Time travel is an alluring concept, isn’t it? Change your fate, prevent disaster, or give yourself a second chance… all can be enticing ideas. If I was granted one opportunity to have a conversation with my past self, my gut reaction would be to say something silly such as “hold on to that hard drive full of Bitcoin,” or “stay away from spiced rum,” or maybe “that change you’ll make to the network on June 6th, 2017, is going to break everything.” Humor aside, what would I say if a magical wizard appeared and gave me the opportunity to travel back in time and provide myself some advice?
Given a choice? Nothing.
I’ve never been a fan of changing or dwelling on the past. Maybe it’s the millennial in me (hush, you) but living in the moment is much more interesting. Perhaps it’s because I’ve never experienced true disaster, something I count as a blessing every day, or perhaps I’m just a pessimist. Some folks might try to correct a mistake, attempt to change a negative outcome into a positive one, or simply offer encouragement, but I can’t help but wonder what that small ripple could do over time. Would it introduce doubt and regret? I think I would spend the rest of my life obsessing over how I could have done better or said something different. This kind of over-analyzation is why I should never be granted a Wish spell in Dungeons & Dragons. The point I’m trying to make is that the past makes you… you, and that’s worth something.
With that out of the way… let’s stop overthinking this and throw caution to the wind. Imagine this magical wizard was holding a wand to my head, and I had to go back in time and give my younger self some advice. What would I say?
During my last two years of college, I worked a full-time job and took 12 credit hours of night classes at the same time. These two years were the most stressful time in my life. The pressure of working my first real IT job as a network administrator and the stress of extending my last year of college by a few semesters, all combined with daily life, was enough to fundamentally change my personality. My poor wife went through the ordeal of seeing the person she was hoping to marry (we were still dating at the time) become an entirely new person.
The advice I would give my younger self is this: make time for life. Friends, family, relationships, and your own mental health are so much more important than good grades in your college years. A degree is useful, sure, but to this day, nobody has ever requested a copy of my academic transcript, and likely never will. Those grades didn’t matter, and because I failed to realize that fact, I put my degree before everything else. I experienced burnout so severe that it changed who I am as a person. It changed my thought processes, my sense of humor, and my creativity. During those years, I didn’t make time for the things that really matter, so I would tell my younger self how important it is to be a human first and a homework robot second.
So how do you deal with burnout? I’m sure we’ve all been there, and I want to hear about your experiences. At such an early stage in my career, it will be humbling to learn from so many seasoned IT professionals in this community.