It’s 6 am, I just woke up and my face is looking at me in the bathroom’s mirror. This old mug…It’s wrinkled now but also a bit friendlier than it was two decades ago.
Actually, when I was 20 I would look at my face when I was high on LSD. I’d stare at my skin twisting and erupting live, changing colors: from green to red, then yellow with black dots… that’s the kind of visions you get on acid. While half of my brain was busy hallucinating, the other half would come up with big questions, the same old questions all humans have always had:
Who the hell is this guy in the mirror? Who is me?
Where do I come from? (can’t be just from my mom’s womb, there’s gotta be something else).
Is there someone pulling the strings of the cosmic show, or at least a starter manual so that I can figure what I’m supposed to do here, beside from eating, mating and then…die?
Two decades down the road I still have no convincing answers to these questions, no idea who’s the man in the mirror or what’s the sacred mission I’m supposed to accomplish…I haven’t heard any news coming from heavens. That’s somewhat embarrassing.
Now let’s imagine a B-movie sci-fi scenario: a space-time portal opens in the mirror and I get to meet face to face with this young dude I once was (as opposed to the worn-out 40 year old Gaël). I guess I’d feel a little moved. He’d probably be quite emotional as well BTW. Would he ask me what he’s become in 20 years? Would he be disappointed to hear that I spent most of my time trying to find the meaning of life ending up with more questions than answers?
I don’t know what he would say, but on my end I’m certain about what I’d keep to myself, and here’s a few platitudes and BS advice I would not serve him:
Chose a career that pays well
I wouldn’t advise my 20 year old me to let money tell him what to do. All my life I chose projects regardless of their profitability and I didn’t have to worry about that aspect: it took care of itself, and sometimes much more than that. Scarcity has only shown up lately in my experience (I expect it to be a short period).
Money will never be a valid goal because we never want dollar, we want what we think they can buy: happiness, travel, love, respect. Unfortunately financial wealth is not what brings all that. At best it’s one of the necessary ingredients, but that’s about it. Think of it as soy sauce: you might need a tad of it in a recipe, but is your meal going to get better if you drench it with a gallon of Kikkoman? No, it’ll be disgusting, and so will be your life if you spend it compulsively scavenging for money.
There’s always been bad reasoning pushing young people to target the best paid positions instead of jobs they love. I’m sorry for those who can’t think of something else to do with their lives than making tons of cheddar, but for my younger me, whether he’d like to be logger, writer, philosopher, cook or even an ascetic, if that’s what his guts tell him to do, I’d tell him: you do that. Screw the money.
Don’t keep bad company
Regarding friendships, I’m not in a position to patronize 20 year old Gael about who he should hang out with: I haven’t always been around the right people.
The dealers, the drug addicts, the depressives and the mad, they’ve always been part of my environment and they proved me that damaged personalities aren’t necessarily bad people, a lot of them have more clarity than the average Joe.
Some say that to make it, you need to spend time with people who are more successful than you. Maybe I would have climbed the social ladder by networking with outstanding entrepreneurs, but I didn’t. The little time I spent rubbing elbows with the rich was not particularly inspiring and in the end I remained where I was born: somewhere near the ground.
And also, being friends with those that society calls losers was mostly beneficial for my soul. Their lives and pains taught me what suffering means and how important it is to care for others. They were great non-role-models by showing me what NOT to do, isn’t that what’s most crucial to succeed, after all?
Don’t do drugs
No way to stop anyone from doing drugs, there’s such a variety of products on the market, and they respond to so many different needs: being relaxed and serene, feeling energetic and uplifted, discovering unknown part of your psyche. There’s more than you can experience in the modern chemical paraphernalia, can my lame recommendations compete with that?
I could try to tell my younger self to ease off on psychedelics but his sarcastic responses would ruin my attempt. Whatever I’d say wouldn’t matter: he would do drugs anyway.
I guess I’d merely pass him a list of all the friends he’s about to lose to drugs.
Don’t offend anybody
I’d love to give my younger self a motherly piece of advise like: “Don’t hurt anybody’s feelings”, sounds pretty compassionate and humanistic, right?
Yet I won’t do it. Status Quo doesn’t work and when it does it’s usually a well crafted collective illusion.
Let me illustrate that with an example: When I speak my mind in an article I get angry responses (a guy told me once that my tricks to beat depression were offensive). And when I try to write something that everyone likes I end up with an awfully boring post and trolls manage to flame it anyway.
Conclusion: I always see frowning faces in the back of the room, no matter what I do. It seems that if you speak out, someone, somewhere won’t like it. Being consensual never works…There’s no pleasing so many different minds.
Here’s a lamentable tale to illustrate this:
A man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: “You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?.
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: “See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.”
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: “Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.”
The Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor Donkey of you and your hulking son?”
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the Donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the Donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he drowned.
Seeking everyone’s approval can’t work, so if my younger me was OK with listening to an old fart, I guess I’d tell him to get used to bullies and contradictors, because they WILL show up. Especially if he does things right.
Anyway…All that’s not going to happen, I don’t expect the space-time continuum to open in the mirror, this interview with my 20 year old me is the fantasy of a childless adult. My youth is gone, along with its struggles, hopes and terrors. I forgave myself for the wrongs I did, given I did my best.
And even if it had been possible to meet my young self, I wouldn’t have spoken that much, I would probably have listened to him.