I recently read an interesting article by self-help hipster Mark Manson that was titled, “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose.”
One of those strange questions stuck with me long after I finished the article. It was Question #2: “What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?”
The point of that question seems to be that, if what you are doing today does not capture the passion, purpose and idealism that you once had as a child, then perhaps you do not lead the fulfilling life you deserve. It got me to thinking about my own childhood self, and what he would think about my current activities. What would it be like if I were able to time-travel back to the year 1979 to visit with eight-year-old Stephen Roth? What kind of wisdom would I share with him, and what wisdom would he share with me?
Here’s how I think our conversation would go:
43-year-old Stephen: So how are things going?
8-year-old Stephen: Pretty good. Mom took me to the mall last night and we ate pizza and she bought me a Star Wars action figure. I got a Jawa.
43-year-old Stephen: That sounds like fun. How is school?
Eight-year-old Stephen and his mom.
8-year-old Stephen: How do you think it is? I hate it. I finally learned how to read, so that’s good. But math and cursive are killing me. It gets better, though, right?
43-year-old Stephen: What? School?
8-year-old Stephen: Yeah. It gets easier, doesn’t it?
43-year-old Stephen: Eventually. Let’s just say that you are probably going to have some setbacks in your sophomore year of high school. I’ll just leave it at that.
8-year-old Stephen: (Scowling) That’s really not what I wanted to hear. So how about you? What are you up to?
43-year-old Stephen: Let’s see. Well, for starters, I have a wonderful wife and a four-year-old son. We have an English Shepherd named Keiko.
8-year-old Stephen: Is your wife pretty?
43-year-old Stephen: Of course she’s pretty. She’s a beautiful woman.
8-year-old Stephen: What color is her hair?
43-year-old Stephen: It’s dark brown. She’s a brunette.
8-year-old Stephen: I like blondes. Farrah Fawcett is a blonde. She’s very sexy.
43-year-old Stephen: Well, I think you’ll find that a woman doesn’t have to be blonde to be sexy. You’ve probably been watching too much TV.
8-year-old Stephen:Hey, as long as your wife is pretty, that’s okay with me. So what do you do? Do you have a job?
43-year-old Stephen: I do have a job. I’m a copywriter and content manager for a company that provides financial services for the trucking and transportation industry.
8-year-old Stephen: Hmmm. What’s a…what did you call it? A contest manager?
43-year-old Stephen, trying to look artsy.
43-year-old Stephen: A content manager. It means that I create and manage all the writing and information that appears on our sales materials, websites, that sort of thing.
8-year-old Stephen: What are websites?
43-year-old Stephen: Um, there’s this thing called the Internet…You know what? Never mind all that. I’m basically a writer. I also wrote a novel that just got published.
8-year-old Stephen: That’s cool, I guess. But I was kind of hoping you would be doing something different at your age.
43-year-old Stephen: Like what?
8-year-old Stephen: Well, I hoped that maybe you would be kind of an outlaw. I mean, not a bad guy, really. More of a Robin Hood kind of person.
43-year-old Stephen: I see. You mean the kind of person who steals from the rich and gives to the poor?
8-year-old Stephen: Sorta. You ever seen a show called The Dukes of Hazzard? My friend Curt and me watch it every Friday night. Then, the next day, we get on our bikes and jump over a gravel pile and pretend like we’re driving the General Lee. The General Lee is a really cool car. It’s a 1970 Dodge Charger. Curt’s a little better at jumping his bike than me. He takes more risks.
43-year-old Stephen: (Smiling) Yes, I remember that.
8-year-old Stephen: So I guess I was kind of hoping you would turn out to be a Duke boy. Or at the very least, a sheriff’s deputy.
43-year-old Stephen: I see.
8-year-old Stephen: Basically, someone who drives a cool car really fast.
43-year-old Stephen: Got it.
8-year-old Stephen: You could also be a truck driver. You ever seen Smokey and the Bandit?
43-year-old Stephen: Of course I have. I’ve got it on DVD.
8-year-old Stephen: What’s DVD?
43-year-old Stephen: Oh, it’s…nothing. Look, I’m sorry you’re disappointed. I guess you’ll find out when you get older that your priorities change, that you have different interests and discover new talents. Sometimes we follow a very different path than the one we imagined.
8-year-old Stephen: (Staring off into the distance) Sure. Okay. So tell me, what’s high school like?
43-year-old Stephen: High school is a very interesting time. What do you think it’s like?
8-year-old Stephen: Well, in high school, I think it’s very important to be cool. There’s a lot of cool music and a lot of cool dancing. There’s also a lot of kissing. Like in Grease. You have to wear a cool leather jacket and slick your hair back like John Travolta. Also, the girls aren’t cool unless they wear tight leather pants. And they need to be blonde.
43-year-old Stephen: Okay. Well, high school is a lot more complex than that.
8-year-old Stephen: Really?
43-year-old Stephen: (Thinking for a moment) Well, maybe not that much more complex.
8-year-old Stephen: (Yawning) Are we done talking? Diff’rent Strokes is on in 10 minutes and I’ve gotta finish this stupid grammar worksheet.
43-year-old Stephen: I think we’re done here. Good luck with the next 35 years.
8-year-old Stephen: (Starting to cry) Thanks. It sounds like I’m going to need it.
Stephen Roth is author of the award-winning novel, A Plot for Pridemore. Learn more about Stephen and his book here.