When I was 13 there was no social media and no blogosphere and so obviously I couldn’t have written this at that time even if I had really known then what I now wish I had known then. But going by the dictum of better-late-than-never, and armed with about thirty years of experience, I am going to put finger to keyboard keys now and do-the-needful. I hope I don’t come across as a godawful preachy old doofus because then even slow death would be preferable to reading this. Of course, it all seems rather obvious now at 44 but hopefully there are some 13 year old know-it-alls today that may not know this already.
The first thing I wish I had known was this – homework is not that important and there’s no point stressing yourself about finishing it on a late Sunday evening after a long weekend of procrastination. At the same time, if you don’t want to face the teacher’s wrath on Monday maybe you should have thought about planning the weekend better and not watching TV for 28 hours straight. Or you should not care a damn about the punishment and take it like a human being (because saying “like a man” may be construed as sexist today). On your deathbed you will neither remember the homework nor the punishment and certainly not the TV that you watched, unless it was the first time you watched Star Trek. That you will never forget. Still, if there’s one thing you can take from every homework-not-done episode I wish you take this – every one of your actions, without exception, has consequences. Some of these consequences may be immediate (a whack on the bum), some may be hidden, and some may come back much later to bite you in the ass, but whichever way they happen you better be prepared to take them because no one else can take them for you. Maybe your family, and in some cases your friends, will try but even they may sometimes be unable or simply unavailable. And then it will be all up to you. And the sooner you get this the better it is for your own sanity, whatever you have of it at 13.
The second thing I wish someone had told me was – older people are also human and can and certainly do make mistakes. This is clear from the mess the world is in today. Whether it is your parents or teachers, or random scientists, godmen, writers, thinkers, philosophers, sportspeople, moviestars, or in general anyone else who is supposedly intelligent, wise, important, rich, or powerful – don’t listen to everything they say and accept it as gospel. Yes, they are supposed to know better but they don’t always. Don’t also not listen to them out of some misguided sense of rebellion or freedom. It’s always good to listen to people but then to think for yourself, make your own judgement, and then trust your instincts. Unless your instincts are braindead. In which case you’re better off listening to your parents. But if you can somehow figure that out then maybe your instincts may not be so bad after all. In any case, some of your decisions or actions will invariably turn out to be idiotic and wrong. But that’s cool. Everyone makes mistakes. The trick is not to make the same ones repeatedly. There’s an infinite pool of mistakes to be made out there. Choose wisely. Do what you think is right at any given moment and if it turns out idiotic or wrong later, simply move on with a shrug and a smile, and maybe a beer or two. But only if you’re above the legal drinking age.
The third and last thing I wish someone had told me was – no matter what you do, there will always be something better you could have done or something you could have done better. You could have studied more, got better marks, gone to an IIT or IIM, found a better job, kissed (ahem) more (and/or prettier) girls,
married someone better, made more money, travelled more, lived in super luxury, had more beer. Or whatever is your poison. The curse of life is that anything you do could have been done better. But it could also have been done worse and that’s the beauty of it. As long as you did your bloody best, had some amount of fun doing it, and were by and large happy (and kind to dogs), that’s good enough. And it’s perfectly ok to do nothing as well. Not always, but sometimes. You have maybe 70 years on this planet, if you’re lucky, and they just zip by so fast. Just try to live in the present and don’t worry about the future because you cannot see it or control it. And don’t worry about the past because you cannot change it.
This last bit of advice is what every spiritual guru worth their single malt will tell you, but only after extorting hefty sums from your pocket, so you may as well just read this blog. Or invent a time-machine and go back and write it yourself.