Moving Forward: Advice to my 20-year-old self

Paul Hunter Zaid
Redwood Falls Gazette

Another birthday in November is approaching and I keep embracing the “older and wiser” mentality.

If I could, what advice would I give my 20-year-old self?

That’s definitely a loaded answer.

First I’d tell myself to never pick up a cigarette.

I’d also tell myself that I’m clever, but that I should work harder at being kind and more patient.

I’d also urge myself to take high school more seriously and to study more.

Also, most importantly, to ignore what others think or say about me.

I would also tell myself to care a lot more about how challenging it is to be a nonwhite person in the U.S., and then put a lot more effort into doing something about it.

I would tell myself that my parents are the best people I will ever know, and to express my appreciation and gratitude to them more.

Most importantly though, I would tell my 20-year-old self to stop worrying so much about my future, not because I don’t have anything to worry about, but because I was worrying about the wrong things.

Many readers will remember that in 1999, many of us were consumed with the panic over something called the Y2K bug, a programming glitch that would render computer operating systems in-operable overnight.

Bank accounts would be wiped out. Nuclear missiles would accidentally launch. Like so many of the other things I discovered that through endless worrying, none of that happened.

What’s my point?

Today’s 20-year-olds, and all of us for that matter, shouldn’t worry.

Many of us should take all of our physical and mental energy of worrying and invest it in shaping our present.

If we stop worrying about what if and we start worrying about what is, we have the power to focus and actually do something about the challenges we face.

Note to 20-year-old self:

When in doubt, do something about it. This all brings me to the amazing group of 20-year-olds who are in our communities and around the world today.

Many of these 20-year-olds have the wisdom, hope and opportunities that I could have only dreamt about in the year 1997 when I was 20 years old.

Today’s youth are shaping the present and moving forward, despite many of us feeling that we as a society are stalled and regressing.

Some may disagree with the agenda and movement of today’s 20 year olds, but regardless change is occurring each and every day on so many levels all around us.

Today our country is steeped in division, but one thing that is consistent is change and the constant presence of youth will always be amongst us. Let us hope that we can all learn from our past and push forward in the present.

After all, what advice will my soon to be 43-year-old self tell my 66-year-old self in the year 2043?