What If You Knew Then What You Knew Now?
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes, when we get caught up in the day-to-day, it can seem like we get stagnant or things can get stale. Also, there’s something called hedonic adaptation* that can skew one’s perception of progress. I get stuck from time-to-time and fail to realize how far I’ve progressed in my life.
Just the other day I found a picture from my 30th birthday. It was a vivid reminder that things have come an awfully long way since that particular time of my life. I’d have to say my 30’s were a time of great upward mobility in virtually every way possible. Sure, I was a Nice Guy when I turned 30 too, but my focus certainly wasn’t helping people nearly as much as trying to live day-to-day.
As I looked at my 30 year-old self, I began to ponder “I wonder what my 44 year-old self would tell that 30 year-old guy?” Then I had the brainstorm to have that fictional conversation for you my dear readers. So here goes nothing:
RWH 30: So, you come to me from the future? Whoa that’s crazy! How do I know it’s actually you, er, I mean, how do I know you’re me?
RWH 44: Remember that fire alarm you accidentally triggered at work a few years ago?
RWH 30: I haven’t told anyone about that! (realizes I’m legit) Okay, I believe you. Why are you coming to me now?
RWH 44: I’m trying to help you know the future is a good thing. You got any questions for me, big guy?
RWH 30: Sure, I look great! How old are you and what are we weighing these days?
RWH 44: I’m 44 now. Yeah, you have some ups-and-downs but we’re hanging in there about 190 these days. What do you weigh, hoss?
RWH 30: Don’t you remember? I guess if I lose a bunch of weight then it doesn’t matter. I’m about 235-240. I’m kinda scared to get on a scale right now. Anna’s got me eating way too many Fourth Meals at Taco Bell! Speaking of Anna, does she get any less crazy? Do we make it?
RWH 44: Sorry, not sorry, you guys don’t make it. You wind up marrying a girl in Tennessee. She’s way better for you, trust me! Also, pro tip, people don’t get less crazy unless they get on meds.
RWH 30: Tennessee! Is that where we live? Dan and I had a fun vacation there a few years ago. I really liked it there.
RWH 44: Yessir. Dan Minard moves here next year and he convinces you to take the leap and move here to Nashville too. Do it! Don’t even hesitate. Best thing you’ll ever do for yourself!
RWH 30: That makes sense, I freaking hate cold weather! So, what about work? I assume I don’t keep working for J. Walter Thompson if I’m not in Detroit…
RWH 44: No, you actually move to Tennessee and get into the Medicare industry and eventually wind up starting your own Medicare agency, Mr. Nice Guy Medicare Advisor. You become self-employed, believe it or not!
RWH 30: (Dumbfounded) Medicare?! Isn’t that insurance for seniors? I don’t know a thing about that. And I work for myself?! How am I doing with that?
RWH 44: Well, you learn Medicare working for Genworth Financial for a few years. After a few years they lay your department off, they get bought by Aetna, and that’s when you strike out on your own. So when Melissa, your boss there, starts giving you grief, don’t take it so hard. Believe it or not, you’ve been helping people pick Medicare plans for ten years! You’ve got hundreds of clients and enjoy it because you help people with something they actually need. It’s not the most glamorous-sounding thing ever, but you do great with it!
RWH 30: So, do we still live in Nashville? Do my wife and I have kids?
RWH 44: You live in a beautiful suburb of Nashville called Franklin! You guys live in a beautiful home you have built with your 3 kids! I joke around and tell people that going from Detroit to Franklin is like going from ‘Boyz In the Hood’ to ‘Leave It to Beaver’!
RWH 30: This sounds awesome! We have 3 kids, eh? Boys, girls? What ages are they?
RWH 44: William is the oldest, he’s 7. Then you have Wiley and he’s 3-and-a-half. And lastly you have Vera, who’s about to be one in November. They’re all excellent kids. You have a lot to look forward to, man.
RWH 30: This is blowing my mind! Just the other day I was feeling down because here I am 30 and I’ve been spinning my wheels forever, it seems. I don’t even think I could afford kids at this point! Dad died last May and that’s been rough for me. Anna’s a great girl, but she’s moody, to say the least. I’m living in a rented house Butter+ owns, staying in the basement with her, with my brother and sister living upstairs. It’s better than nothing, but it’s humbling. And when it comes to money, I’m really struggling. My car payment is a total killer. How they heck do I get that together?
RWH 44: I’m not going to lie, it’s a process, but you actually become pretty good with money. You become a homeowner at 34. Working for yourself you make a great living for yourself while working less hours and no boss besides the man-in-the-mirror. So, buck up, smile, it’s going to be fine. Remember when Mr. McDonald said that the most important decision you’ll ever make is who you marry? Believe him.
RWH 30: Mr. McDonald?!# That reminds me, does Charlie Weis lead Notre Dame to the promised land? They’ve been looking pretty good this year (2005)! He seems like he could be coaching there for a long time!
RWH 44: I don’t want to spoil it for you, but he runs into some hard times. I have two words for a coach to remember: Brian Kelly.
RWH 30: The guy at Central Michigan? The guy who used to coach Grand Valley?!
RWH 44: Yep, that’s the guy to watch.
RWH 30: Weird. Okay, so you’re telling me I’ve got nothing to get down about, it all works out. How do my family and friends handle me leaving Michigan and moving to Tennessee? Michelle and Tim are going to be sad.
RWH 44: Well, first off, you’ve got to live your life for you. Not in a selfish way, just a realistic thing to know. For the most part, your family is sad to see you go, but they understand it. They just want to see you turn it around. Tim and Michelle, sadly, aren’t built for the long-haul. Mike and Kathy^ actually both move to Tennessee at different points, too.
RWH 30: I get what you’re saying about living your life for you, it’s just weird to think about leaving them here. Tim and Michelle are really close! They don’t make it?! That bums me out. Also, my Mom must be going nuts having all her kids move to Tennessee.
RWH 44: I think eventually she’ll move there with Harry. They visit all-the-time to see their grandkids. Maybe 50 year-old us will visit you and fill you in. As for Tim and Michelle, think about your own parents. People change and grow in different directions sometimes. Believe it or not, Tim actually winds up marrying Christine, Amy’s cousin!
RWH 30: Brian Smith’s Amy?! That’s nuts!
RWH 44: Yeah, life is funny like that. Listen, I know you feel lost and uncertain much of the time. Stressed out. Stuck. The main reason I wanted to talk to you is to let you know if you keep doing what you’re doing you’ll grow, change and make a difference, not just in your life, but the effects will ripple out to affect all around you. Like that ‘Butterfly Effect’ movie!
RWH 30: That Ashton Kutcher movie?! Please tell me it’s better than that!
RWH 44: Well the future is 100% better than that movie, it just seemed like a good way to get the point across…
RWH 30: Yeah, I get it. Do Dan and I ever get famous?
RWH 44: Fame is overrated.
RWH 30: So that’s a no (smiling).
RWH 44: You guys do have a good podcast about music called ‘That Dandy Classic Music Hour’ for a few years, but I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.
RWH 30: Podcast? What is that?
RWH 44: You’re gonna love them! You won’t be listening to much music, you’re going to be listening to audio programs through your I-Phone. In fact, you know how you spend a bunch of money on music now?
RWH 30: Yeah, but I’m getting better about that…
RWH 44: In 2019 music is practically free and easy to get. Oh, and wait until you find YouTube. Man, you’ve got to get here! It’s sweet!
RWH 30: Sounds pretty sweet! The way you’re talking to me, am I rich or something?
RWH 44: In more ways than you know. I gotta go, but just remember to enjoy the ride and don’t be so worried.
At that point, like a Ghost of Christmas Future, I’d take leave and let 30 year-old Randy feel good for a change, knowing his future is much better than he can contemplate in-the-moment. In summation, the moral of the story is, don’t confuse boredom with dissatisfaction. Don’t try to get happier than happy. If you’re out there making gradual improvements and making consistently good decisions the future will be your friend. And, like I said to 30 year-old me, be sure to enjoy the ride!
*Hedonic adaptation is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
+Butter is the nickname for my former landlord John.
#Mr. McDonald was a guy I caddied for and mentored me in my teen years who led me to become a huge Notre Dame football fan.
^Mike and Kathy are my brother and sister, respectively.