What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
What would you tell your 18-year-old self if you had the chance today? (Shutterstock.com)
Remember when you were going to be a doctor, or a princess, or an astronaut, or a superhero when you grew up?
And then you finished high school to face your "last" summer.
A pig filled with pennies was no longer a pot of gold. Money and responsibility reared their dream-sucking heads.
At 18, you felt you had to decide how the following several decades of your life would play out, which, frankly, may be more ludicrous an idea than becoming a superhero.
The truth is, even when most of us decided on our life's path, we still never really knew what we wanted to do. Turning 18 doesn't come with an automatic gestalt of self-discovery; neither does turning 30, 40, 50 or any age.
So if you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self some advice, what would you proffer?
After a couple of mind changes, Tanya Borsuk, 32, is now a senior pharmaceutical consultant. She says, "You're not meant to figure everything out so soon. If it were that easy, then what would be the fun in life?
"You can change your goals and career at any time, and the more education, experience and motivation you have, the easier it is to hit the ground running."
Hershel Guttman made sure to travel before settling down as an environmental engineer. "Borrow money and travel first, before a job and kids. You will grow as a person in wonderful ways you could never imagine. You can easily pay it all back when you return to a permanent job."
And while the 66-year-old recognizes there may be differences between generations, he believes that a minimum of a diploma or Bachelor's degree is your Get Out Of Jail Free card for life.
"You cannot lose the accomplishment that represents to employers. You can change careers, but your degree in anything will always be there."
On the other side of that generation gap, Jarrett Moffatt, a 25-year-old advertising copywriter, agrees. He believes you should get some kind of post-secondary education out of the way, then travel.
"People think BAs are a waste of paper, but even if it's not what you end up doing, nothing can take your education away from you."
Ron Fine thinks he'd tell his younger self to figure out what he really loves to do, since he'll spend the better part of his life doing it.
In Fine's 42 years, the communications strategist has found education is key, but adds, "It's important to study a real trade or vocation, like plumbing or brain surgery, because let's face it - a BA with a major in anthropology will only take you so far."
Growing up in a working-class environment, Kathy Shields, 63, was not encouraged to get a degree or travel. She says, "If you don't know your path, put one step in front of the other and eventually you will stumble upon something.
"Be passionate, but be practical."
The cookbook author advises to set some goals and go for it. Also, try to go to university. If you are not sure what you want to do, travel - it is an education and perhaps you will discover what you want to do (or even what you don't).
"Oh, and buy books, you can learn a lot and do whatever with them."
Whatever you do, don't waste your time trying to be someone else, enjoy your time trying to find yourself.
And ask yourself, "If I died tomorrow, what would I regret?" Then do it.
Know that life changes. Adapt. Be honest with yourself. Follow through. Enjoy it. Repeat.
Life doesn't end at 18. Life doesn't start at 18. Life just starts.
Find yourself a mentor
Growing up isn't something that comes naturally - guidance can be one of the most important components in figuring out your path. That's where mentors come in. In a recent survey conducted by American Express Canada, 91% of respondents who had a mentor said they felt it had been integral to their success; however, the survey also showed that 73% of Canadians don't have such a person in their lives.
To amend that, American Express Canada has created Room For Thought, a contest that will pair up winners with Free the Children co-founders Craig and Marc Kielburger, Metric lead singer Emily Haines and TV's Survivorman, Les Stroud. Entrants are being asked to submit an idea that the panel will help bring to fruition, alongside general advice. Find more information and rules at facebook.com/AmericanExpressCanada.