Notes From My Knapsack 5-26-16
A Conversation That Can't Really Happen
If I could go back and talk to myself, when I was turning eighteen . . . a silly conceit for a newspaper column, I know. Because you can't, and anyhow what you've learned in (say) almost forty years has been largely invalidated by changes in technology, society, and the economy in general.
Or are the things you really wish you could return and clue in your clueless-ish self about not the sorts of things that are subject to the vicissitudes of time and trends? Does it matter that you spent so much time working with audio and radio equipment that now deserves a place in a museum, or that your earliest attempts to be creative on your own terms involved printing equipment that no museum would accept, even as a donation?
My Social Security review statement came in the mail, and I look back across the income amounts for each year and they represent less sums of money than they remind me of the jobs they represent, what I learned and how I maneuvered to get them . . . or what other job I got manipulated out of that would have paid a different sum.
It's funny, but the dollars don't count as much as the memories they evoke. The year I made $700 I couldn't tell you what I spent it on, but it was when I got picked for the position of Nature/Conservation area director at summer camp. $1000 was my first summer as Program Director at Camp Tamarack, a job I'd long hoped for, and which did turn out to be what I expected, but in the end was even more.
$7,415 was my student church in seminary, half paid by a Lilly Endowment grant and the other half by that congregation. There was nothing to negotiate and it wasn't enough, but we got by mainly because my wife made more than me. No one warned me that would happen, or that it would be true more years than not through our marriage. I could have better prepared myself for that, if I'd been able to imagine it.
So I'd say to me, back in 1979, that money isn't everything, but how you handle your finances can be. If you make fifty bucks a week and spend forty-nine, you're richer than the poor fellow who makes two hundred but spends two-twentyfive, piling up a load of debt and chains that bind you. Living simply can allow you to make some interestingly complicated choices.
While you work through your choices and plans, tell people what you're thinking. You can't tell just anyone everything, but don't think those who are close to you are mind-readers. Assumptions and expectations make fools of us all, so say something.
If you love someone, make sure to tell them how you're feeling. If you think you love someone, but you can't tell them how you feel, either you need to work on that, or you don't really love them. Find someone you can speak your heart to.
And love? Love is when the happiness of another person has become essential to your own. I borrowed that line, but it's made sense to me over many years. How to know that's true is something we each have to work out for ourselves, but it's a good measure. And from another reliable source, I'd remind my younger self that Meyer is correct when he says to Travis "In any moral conflict, the more difficult choice is the right decision."
That's what I'd say to myself at age eighteen if I could go back and tell him. Or I'd be happy to offer it for whatever use someone turning eighteen might find in it today.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about how you make a day out of the tools at hand at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.