Friday, October 14, 2011

Dear Younger Matt

Dear Younger Matt,

It's time to listen to your elders.  Namely, me.  I remember what it was like to be you:  in your eighth and final year of college, not sure what to do with your life, making some good friends.  At this moment, you're 'learning' Dutch, thinking about getting a second Master's in Belgium.  Good plan, poor execution.  That goes for both the degree and your learning of Dutch.

But that's up to you.  I'm just here to give you some advice I wish I had been given when I was your age.  Unfortunately, I didn't have someone five years older who knew where I was coming from.  Lucky for you, I'm here.

1.  Stop screwing around.  For all of the fun and amazing things you do (I highly approve of your upcoming Europe trip!), you piss around with most of your remaining time.  Simplify what you do.  Yes, play video games, but be selective; you appreciate games with good stories, so stick to those.  Not everyone will like you, so stop trying to be everything to everyone.  Get to the core of what you're studying; that's the best and most important material.  If you suddenly have an interest in something, take that motivation and push, but keep your wallet closed.  The way you're going, you'll end up wasting thousands of dollars over the next several years.

2.  Life is a process, not a destination.  You don't need to be an expert on anything.  Find a group of things you enjoy doing (I currently recommend piano, aikido, Japanese) and focus on the process of learning them, not some end goal of being an expert.  If life were a destination, where is it that we all end up?  Death.  You have one life; live it.

3.  Keep your environment optimal.  Habits are built from how we do things.  Our environment is the setting of our journey and what pushes us toward certain habits.  Keep your environment exactly how you need it, but don't obsess over it.  Keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it as near optimal as you can.  If you're learning Japanese, have a lot of Japanese text and culture in your environment.

4.  Build up good habits.  This follows from the previous tip.  Build up a habit of simple cleanliness.  If something is out of place, you may as well pick it up.  Do basic maintenance every day so it never overwhelms you.  Build up a habit of communication.  Keep in touch with your friends and family.  Build up a habit of simplicity.  You don't need 1000 books, which you're heading toward right now.  In a few years, most of those books will never have been read.

5.  Build up your family.  This includes your current close family, extended family, and your closest friends.  You made some good friends in the past year and will make more this coming year.  Keep them close.  Never lower your standards (that's just asking for punishment) and never, ever, ever give up on romance.  It may take a while, but make it worth it by being choosy.  Oh, and contact old friends; there's a wonderful woman back in Florida who would love to hear from you.

6.  Live.  Stop spending so much time in your bedroom.  I know it's nice and quiet.  But it's too comfortable.  Go for a walk.  Walk through the buildings.  Smile at people.  Take a seat in some random building and people watch.  Read your book in the library instead of on your bed.  Dress up for Halloween in a couple weeks for the entire day, including classes.

Just a few things I wish had been said to me when I was your age.  Not sure if I would have listened, though.  I thought I knew everything back then.  I thought I knew what direction my life was heading in.  Still don't.  But life is an adventure.  An adventure is boring if you already knew what was going to happen.

So, young grasshopper, go enjoy the next five years as they happen.  Don't wait until they're over to reflect on them.

Good luck to ye.

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