Double the Age = Double the Wisdom?
I still make lots of mistakes but I’m much better to adopt the feedback I receive from them than I did at 18.
I received a text message recently from my sister-in-law informing me of the date and time of my oldest niece’s high school graduation. I then realized that I’m double her age. I graduated high school 18 years ago this month in 2005. My niece was born in August of that year. I remember holding her at the hospital the day after she was born. Now she’s the same age I was when she was born, which means I’m officially old.
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My High School Years
I wasn’t a cool kid in high school. I maybe had six good friends—and I’m not complaining because some kids don’t have any friends. But I never got invited to the parties that the cool kids threw. I didn’t have a girlfriend. The only thing I wanted was to get the hell out of high school. I found the experience boring and trivial.
My attitude toward high school was reflected accurately in my grades. I barely graduated. I know a lot of kids will say that but the knowledge of me walking at graduation rested on a grade from my Spanish class. Fortunately, I pulled a D- and was able to graduate. I had to do several makeup workbooks on top of my regular classes during my senior year because I had failed so many previous classes.
All things said I graduated with a 2.5 overall GPA. I hate to admit that today because it shows how apathetic and lazy I was. And boy did I pay for my laziness with my time and money once I went to college.
I found this memory video of my class on YouTube. You can spot me at 27:00 trying to act cool.
I worked for a landscaping company mowing lawns and doing yard work the summer I graduated. I didn’t have any real concrete plans for my future. I figured I’d work, save up money, move out, and go from there. That’s when I discovered many of my former classmates and friends had plans with their lives that were bigger than just working.
Growing up in Utah, and being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, there is an expectation that you serve a two-year mission for the church. I had thought about it but wasn’t very serious about it at first. But as time moved on, it became clear that I needed to do something more with my life. By the end of the summer of 2005, I decided I’d prepare to serve a mission of my own.
At that time, men couldn’t serve their missions until they were 19, which meant I had a year to prepare. Thankfully I had some great influences and support to get me where I needed to be in order to serve a mission. I accepted a call to serve in Mexico City at the end of 2006 and reported for service that December.
Life in Mexico City
You don’t realize how naive and sheltered you are until you get dumped into a foreign country with little to no knowledge of said country’s language. Mexico City is the largest city in North America and one of the largest in the world. With more than 20 million people making up its metro area, arriving there from Utah was a bit of a shock. I could write an entire series about the time I spent in Mexico City but I’ll sum up the experience as concisely as I can with this: living abroad, learning a new language, and experiencing a new culture was the best thing I could have done.
Whatever ego I had was quickly stripped away when I couldn’t communicate effectively with the guy I was living with or with the general population. The humility I experienced would break any 19-year-old kid down to their core. I had never seen poverty on the level or the scale that people in Mexico City were living in. I myself was living a humble life. Months of cold showers, eating mystery food, getting bottles thrown at me, and getting made fun of for being American were just some of the experiences I lived through.
A rare photo of me when I was an LDS missionary in Mexico City.
I was never mad about any of it either. Sure, it was frustrating but I knew I was experiencing life on such a visceral level. I met so many amazing people who taught me valuable life lessons. What’s more, I also became friends with other young guys who were in the same situation I was in.
I had many conversations with the other guys about what they wanted to do after their two-year missions. During those conversations, I slowly came up with a plan for what I wanted to do with my life once I completed my service in Mexico.
I finished my service in Mexico City in December 2008. I returned to my family as a changed person. I wasn’t the same person they knew two years prior. I had gone through a life-changing experience that provided me with the confidence to make adult decisions.
College and Beyond
I returned to the United States in the wake of the 2008 Housing Crisis with few prospects and no money. On top of that, my past had come back to haunt me because I couldn’t get into the colleges I wanted due to my poor high school grades. Luckily I had done decent enough on my ACT exam but that wasn’t enough. I applied to Utah Valley University because they had open enrollment.
I had done so badly in high school that I had to take multiple pre-college level courses just so I could get into Math 1050 and English 1010. Again, I sucked up my pride and did the work. Not only did I have to take those pre-requisite courses, but I was also paying for them with student loans at more than 6% interest—this was 2009 after all.
I enjoyed my time after two years at UVU but I wanted to graduate from Utah State University. I was able to transfer to USU in 2011, where I excelled in my studies and work. I was highly active on the campus with my work in Campus Recreation. I made the dean’s list several times and even got a 4.0 for an 18-credit semester. I had a radio show on the college radio station. I played bass in a couple of different bands. I started to grow and embrace the person I was destined to become. I eventually graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism.
I moved to Georgia shortly after graduation and wasn’t able to attend my college graduation. But that’s OK because I had my student loans to remind me of my time spent at university.
Double the Wisdom?
Now that I’m 18 years removed from my high school graduation, would I consider myself 2x wiser? Honestly, yes, I believe I am. The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met have shaped me into a wiser and more analytical person. I still make lots of mistakes but I’m much better to adopt the feedback I receive from them than I did at 18.
I often think about the question, “What advice would you give to your younger self if you could?” I believe this is a great question because it forces you to reflect on your past choices. So, if I could give my younger self any advice it would be these three points:
Don’t blow off high school because it will cost you time, money, and effort in the future.
Make friends with the kind of people you want to become—positive influences are everything.
The person who is the most uncomfortable grows the most.
As always, I appreciate you reading my posts. I debated publishing this story due to it being the most personal post I’ve written so far. I’d love to hear what advice you’d give your younger self.
Thanks for reading!
I would tell my younger self to stop living my life to make other people happy. I honestly looked up to you a lot for that, among many other reasons while growing up. You always seemed to me to be pretty authentically you, no matter what anyone else thought.
I’ve always appreciated your ability to express yourself in such a thoughtful way - even when you weren’t so “wise” - Thank you for the insight.
I’m at a point were I’m learning to apply wisdom.
I took up cycling and mountain biking in my late 30’s. I had the wisdom to know I shouldn’t be riding certain trails or lines outside of my skill set. Two trips to the ER and fairly extreme shoulder reconstructions (one of those a couple years ago) prove, as I go into my 50’s, that the application of wisdom is the never ending battle whether it’s biking, relationships, or any other application.