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Advice For the 16-Year-Old Blair

Choosing five things to tell my sixteen-year-old self is an odd exercise at the moment.  I have a sixteen-year-old son, so I can’t help but conflate this with what I want to impart to him.  Also, my late teen/early adult years have been much on my mind as I consider where I am in life now, and where I want to be in ten years.

So some of these are serious and some are more fun, but all are true.

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Blair,

You are not, at this time, deciding the course of your life.  Yes, I know everyone is telling you things about choosing colleges and majors, building foundations for the future, and thinking about financial stability.  Stop listening.  You’re not the type of person to walk one path from now until eternity.  Stop trying to make yourself into one.  Try all those things that make other people raise their eyebrows.  Be willing to fail because–and here’s the secret truth–beginning again isn’t such a bad deal.  You’ll be much, much happier if you cease trying to cast yourself into a preset mold.  Flow instead.

Along with that, I order you to travel more as soon as you turn eighteen.  Take that trip to Turkey rather than worry about “not knowing how” to travel to Turkey.  Go to all those places you want to see and experience.  Israel, Australia, Italy, Madagascar, Alaska, South Africa.  Just go.  It’ll be a long, long time before you can again make such trips without coordinating career and family schedules.  You’ll never again be able to travel at will.  The only thing standing in your way is fear.

Ask more questions of smart people.  You’ll recognize them by the fact they know more than you do, and are doing what they want to do.  A couple decades from now, you’ll be able to request information on just about anything by typing a string of words on a computer screen.  (Don’t ask me how this works.  Just trust me that is does.)  But right now, you have to ask questions of real people.  Most times you won’t even know you ought to ask.  So when you think you know everything about the topic, ask the knowledgeable person things like, “If you were me, what else would you want to know?” and “If you had a question about this, who would you ask?”  Bottom line: never assume that what you know is all there is to know.

Creativity is the main dish of life.  Too many people are trying to tell you it’s nothing but a side dish, or a dessert, or a garnish that adds a pop of color but no true substance.  They don’t intend their advice to be cruel.  They’re telling you this because they fear you’ll end up jobless, homeless and penniless in pursuit of your dream.  They might be right about that part.  (I wouldn’t know because I chose to believe them for too many years.)  But they are dead wrong about the role of creativity in your life.  At worst, if you fail at your creative dreams, you’ll have to take a job you hate in order to keep a roof over your head.  Guess what: that happens anyway, so you might as well have a fling with your creative dreams because those well-meaning people just might be wrong about the outcome.

Lastly, Don’t sell the Mustang.  That’s a 289 engine in that ’66, my dear.  You’ll never love another car more.  Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to keep in good running order, but you do know how it’s done.  So upgrade the tires, drop a 329 under the hood, and have a fucking blast.

Love, Forty-Two Year Old Blair

P.S.  Quit worrying about your hips.  They’ll stop hurting so much after a couple years in karate.  Yes, karate.  You’ll be teaching it one day.

P.P.S.  Pick your jaw up off the floor.  You know you’ll love karate.

P.P.P.S.  Wear a bikini more often.  It’s fun.