Plinky: Advice to my 16-year old self

( sends me an email everyday with a question meant to inspire a blog post. Occasionally I take the bait.)

Ok, I know, it’s terribly cliché, so Dead Poets Society and all that, but I LOVED that movie, and I really can’t think of anything that I needed to hear more than Carpe Diem when I was 16.

Regrets can be toxic, and here’s what Langston Hughes had to say about deferred dreams:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

And while I’ve been mostly free of festering, runny sores, and I certainly haven’t exploded, two things came to mind that I wish I had, at age 16, approached with a seize the day spirit.

Besides my family and friends, making music is the most important thing in my life, and yet most of the time all I do is make music, informally, recreationally, with my family and friends. I’ve been obsessed with music since I was just about my son’s age (12), and yet I didn’t start learning guitar seriously until I graduated college. I missed the opportunity to immerse myself in music while I was young and single and free, when I could have at least had a chance to realize my dream of being in a band.

The dream is not dead and I’m still working on being in a band and performing, but it would have been a HELL of a lot easier when I was younger, and I’d be a MUCH better musician by now as well.

When I was a senior in high school I already had serious dreams about traveling and I knew other people who did as well. Backpacking through Europe, for instance, was at the top of the list…and I still haven’t done it.

Some of the other people I knew who wanted to travel made it look easy. They worked hard to save up the money and then they took off and did it, starting a pattern they’d repeat again and again for years, making their way around the globe. For six months or so, it was all work and little play, two, sometimes three jobs. But that would be followed by six months of journeying to wondrous places.

I was too conditioned by my parents’ financial insecurities to follow my friends’ examples. It was too risky, you see, to take off and travel with no job to return to.

I’ve since been able to manage one significant solo trip — Israel & Egypt in 1996 — as well as some great trips with the family — Mexico, Hawaii, Jamaica, Costa Rica — and there are many years and many trips to come. Yet, there won’t be the twentysomething backpack trip to Europe. More likely, it will be a fifty or sixtysomething trip, which isn’t really the same.

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