Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Have I Betrayed My Childhood Self?

I can still remember the questions I pondered as a child:

  • What will my job be when I grow up?
  • Who will I marry? (Will she be hot?)
  • Where will I live?
  • How many kids will I have?
  • Will I grow old?  How old?
I also recall some of the promises I made to myself as a child:
  • I will become rich.
  • I will become famous.
  • Nobody will ever tell me what to do.
I didn’t keep any of those promises.

Until I left the rat race a few years ago, I sometimes felt guilty about coming up short. Today I understand that I am not beholden to my childhood self. These dreams served a developmental purpose (in order to become an adult, one must first envision it), but I shouldn't have considered them a blueprint for life. Our childhood ambitions are misguided because young people cannot grasp life’s complexities, and don’t appreciate its subtleties. The degree of wisdom necessary to do so is acquired later in life, if ever.

In retrospect, these are the questions I should have pondered as a child:
  • Will I be lucky enough to find real love? (I was)
  • Will I have my health? (I did for the first 38 years)
  • Will I lead a happy and contented life? (I have)
  • Will I have a fulfilling career? (not really, but it paid the bills)
  • Will I be a good person? (with some exceptions, I think I have been)
And these are the promises I should have made to myself when I was a kid:
  • I will not presume that life owes me anything; any positive experiences beyond being born are simply frosting on the cake.
  • I will be a lifelong learner, a rational and open-minded thinker, and a candid, yet polite, communicator.
  • I will not waste precious resources on jealousy, hatred, or revenge.
  • I will try to do my small part to improve the human condition.
  • I will not blindly adhere to hollow societal norms.   
  • I will live each day as if it will be my last.
  • I will be true to my family and friends.
  • I will be reliable and humble.
  • I will have fun, lots of it.  
  • Even when life becomes difficult, I will endeavor to persevere.
If I had made these promises to myself as a child, could I have kept them? Let’s just say that at 53 years of age, I’m still a work in progress.

If young Mitch could have peered into the future, I’m quite certain he would have been disappointed with what he saw. But young Mitch wasn’t smart enough to discern what a good life looks like. How could he have? He was just a kid.


  1. Beautiful :) Hopefully coming soon to middle school curriculums everywhere.

    1. Middle schoolers are scary. Put me in front of a room of CEOs and I'll be comfortable. But those kids…

  2. I agree with Claudia -- it should be a cornerstone of all school curriculums. The life-long learning continues...I'll be referring back to this post often!

    1. I would have to change the approach a little bit. I couldn't say, "your current vision of what your adult life will be like is wrong because you don't have enough wisdom yet." I would have to emphasize broadening their perspective about the future to something other than traditional achievement only.

  3. My sister (who has chronic autoimmune liver disease) thinks we should be born with an old body and as we age, get younger. That way our experience and good sense will come when our bodies are the most fit. Ah well, we were all bonkers as kids, weren't we? Love your Mom's cat-eye glasses, by the way! I had some too.

    1. Your sister is right. Wisdom is wasted on the old. Youth is wasted on the young.

    2. I always thought the same thing .... every year we'd get to look forward to getting younger. Wouldn't that be fun.