If I could send a message back to a younger version of myself, I would have a lot to say to me.
First, I’d tell myself to not take myself so seriously. Life is short. It is meant to be enjoyed. Literally take time to smell the roses, or any other flower you find.
Second, I’d tell myself to be sure to enjoy my children whenever I can. They won’t always be children, and of course I can’t always be there. So make the best out of the times you do have together.
I’d tell myself to wear more sunscreen, and to wear a hat, and that I know driving a car is a really big deal, but don’t forget your bicycle: it was your friend for so many years.
I’d tell myself to not worry so much about losses that you really won’t even remember in 20 years. Losing happens. Get over it.
I’d tell myself to find a course on how to study and enroll in it immediately. School teaches you a lot of facts and content, but it generally doesn’t teach you how to learn or how to study.
I’d tell myself to invest my life savings in Google.
I would tell myself to learn patience and tolerance early in life. Meditation and yoga are good things.
Pick up rocks. You might find a nice one.
Join Toastmaster’s. It’s a great way to learn public speaking. Really.
A side note. A good friend of mine, who passed away a short while back, taught me a valuable lesson while I was in college. It was in a Freshman class, where external speakers were invited to lecture. I can remember his advice almost exactly. He said, “When I was in college, I just knew that there were two types of jobs in mining that I would never do: I never want to work in coal, and I never want to work underground. Don’t be too dead set in where you will go with your career. My first job was in coal mining, and my second job was underground”. That advice really drove the nail home for me. My two least favorite classes in my undergraduate studies were rock mechanics and soli mechanics. Why? I can’t say that the teachers taught poorly (not out loud, anyway), but their style of teaching and my style of learning sure didn’t mesh well. So, guess what happened. You got it. My first job was in rock mechanics, and my second job was in soil mechanics (which I’ve been happily doing for over 3 decades!) And, after a few years of on-the-job-training and gaining my Master’s, I’m very happy to say that I have a great appreciation and understanding for the practical and theoretical sides of soil mechanics. Where was I… Oh, yes. No job is worth your health. Mental, or physical. Take care of yourself, but have fun. Sometimes… eat pie for dinner. That way you won’t have to feel guilty for having dessert. Continue to learn for your entire life. For work. For fun. For personal development. Just to know things. Have hobbies. It doesn’t really matter if they are “productive”. Stay active. Be fit. It doesn’t matter how. Welcome love with open arms. Give lots of hugs to the ones you love. Let the bullshit roll off your back, and absorb wisdom like a sponge. Listen to older people. Hear what they have to say, and ask them to tell you stories from their earlier years. It’s better than television.
Enjoy your hair, while it lasts.
And to me, specifically as a young engineer, chose your mentors, and learn from them. Work for as many new bosses as you can (you don’t have to change jobs), seek field work, work on construction sites (it will make you a better engineer), yearn to become a mentor, write publications (not all papers need to be earth-shattering), speak at conferences, join engineering societies (and be an active participant), read technical trade journals, try to remain current with your industry trends, take your job seriously and treat your supervisor with dignity (and respect, if it has been earned), take pride in your work, seek guidance where it s needed (there is no shame in not knowing how to do something), Sometimes you will be pigeon-holed because you are good at a task-try to work through it (it shouldn’t last forever), love your work (if you don’t overall love what you do, do something else).
I could go on…
I know I gave some contradicting advice. Life is about contradictions.