On Facebook, a friend tagged a photo of us together on the night after our college graduation. It’s been over ten years. Not a significant amount of time but not exactly “just yesterday.”
The photo served as a lesson. The lesson wasn’t “never tag old photos of me on Facebook,” but that’s more of an unwritten rule. I let it slide this time because the photo served a purpose and was an inspiration for this post.
I learned a couple things about myself today thanks to a photo from yesterday.
Here are five reasons every guy should look at photos of himself at 21 and what he can learn from the experience.
Embrace your look
College is a time to experiment. I’m not referring to ‘shrooms and threeways, but those were fun too. At least that’s what I’ve been told. The summer before your freshman year, I know exactly what you did, because it’s exactly what every other kid does in the months before he moves on campus. You reinvented yourself. You mimicked the look and style of the people you wanted to be. You dressed, acted and projected an image to other incoming freshmen.
It lasted, what, like a month? The reinvented self disappeared during fall break, ironically around the same time all your old friends back home starting calling you a phony.
Now, you’ve got a look, try as you might to alter it, the real you creeps back slowly. You like a certain type of shirt, buy a certain cut of jean, trim the hairs on your face in a particular pattern. It’s not a bad thing. Everyone falls into a certain style. It’s your style. Own it.
Don’t waste time
The photo of the 21-year-old version of you will bring up memories of what you did with all your time back then. Maybe you worked your first real job out of college, spent an entire year living off your parents or went straight to grad school. The options seemed limitless because it felt like time stood still.
Now you can’t find an extra second in a day to do anything and often hide in a bathroom to escape your life. You’d kill for those weekends spent doing absolutely nothing or the morning hours wasted on excessive sleep or just plain hungover.
Even though those hours seem wasted they weren’t exactly wasted — every experience is a learning experience — but don’t let significant chunks of time pass without exploring your personal goals and aspirations. You’re running out of time to write that novel, building that classic car or traveling more than a hundred miles from your house. The 21-year-old person in the photo does have a ton of time on his hands. For the older version, the clock it ticking.
No one ever knows what they want to be, and that’s fine
It’s kind of unfair that college kids are expected to choose a major, and essentially the course of their lives, at such a young age. Do you want to be a doctor? Is business the best path? You didn’t know what you wanted for breakfast, how could you be expected to choose what job you want to go to when you’re thirty?
You still don’t know what you want to be. That’s fine. Even the most successful people don’t know what they want to be. Maybe it’s better to never settle.
It wasn’t as great as you remember
Sure, we’d all like to be 21 again, but what are we really wishing for? To go back and be the exact same person, live the exact same life, get to this point B from that point A in exactly the same way? Or are we wishing for the rewind to escape the same thing every human is trying to escape — the eventual end.
If you’re yearning to go back to the days of no responsibility, you’re not alone. But just know it won’t be as amazing as you recall.
College life is like a “best of” because you’re only remembering the best times. Where they all really awesome? Probably not. You had issues even back then.
The grass always looks greener on the other side. Especially if that other side is deep in your memory. It wasn’t all keg stands and road trip. Alright, there were a ton of those, but the memories are better than the real story.
Nothing is forever
It was naive to think you’d be the same individual for the rest of your life.
The person you were at 21 isn’t the person you became at 25, 28, 30 and beyond. Youth, and life, doesn’t go on forever.
Embrace it all — the good, bad, average, boring and awful. If a part of your life is amazing, it could change tomorrow. If your job is a drag, you could lose it this afternoon. There will be births, deaths, wins, losses and days when absolutely nothing happens. It’s all part of the ride. Take it all in.