By Adam Smith
All the talk of high-school graduations this week prompted Lora Scripps to suggest I write a column about what I would say to the version of myself who just received his diploma.
Luckily, I’m able to do more than just ruminate about what I would tell my 17-year-old self. Using a time machine I built out of a phone booth, electronic calendar and a Speak and Spell, I was able to travel back in time to May 28, 1995.
I saw my younger self walking up to the football field and was able to ambush me, or him, without much effort. I wasn’t a terribly observant teenager.
Knocking him out with a healthy dose of chloroform, I dragged him into the gym where I waited for nearly an hour for him to regain consciousness. Once he did, we had a meaningful chat, and I was able to impart to him a little of what I had learned since graduating from high school. The following is a transcript of said conversation, broken up by OA, or Old Adam, and YA, or Young Adam:
YA: Who are you?
OA: Don’t you recognize me, you idiot?
YA: Are you me?
OA: Yes, I’m you from the future. Don’t I look like Robert Redford?
YA: What are you smoking?
OA: Listen, kid, I’m here to talk to you about your future. There are some things you need to know and some things you need to do differently.
YA: Did you come here in a Delran?
OA: No, I came here in that phone booth over there.
YA: So you’re trying to say that in the future, I not only look old and fat, but I’m also broke?
OA: Something like that.
YA: Yes, tell me more.
OA: First of all, don’t be in a hurry to leave the nest. I know you think it will be the right thing to do, but live at home and save some money.
YA: Why do I need to save money?
OA: Because you’re not smart enough for a scholarship, dummy, and you’re going to need student loans for college. And while we’re talking about college, have fun, but not too much fun. The normal person doesn’t need seven years of college.
YA: That’s how long you were in college?
OA: Yes, and that’s how long you’ll be in college unless you get your act together. Third, you’ll receive a lot of attractive credit card offers when you turn 18. Throw them in the garbage.
YA: So not only are you paying back student loans, but you’re also paying for credit cards? Jeez, you are an idiot.
OA: Fourth, choose a major that will allow you to make a good living. You like to write, don’t you?
YA: Sure I do.
OA: Ever thought about a career as a writer?
YA: I’ve thought about it.
OA: Don’t do it. Choose business, nursing or computer science. That’s where the money is here in 1995 and that’s where the money will be in 2012.
YA: What do you do for a living?
OA: I’m a writer.
OA: Fifth, don’t drink, don’t do drugs and for God’s sakes, don’t smoke.
YA: How do you know I smoke?
OA: You really are dense, aren’t you? Lastly, always wear your seat belt, don’t drive drunk, date women born in fall months and treat everyone with respect.
YA: (Yawns) Anything else? I’m going to be late for graduation.
OA: Yeah, there are a few more things. Find a nerdy friend who can create an Internet-based platform that will enable users to post pictures of themselves, random thoughts no one cares about and provide a way to stay in touch with former girlfriends and high-school friends you care nothing about. Once it’s created, call it Facebook, and then take all the credit for it. This is very important. Take ALL the credit for it.
YA: What’s in it for me?
OA: Just trust me on this.
YA: Wouldn’t My Space be a better name for something like that?
OA: No! No! No! No one will care about anything called My Space.
YA: Anything else?
OA: Yes, here’s a list of all World Series and Super Bowl winners for the next 16 years. On the back, you’ll find a list of horse race winners.
YA: Why do I need this?
OA: I’d punch you in the face if I wasn’t convinced it might hurt me a little.
YA: I gotta go. Are we done here?
OA: Yeah, we’re done. Just be careful out there and enjoy your life. And watch out for the extension cord on the 30-yard line.
After our conversation was over, I teleported back to the same place from where I left. That showed me the younger version of myself had followed none of my advice, which I guess is just like something a teenager would do.
I hope the class of 2012 won’t be afraid to take advice from their elders as they begin new chapters in their lives. As an old country song says, “If you listen to an old dog bark, you might see the holes before you fall.”