Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.
— Soren Kierkegaard



I don’t have many pictures of my childhood years. In fact, I only have one. It’s no wonder it holds such value for me. Much of it’s value is in how it allows me to view my adult life in light of my childhood years. I mean, who hasn’t spoken the words, “I was such a different person back then,” or, “If I could do it all over again, I’d ______________.” 

Philosopher, theologian, and cultural critic Soren Kierkegaard said that life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward. What this means is that our past can serve as a reference point for our present, but should never keep us from creating our future.

So as I view and understand my life backwards, I have some words of wisdom for my five year old self.


Dear 5 year old Joey (my childhood name):


1. Don’t be in such a rush to “grow-up”

Life moves pretty fast and the years stack up so quickly. With the years comes this thing called responsibility. Not necessarily a bad thing, but very much a real thing. Enjoy being young where your concern is what game to play next, who to play it with and what time The Flinstones will start. Every year will add a new set of responsibilities. Enjoy being young because you won't get those years back.


2. Don’t get caught up in the opinion of others about you

You will quickly learn that people will have opinions about you. Some will think you’re too cute while others will think you’re too fat. Some will laugh at your jokes while others will laugh at you. Don’t let either opinion make or break you. If you do, you’ll allow others to make you who they want you to be rather than actually being who you are. As long as you do what’s right, live in truth and enjoy the journey, the opinions of others won’t hold more weight than what they should.


3. Your choices not only affect you, but those around you — choose wisely

Each day, you will be presented with so many choices. Eventually, mom will stop picking out your clothes and dad won't determine where you go. You’ll be on your own with the freedom of choice. I want you to keep in mind that not everything that glitters is gold. One choice can change the trajectory of your life and the life of those you love. Please, make sure to consider the possibilities and even consequences of the choices you make. Your life and the life of others are depending on you to choose wisely.


4. Don’t take anything for granted

What’s here today is not promised tomorrow. You’ll lose people, places and things. Be forewarned that some losses will be much harder than others. Because of this, make it a point to slow down and pay attention to moments…especially the meaningful ones. When loss happens, I don’t want you to regret not having done more, said more or been more. Say I love you more. Hug more. Enjoy more experiences with the people and things you love. You’re going to lose some of them. Please make sure to appreciate who you have, while you have them.


5. Say what you need to say

I know you’re an introvert. I know that it’s hard to speak up at times. I know that saying what you really feel scares you. But you have to. You have an amazing future ahead of you. But it all begins by speaking up now. If you like something, say it. If you have a question, ask it. If you don’t want something, say no. Don’t leave anything unsaid. Say it with tact. Say it with respect. But please, just say what you need to say.


6. Don’t be afraid of being emotional

Whether happy, sad, or anger, be okay with being emotional. Our emotions are quite the gift. Feel free to feel them and express them. Don’t keep yourself from laughing when things are funny. Don’t hold back the tears when they feel like flowing. Although emotions are hard to control, their expressions can be tamed. The danger in constantly taming your emotions is that they can actually become hardened. Before you know it, laughter will be forced and tears difficult to flow. Allow yourself to feel, and make sure to express those feelings.


7. Life is unpredictable so be ready for the unexpected

If I were to tell you the places you’ll go, people you’ll meet and moments you’ll experience, you won’t believe me! You’ll have unplanned adventures and moments where you’ll feel completely unprepared. Be okay with this. Don’t hold on to anything too tightly. Approach life as the adventure that it is. Eventually, you’’ll learn about this word called faith. Faith will keep you believing in things that have yet to be, and hold you when you feel things will never be. Let faith guide you when life seems unpredictable and you’re faced with the unexpected.


8. Your heart will get broken — but it will heal too

Our hearts are a fragile, gentle, and vulnerable to pain. There will be happenings that will “break” your heart. The girl won’t always like you back. The friend will sometimes betray you. You’ll try to fit in, only to be left out. People will disappoint you and situations will try to break you. Your heart will get broken. The remedy for a broken heart aren’t words or even actions, but time. Even when you feel like it’s been shattered, give the heart some time and it eventually will heal.


9. You are more than enough

There will be times when you feel like you don’t add up, don't match up, don’t have much and can’t do much. You will feel like you need to find people, places or things to make you feel better about yourself. Let me just tell you that everything you need is inside of you. You have qualities that can light up a room and a heart that can bring happiness…including to yourself. Don’t depend on anything or anyone to fulfill you. Enjoy people, places and things but only when they are an overflow to who you are. You are more than enough. Always believe this.


10. There will be very hard days ahead, but I promise you, you will get through them

With all the wonderful days ahead of you, you will also have difficult ones. There will be days where you’ll feel like life as you’ve know it is over. Some will be the result of the choices of others, while others will be the result of yours (see number 3). Learn from them. Allow the hard days to teach you more about life, the world and yourself. Life will go on for you. You will get through them. Keep your head up and your heart right because you will continue to live a good life and it'll all get better. I promise.


And so to you, my dear five-year-old self, may you live today a story you’d want to tell tomorrow.


- Me


So, what are some things you'd tell your 5 year old self? 

Joel GonzalezComment