If your 18-year-old self could see you now, what would he/she think? Would your 18-year-old-self recognise you? Be proud of you? See him/her self in you—or not recognise you at all?

A couple of years back it was popular to imagine what you would say to your 18-year-old self, if you could. It hasn’t gone away. A  post, ‘18 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 18-Year-Old Self’ was published online.

My favourite among the 18 is: ‘Stop skipping piano lessons and language lessons, you fool!’ It’s easy, when you look back, to see mistakes you made, or think you made.

Suppose you were to look in the mirror tomorrow morning and find your reflection from the age of 18 looking back at you—ready for conversation. What would your 18-year-old self say to you?

I suspect it would be deeper than, ‘I like what you’ve done with our hair.’

The word Dream on a glittery purple background
Photo: Sharon McCutcheon

The significance of 18 years of age

18 is a huge change point. If you finished high school, this was probably your last year and you were planning your future—even if you weren’t sure what you were going to do. University or work plans were part of your future.

If you didn’t finish high school you were probably already working at a job or learning a trade or looking for work.

You were still a teenager, but you were working on adult-type planning and experiences. This is the age of long-term planning for life and work—an age when you became responsible for your life.

And 18 is an age when you can dream big because you can. You have your whole adult life in front of you.

Coloured Post it Notes with affirmations written on them, on a blue board
Photo: Kyle Glenn

Living the dream?

Your conversation with your 18-year-old self would probably centre around catching up on what happened. Family, children, work, successes, disappointments, and so on.

Would your 18-year-old you recognise you as one living the dream you’d had so many years ago? Probably not. Opportunities can impact on your life. Necessity brings change. And realities can alter your direction.

Some of you, thinking back to when you were 18, can see how decisions you made then set the overall direction of your life. Your 18-year-old self would recognise that, too. Many of you would have set your direction later in life. Or, you may have had several major changes throughout your life.

Man sitting on large rocks overlooking mountains
Photo: Jamie Fenn

Advice from your 18-year-old self

What advice would your 18-year-old self have for you as you plan your retirement? Probably, it would be the same advice you gave yourself back then. Dream big.

Yes, you’re much more aware of your limitations now than you were at 18. You know that life brings uncertainties. And you have more wisdom now to handle whatever life throws at you. But that doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.

So, dream big. Not to make your 18-year-old self proud, but to help your current self live life to the full. A dream is important. And it’s especially important as you plan your retirement.

Bruce Manners, author of Retirement Ready? and Refusing to Retireand founder of RetireNotes.com

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