitude of lessons that I’ve learned about trust, friendship, love, and confidence to name a few, that I know young me would’ve killed to hear and could’ve saved myself from a lot of hurt and tough moments. I wish I could tell my younger self to not be so afraid of change, and have more confidence in yourself because everyone else is battling with insecurities too, and you’re not alone. I would love to tell my younger self to be more trusting of who I am and my ability to come back stronger, and less trusting of people in my life with red flags that I chose to ignore due to how much I adored them, because oftentimes those people don’t have the best intentions for you. I would tell myself to put more focus and care into my family, because they’re the ones that are always going to have your back. I’m sure that even by next year I’ll be cringing at some of the things I’m doing now, and wishing that I could go back and give myself advice before the mistakes were made, because it’s a continual learning process.
I had the opportunity to speak with a few students and professors at Grand Rapids Community College and hear their take on the subject, and what advice they wish they could give to their younger selves.
Ethan Morrow, a 19-year old GRCC student from Jenison, explained what advice he would give to his younger self if he had the opportunity. “Don’t be scared to embarrass yourself,” said Morrow, “you’ll have so much more fun if you do.”
Meti Ayana, a 19-year old student at GRCC from Grand Rapids, had this advice: “Don’t be so hard on yourself, and always believe in yourself.”
It was extremely intriguing to not only hear from students, but then hear from professors also, who have lived more life than I have and could reflect on being a college student and all the lessons they’ve learned since the timeframe I’m currently living in.
John VanRegenmorter, a 44-year old science professor at GRCC, had some sage advice for his younger self. “Stop being a jackass,” said VanRegenmorter, “I spent a lot of my younger years thinking that I was majoring in partying, and that didn’t work out so well.”
Jodi Dawson, a 43-year old math professor at GRCC, also shared the advice she would give to her younger self. “I would tell myself to look for the joy, even when things are hard,” explained Dawson, “And not to procrastinate, not to wait until the night before something is due, and just be helpful to other people.”
Regretting and grimacing at past moments, or wishing you would’ve done things differently is natural. However, those moments can become the building blocks that we use to continue growing in life, and discovering who we are. Although it would be nice to be able to hop in a time machine and give my younger self a few tips and pointers to avoid all the messy moments, without the challenging lessons that I’ve had to go through, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. None of us would. We all have to make the stupid decisions, wear the ugly sweater, or hang out with the people that hurt us the most at one point or another, because that’s how we get to the endzone. Life is a never ending lesson, and every challenge or bad decision is an opportunity to gain wisdom and become a more well-rounded individual.
I try to not look at some of my more humbling past experiences with distaste anymore, but rather with gratitude. Appreciating where we’ve come from and where we are going is a crucial process in order to love ourselves, and enjoy the life we’ve been given. It’s okay to cringe and regret past decisions or wish that you could have had a future you or someone else there to guide you better, but don’t let those feelings eat away at you. Be thankful for the lessons you’ve learned, and recognize that you wouldn’t be standing where you are today without them.