Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

by Ken Mueller on March 12, 2012 · 35 comments

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young ken Letter to My 18 Year Old SelfToday is my 50th birthday. Holy cow, how did that happen??

Anyway, I’ve been thinking for some time how I would “celebrate” my birthday here on the blog. I’ve toyed with quite a few ideas, but kept coming back to the original idea of writing a letter to my younger self. My friends Shonali Burke and Nancy Davis, and Shonali was the first one who encouraged me to write my own take on this for my birthday.

So yeah, I’m 50 today. And I’ve decided to write my letter to an 18-year old Ken Mueller, back in 1980. Feel free to steam open the envelope and take a peek at what I have to say to myself.

Dear Ken,

You’ve just turned 18 and are finishing up your first year at college. And boy do you have so much to learn about life and the world. I just want to take this time to point out a few things and perhaps give you some advice on how to live your life.

Your work & career.

You’ve just discovered your love of radio. Nurture that. It will take you on an amazing journey, though it won’t even be close to the one you have planned in your head. Every job you have will be another piece of the puzzle that leads you to where you are headed. In fact, you’ll just about stumble into every job you have.

Here’s the thing you need to focus on: a job is not work. If you approach it as work, it will become drudgery. You will resent your job and will spend your days waiting for the whistle to blow at 5 p.m. You will spend your days working for the weekend. If you’re going to spend 40+ hours doing something every week, make sure you enjoy it. It is not work, it is a vocation. It is something for which you have trained, and something you will hopefully do because you love it. Over the years you will have jobs that seem like work at times, rather than something you enjoy. Understand this: that is your choice. Your attitude about what you do is what makes the difference, not what other people do, or how they treat you.

Your family and friends

Right now, you’re a little awkward, and that may always be a part of who you are, but don’t worry, in a few years your full personality will develop, you’ll find yourself and come out of yourself. During your college years you will begin to come in to yourself, but a lot of your personal, and professional, development, won’t really come until your late 20s when you’ve already started a family and are working in NYC. That’s right: NYC. Go figure.

reba etc 300x208 Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

That awkwardness of yours is going to be hard at times, and right now you’re wondering about girls and the whole relationship thing. Over the next year or so you might get your heart broken. And you might break a heart or two. But don’t worry: in a little over a year you’re going to meet the girl you will spend the rest of your life with. You’ll have your ups and downs, but she’ll be a fantastic wife and give you three wonderful children. Cherish that. Treat her well.

On the other hand, guard your heart. You’ve always been the type to keep people at arms length. You don’t let many people in to see everything. That’s OK. That will protect you at times, but don’t shut people out, especially your family. No one is meant to go thru life alone. But here’s the thing: some people will hurt you. And in turn, you’ll do the same to others. Not intentionally, but you will make decisions and do things over the years that hurt others, even those closest to you. Work hard to preserve relationships, but remember: in the end you can’t change other people’s minds. They will make their own choices, and sometimes that will hurt you.

Guess what. You’ll survive.

Your future

I’ve already mentioned your love of radio, which comes from a love of music. The path you travel will be far different from the one you envision for yourself. But you’re headed into some exciting territory, and your love and study of communications and radio will always be central to that. Remember last semester when you took that FORTRAN computer class? You labored over a thick stack of IBM punch cards that went through a reader, fed into that huge computer in the computer room, and spit out some simple equation like 2 + 2 = 4. Pretty crazy, huh?

keillor 300x213 Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

You may not believe this, but by the time you reach my age, a computer more powerful than that one that fills up an entire room will fit in your pocket, and almost everyone will have one! Sure, it sounds like some space age dream, but it’s true. We won’t have flying cars, or live on the moon, but we’ll have pocket computers that will allow us to communicate with virtually every other person on the planet. You’ll make friends all over the world with whom you can chat on a daily basis. And while you’re certainly not a techie, this will all play a part in the career path that is chosen for you.

Others First

This simple phrase is one you need to hold on to. This phrase should be at the center of everything you do in your life and career. Seek to help others. There’s nothing wrong with advancing your career and your lot in life, but it should never be at the expense of others. Our culture values money, looks, fame, and power. Too often these come by focusing inwardly. Don’t fall for that siren song. Whether you work with businesses or non-profits (and you’ll work with quite a few of both), remember: always put others first.

The real you.

In closing, don’t ever lose sight of who you are. Be you. Don’t ever feel like you have to pretend to be something you aren’t, just because you want others to like you. That’s a waste of time. If they don’t like Ken for Ken’s sake, then that’s their problem. And let your sense of humor shine through. Sure, not everyone will “get it”, but don’t worry about that. Enjoy life. Enjoy all that you do. Enjoy your family.

young ken 3 300x269 Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

Oh, and I’ve got a little tip for you: the 1980 baseball season is just starting, and your beloved Phillies will win their first ever World Series this year. If you get this letter in time, maybe you can make a wager or two and change our financial destiny. And this won’t be the last World Series victory you see, but this team will certainly turn your hair gray, and the championships will be few and far between. But at least they’ll throw you a bone every few decades. Wish I could say the same for the Eagles.

phils 300x225 Letter to My 18 Year Old Self

Enjoy your 18th birthday, Ken, and hang in there. You’ve got a pretty wild ride ahead of you. Embrace it.

Sincerely,

Ken (the 50-year old version).

 

Thanks for sticking around and reading my letter. If you’re a friend and you have any interest in participating in my birthday, you can give me the best gift by contributing to a good cause. One particular cause that is close to my heart is the work being done to fight homelessness by the Water Street Mission in Lancaster (client). Please consider making a financial gift to them as a birthday gift to me. Thank you.

 

 Letter to My 18 Year Old Self
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35 comments
GigspotterSam
GigspotterSam

Nice work, old Ken!  Your 18 year old self must have been listening, somehow.  You turned into a great guy with a fine vision of life now and into the future!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

I'm so glad you went this route! YAY! I also love that you tell your younger you to bet on the Phillies. LOL!! But, um, what's with the photo with two black eyes?

girlseeksplace
girlseeksplace

Happy birthday. You've got me thinking I need to do this for my birthday this year.

TheJackB
TheJackB

I remember that Phillies team, always liked Mike Schmidt, but not as much as Ron Cey. I still bleed Dodger Blue. Love the letter and have thought about writing one to myself too.

 

I wonder if you had received yours would you have listened to it or still done your own thing.

BestRoofer
BestRoofer

Very cool idea and wonderfully done!

Hajra
Hajra

Happy Birthday Ken! You are turning 50 with such a lovely post; I am terrified even when the month of October is close by! A lovely way to hit half a century! ;) 

 

If only we actually got the letters at 18!

KDillabough
KDillabough

Happy, happy birthday Ken! Continue to embrace the wild ride:) Cheers! Kaarina

LizJostes
LizJostes

Happy, happy birthday to my favorite Pisces guy (who can rock a pair of white pants like no other)!

MarkA.Griffin
MarkA.Griffin

Others First- Love it.  Gread read Ken, It's amazing what we learn as we grow older. I have to say the forties have been my best years. 

NancyD68
NancyD68

I loved this Ken. I think back and you are so right about loving what you do rather than "working for the weekend" That was my blind spot for many years. Nice point made. Happy birthday Ken! They say 50 is the new...um, 50

 

MattLaCasse
MattLaCasse

Happy birthday, Ken! Loved the letter. It's always interesting think about and reflect on life gone by, and what kind of advice you would give a younger version of yourself.

belllindsay
belllindsay

Love this. The pics are awesome. Your boys (I'm assuming...?) are beautiful. Life is great. And I would *never* want to be 18 again. A person really does become so much better as they age. ;) Happy Birthday Ken. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @ginidietrich Well, if I didn't go this route, you'd be nagging me. More than you normally do. And that was the "punk" version of me back in college. Really only a Halloween costume. It was the early 80s. It's what we did. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @TheJackB I have no clue. When we're young we think we know it all. Would love to find out!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @Hajra  Yeah, it would be nice if I could go back and relive some of this!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @LizJostes Thanks, Liz. and yeah, those painter's pants were quite the fashion back in the day!

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @belllindsay Thanks, Lindsay! I think I'm aging fairly well. For the most part. 

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