Hi Ravi (age 18),
I am writing to you from the future, which has turned out to be not as bad as you had imagined. Why from the future? The answer is in Bernard Shaw’s quote, “We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” You will read Bernard Shaw next year in your English literature class, but you will understand and appreciate the readings in midlife.
In the middle of “life” there is a big “if.” That means you should follow your dreams and ambitions; otherwise, the big “if” will haunt you (“If only I had done that;” “If only I had pursued that”), resulting in multiple midlife crises. Life is long but the living goes fast.
I have had great experiences, but if you take some pointers from me, you could have greater ones:
Education: Getting an education is not just getting a degree or a diploma, which might or might not give you great earning potential (as your parents, friends and advisers will tell you). Education is about acquiring the tools for learning (self-teaching), because learning never ends. You gain knowledge not just from the courses or subjects you enjoy but from subjects and courses you might find boring or “useless.”
Professional life: You might live to be 90, and if you don’t pursue and do what you love to do, it will be 90 years of torture. There will be people who will always pull you down. They climb on your shoulders to achieve their success. They seem to be collegial and friendly, yet don’t be fooled. But these are very few. Most people have integrity.
Personal life: There is a message for you in the two pictures of what you looked like when young and what you look like now. We tend to try to imitate personalities when we don’t have self-knowledge. Don’t live in the images of your heroes or idols. It is self-defeating. Be comfortable in who you are.
There will always be compromises in personal as well as professional life. That’s the nature of things. But remember, compromise on strategies, never on principles. Focus on the actions (karma) and not on the rewards or outcome (fruits). Do good without expecting the rewards; the more you expect, the more you suffer.
And on the sensitive topic of religion, have faith but keep one eye closed when you listen to religious zealots. Religion and politics have become the playgrounds of the power-hungry, which has undermined world peace. When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.
Contact Ravi Pandit at firstname.lastname@example.org