cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Create Post

Day 8 - Cherish the Small Things

Community Manager

Dear younger me

Where do I start

If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far

Then you could be

One step ahead

Of all the painful memories still running thru my head

I wonder how much different things would be

Dear younger me

MercyMe. “Dear Younger Me.” Welcome to the New, Fair Trade/Columbia, 2014


Kevin M. Sparenberg
Edmondson Heights Elementary School
Mrs. Sarnecki’s 4th Grade Class


Dear Kevin,


First things first, this is you writing from the end of 2018.  I can’t explain how, but I’ve found a way to send back this single letter with advice on your future, hoping that you’ll find a way to live a better life.  Please take this advice to heart and try to incorporate it into who you will become—in essence, me.  Not everything will make sense right now and some of the words may be unfamiliar (I’ve put explanations in parenthesis like this for those words), but please keep this letter, think on it, and read it when needed.

I know that you think this letter will be a list of things to avoid, like Marty McFly did for Doc Brown at the end of Back to the Future, but it’s not.  Unfortunately, if I give you too much information about your future, I could irrevocably injure the timeline.  If my calculations are correct, this letter should find you some time before installments two and three of that franchise.  Do yourself a favor and just re-watch the original twice more.  I’d say you’ll thank me later, but that would just be self-serving.

Even without seeing you, I can appreciate the skepticism on your face.  “If he’s not going to tell me how to avoid problems, what good is this letter?”  I understand, I really do.  There are going to be things that you cannot avoid, pivotal moments in your life, and for most of them, the pain of the event is outweighed by the experiences you gain beyond them.  There is a television show that Pop watches that I begin watching in 2005 called Doctor Who.  In the show, these events are called “fixed points in time.”  Experiences at a time and place that cannot be changed.  What I will tell you is that although these can’t be changed, you can prepare yourself for them.

Well before our time, there was this playwright (person who writes plays) in New York who was the talk of the town.  When asked about the most beautiful thing in the world, George Bernard Shaw is attributed as saying, “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world – and what a pity it has to be wasted on children!”  What I want for you, more than anything, is to not waste your childhood.

Later this school year, Mrs. S. will hand out an assignment asking where we will be in five, 10, and 20 years.  I still remember doing that assignment, so it’ll happen.  No, I’m not going to tell you where you’ll be – that would be cheating.  What I will tell you is that although this is a good exercise, you should slow down and not look forward so much.  Enjoy the today, today.

In your future there is going to be pain — pain that defies logic to the deepness and sadness it creates — and you’ll think that it will break you.  You’ll ask yourself questions that start with “What if I…?”  You’ll berate yourself with statements beginning like “If I had just…”  All I can say from this side of the fence is that those questions are good, healthy even, but don’t lose track of the good in life.  You are stronger than you think.  Just take the time to appreciate the small things in life between the big stuff.

Even now, I’m an introvert (person who prefers to spend time alone).  I don’t find it easy to associate with people, I’m almost always anxious in front of an audience, and I envy others who connect so easily with humanity.  For most of your life, you’ve felt like an outsider, regardless of your qualifications.  In my time, we refer to that as “impostor syndrome”— when you feel like your success isn’t deserved, regardless of your skill.

The best way I can tell you to combat this is to surround yourself with cheerleaders.  Now I don’t mean “yes-men” like those jocks and their buddies in high school.  You haven’t met them yet, but they are all jerks.  Worry less about what the general population thinks of you.  You’ve got a few great friends, and in your life, you’ll continue to have friends like this.  They may not be the same people in the future as they are now, but your friends will be in your corner.  They will push you to be better than you are and give you space when you need to have down time.

The other thing I can say is that you need to take the time to appreciate the small things in life.  This can be anything from keeping score for Mom and Dad at bowling to watching movies with Mike and Doug.  I know that your brother is frequently a pain but remember that he will always be your brother.  There are things that he can teach you about life. Just take a minute and watch the world from his perspective.

For that matter, watch the world from as many perspectives as you can.  Watch people, I mean really watch people, and how they interact with each other.  Stop thinking about how much of a baby your cousin Barbara is when she sings along with Cinderella.  Just look at the joy that she has dancing around the room singing along with the mice.  She’s not out there doing big things in the world yet, but she’s living every moment of life.

Find these moments of joy, even if they aren’t yours directly, and capture them as memories to replay in your mind later.  Treasure every hug from each relative, every sunny afternoon in the pool, and the joy in reading a good book.  Find these small things and keep the memories of them close.  Pain and trials lie ahead, because that is life, but holding onto these memories can make you heal faster and be a better person.

So, what’s the real message of this letter?  Simple: have fun and enjoy other people having fun.  There are going to be times where fun is sparse, so use the memories you collect to banish some of the gloom.

Sincerely,

KMSigma_Initials.png

Kevin M. Sparenberg
December 2018

P.S. – Remember to comment your code.  You don’t know that this means yet, but trust me, it’ll save your hours and hours of time later in life.

40 Comments
Level 15

Watch people, I mean really watch people, and how they interact with each other.

Such a strong chunk of advice. Especially for those of us who can't seem to naturally make these connections, being mindful of how others relate can be eye opening and provide valuable lessons and insights.

Thanks for being my friend and cheerleader buddy.  

"Kevin, Kevin, he's our man, if he can't do it we'll help him as best we can!"

Dear Peter Monaghan in the 6th grade,

    No! I won't tell you where you will be in 35 years. Because not only would that be cheating, you would look upon me, and ultimately yourself, with tremendous disappointment.

But the journey from here to there has been lots and lots of fun. Focus on that instead. Wish I could have done more. I will give you one tip: Don't take that job in Alaska. In the end you'll be glad that you didn't. What were you thinking even considering it. You hate the cold!

      Go get 'em! And never trust anyone over 30!  <wink>

      -Older you

Level 9

You will find nothing with as much long-term satisfaction as helping others. Not only will you make them better you will make yourself better.

MVP
MVP

Wise words, find the right people, those who value you, for you. Fun is key. I often think about "sliding doors" moments, that could have altered the future. Maybe the future wouldn't be so good and we all wouldn't be so wise if we stayed in our comfy little paradigms.

MVP
MVP

You took a different tack on this. I really like the idea of watching people. Watching others can tell us a lot about ourselves. Few people actually self examine and that is so important. Everyone assumes that they are good people and doing the right things - by self examining (if it is done honestly) can reveal areas where we need to improve or change. By watching other people we often get irritated by things that they do - which as it turns out are often exactly the things that we do. So, watch people, but use it as a tool to self examine.

I had a friend while I was in college with whom I had a complex relationship. I was at a party with her and bunch of others and experienced one of those moments that seem to etch themselves into your memory. The smells, the sounds, the temperature, the sights. My mind was struggling with the situation while sitting in my car into the wee hours of the morning. When I was struck with the thought that if I was really her friend I should be happy for her being happy. It was not my place to be angry because things were not going the way I wanted with that relationship. Understand, it wasn't like I was ever pushy when it came to relationships, they were all a struggle for me and still are. But I realized as you so nicely put KMSigma​​ that you should take joy from observing others finding joy in their lives, particularly those you care about. You don't necessarily experience the intensity nor do you always understand their response, but to see the smiles, laughter, and delight in another person and take it in is really such a nice gift to give your younger self.

Well played sir.

Level 11

As you mentioned you don't want to say to much that things change or do you. If you are talking to younger self and you are not happy with where you are in life, spill the beans. If you are happy with where you are at then you would have to be careful. Back to the future is a great example of what changing the past can do to people. I got a big smile when you brought that up, one of the best movies ever.

Yes, the little things make such a huge difference later on.

Like the butterfly wing in China causing a typhoon in Hawaii.

Like always inserting useful comments in your code.

Like avoiding that alcoholic drink before driving.

Like exercising every day.

Like listening more than speaking.

Like thinking instead of reacting.

Level 11

Remember none of us are perfect, and in the words of Bill and Ted "Be excellent, to eachother."

Level 14

"Not everything will make sense right now..." - This.....this is something I wish people would've told me at times. Even now, I can think of times that I wish some people would've told me this in my professional life. Always consider the possibility that there are intentions and plans that you just aren't going to know about until later. 

Level 10

Great words.   I have realized this aspect about enjoy the times ever since my Dad passed.   I remember the fun times and especially the ones in recent times that I got to spend with him.   He was a certain way and stuck in his ways, but that made him my Dad. 

You are stronger than you think.

Self-doubt and loathing are so powerful. It's so easy to give up. As a young adult it can feel like the world is against you. Your perseverance molds you into a bigger, better, faster, stronger person.

Level 13

Attention to the little things will pay off in the long run.  As you get older thing just come easier.  "O I've seen that before"

Level 10

Fantastic advice!  It's so easy to get caught up in what others think of you and lose focus of what really matters.

Don't let the little things become big things, and work on the big things so they don't break down relationships.  Maintain good relationships so your life is full of joy.   Find Joy in all things so you learn to appreciate the little things.  

Level 14

Absolutely cherish the small things.  I take enormous, almost childlike, delight when something small works out.  If I can get enough of them to align then the big things will work out too.  Sometimes it is a challenge to get the small stuff to work so when it does, enjoy.

Level 9

You’ll ask yourself questions that start with “What if I…?”  You’ll berate yourself with statements beginning like “If I had just…” 

Boy do I ever ask these questions.  I tell myself there is nothing you can do but move on, but the questions still come to mind.  You are right that they can be helpful, but they can also drive you crazy.

Level 9

"The other thing I can say is that you need to take the time to appreciate the small things in life."

What is some of the small things I appreciate?

My memories of cuddling and rocking my now 17 year old to sleep as a baby.

My memories of taking an occasional weekend from college to visit my grandmother...shopping trips with her to Walgreens to find the perfect roster pan that I knew she didn't need, learning to make a pork roast, going the wrong way into the local mall (thank goodness it was not busy) - we laughed and claimed "whoops - we are from out of town!"

Making ice cream with my grandfather using the old ice cream maker using rock salt and ice  (I still have it)

Level 9

Good advice to watch those around you and to enjoy the present. Make good memories when you can and they will help you in the hard times. Life isn't often easy, so look for the good and the joyful things. They are lights to brighten the darkness, but they won't work if you don't bring them with you.

Level 20

I don't think anyone is completely comfortable just talking in front of large groups or even performing art.  My solution to this, at a young age, was to just embrace it and join choir, theater, a band, and other things that challenged the fear.  I never completely got over the fear but it did get easier with time to just do it.  It's the same way with IT sometimes.  Sometimes I just have to jump off...

Great words, KMSigma​!  And thank you for giving us a glimpse into your past.

It wasn't until much later in life that I truly understood what I had heard over and over in my youth: It's not about the destination, it's about the journey.  I like what people have alluded to here: take time to savor all the wonderful memories life brings, even if it's something as seemingly insignificant as a butterfly lighting on a flower.  In my view, a life well lived means that it is lived on our terms, whatever those terms might be, not on someone else's.  Sometimes, at work, I will ask people how they are doing and they reply, "Just living the dream." to which I immediately reply, "Well, as long as it's your dream!"  99% of the time, I receive no response to my statement because their quip, "Just living the dream.", has become so rote to them that they haven't even thought about whether or not they are living their dream or someone else's.

I am reminded of the words of the great songstress, Edie Brickell, who said it very abstractly:

"I'm not aware of too many things

I know what I know, if you know what I mean

Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box

Religion is the smile on a dog"

Again, Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (And It's All Small Stuff)!

Level 12

"take the time to appreciate the small things in life"

Always good advice.

Level 10

Be thankful for what you have not regretful for what you don't.

Level 14

Dear Younger George    

Forget that Miss E***** said you'd never amount to anything in the 3rd grade. It was that statement that pushed you on to prove her wrong... Even 10 years later when she saw you and admitted she was wrong... You still push.

A small, throw away statement is your driver... use is wisely.

Older George

Level 11
I’d say you’ll thank me later, but that would just be self-serving

That was a joy to read, thank you! Love the simple message of "have fun and enjoy other people having fun," it's something we can all do even past childhood.

Level 8

"Enjoy the today, today."

Absolutely!  Tomorrow is too late.

I absolutely LOVE "Sliding Doors", acmtix​!  I think if one were to ponder how each little decision ("If only I had raced up to the stage instead of hesitating!", "If only I had not gotten calf cramps on the ropes course!", "If only...") has or has not gotten us something we wanted, we would literally go insane.  To me, it comes down to being content with the decisions we have made and not worrying about what "could have been".

Should'a, could'a, would'a...but didn'a!

rschroeder​, and perhaps others, mentioned this in an(other) thread(s) but I love the quote: "Yesterday is 'HISTORY', tomorrow is a 'MYSTERY'.  Today is a gift and that is why it is called 'THE PRESENT!'"  I think we as humans tend to ruminate on the past or the future, wondering "if only" and "how can I".  If we only open our eyes to this moment, right now, and say "Thank you!", how might that change our perspective on the world and how we interact with it?  #AttitudeOfGratitude

You also happened to put your finger squarely on another minor pet peeve for communication--saying "No problem" instead of "You're welcome" when someone thanks you.

English.stackexchange.com has a thread going about saying "no problem" when the meaning is "you're welcome."  I rather like it.

pastedImage_0.png

Level 12

The best way I can tell you to combat this is to surround yourself with cheerleaders.

I would have taken this very differently when in high school, but the results would have been the same.

The first boy to join the cheerleaders was totally protected from ridicule by those cheerleaders. Since a bunch of angry and attractive girls can be very intimidating, and all the boys wanted to date them, when they stuck up for someone he was protected from all the other guys.

Later in life a cheerleaders don't protect you from the voices outside your head, but the voices inside your head.

Thanks for your story, Kevin. I never would have contemplated what I just wrote without your words.

MVP
MVP

This is great advice and I wish I had received a letter like this!

Remember everyone, cherish the small things!

pastedImage_1.png

Community Manager
Community Manager

Cuteness overload.  I love that one is a small thing.  Is the bigger one named "Cherish" because that would be epic.

Level 20

Geesh I can't believe anyone saying that to a 3rd grader!

Level 13

Really like the way you framed it as an actual letter to yourself.  A lot of good advice as well.  I suppose in a way we're doing this to ourselves all the time in that we remember the pain of the younger stuff and how we got through it and then read it back to ourselves to help us (and others) get through what we're going through now.  Anyway, thanks for the post.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Sounds like private school.  They pull no punches.  Did four years myself, so I'm aware.

Level 9

Definitely a great message... maybe some of the current people here should take the place of younger you

MVP
MVP

As always - be excellent to one another

Isn't that the Golden Rule?

Community Manager
Community Manager

There's also the corollary - Wheaton's Law

Comment your code.... you can't tell that early enough to your younger self 😉  ... have been struggling with some of my early work back in the days

Level 10

Watch people, have fun and enjoy people having fun

very important.

About the Author
Kevin's first computer was the family TI-99/4A. He's learned computing the best way possible: by fixing his own broken machines. He was a SolarWinds customer for nearly 10 years before joining the company. He's worked the range of IT jobs: from the 3-person consultancy to the international law firm. Along the way, he's become a SolarWinds advocate and evangelist of monitoring glory. His passions include shooting archery, blacksmithing, playing D&D, and helping IT professionals leave at a reasonable time each and every day.