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What Would Your 18-Year-Old Self Say If They Could See You Now?


In 1977, back when he was 18, Peter “Stoney” Emshwiller filmed half of an interview. As a 56-year-old, he completed the conversation by filming the other half. The final result is a powerful project called Later That Same Life. In the video, which he hopes to someday “make a polished, professional feature film,” Emshwiller’s 18-year-old self interviews his older self about family, career, and life in general. The piece is both touching and thought-provoking.


(Photo Credit: tanaymondal/Flickr)

What if you could have a conversation with your 18-year-old self? It’s an exercise in perspective, and one that’s certainly worth the few minutes it will take to complete. Let’s take a look at Emshwiller’s video and then consider what your 18-year-old self would say if they could see you now – and whether that matters.

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Here’s that video:

Now that you’ve seen the piece, here are some things to think about:

1. When you were a teenager, did you think you’d be famous? Do you actually care that you’re not?

Before Emshwiller launches into the interview itself, he explains the reason for the very existence of the first tape, “In 1977, I was 18 and knew I was going to be super famous…” Did you think you’d be famous when you were younger? It turns out, a lot of kids feel that way. It’s normal, actually.

So, do you care that you’re not famous? Perhaps it would be interesting to consider what you thought being famous would add to your life when you were a teenager. Did you think it would make you more important somehow? Or, maybe you thought that it would provide you a great reputation among your peers. Maybe, part of the reason you don’t worry so much about fame these days is that the qualities you attached to it matter less to you now. Or, perhaps you’ve gone about achieving those objectives in other ways.

2. Would your 18-year-old self think you’re a failure?

Just after the 56-year-old version of himself sits down for filming, Emshwiller defensively admits, “I’m old, I’m fat, and in your mind, I’m a failure. I know that. Why do you think I’ve been avoiding talking to you for 38 years?” But, the good news is that our younger selves likely judged success very differently than we do now. In fact, this filmmaker has had a wonderful life that he’s proud of – he just doubts that his 18-year-old self would feel the same.

What would your younger self say if they could see you now? If your values and priorities have shifted since you were a teenager, why do you think that is? Remember, just because some kid (even if that kid is you) looks down on your life, you know better. You’re older and wiser and get what’s really important in life now.

3. Remember, your younger self knows nothing of the modern world.

From snowboarding to smartphones – the world we live in today couldn’t even be imagined by our younger selves. How has technology and innovation changed the way you turned out? Think about it. Does your job, leisure time, social life, look anything like you thought it might as a kid? Chances are, they mostly don’t, and it’s quite likely that technology is a big part of the reason for this. The world changes pretty quickly these days. How have those changes changed you?

4. At the end of the day, your older self gets the last laugh.

So, maybe it’s true that your teenage self would think you’re old and lame. But, what do you think of them? That’s the real question. Chances are that your younger self seems shallow, naive, materialistic, and probably pretty ignorant when measured against the grown-up you’ve become. So, don’t just think about what your teenaged self would think of you today. Remember to consider what you think of them. And, have a big ol’ laugh when you do.

Be sure to check out Emshwiller’s project on RocketHub, where he’s hoping to raise money to take this film to the next level.

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What would your 18-year-old self say if they could see you now? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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