Advice for an 18 to 23-year-old


Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.

I am sure the majority of people reading this column fall somewhere within the age bracket in the title. One of my recent readers said it might be a good and possibly interesting idea, but no one that age would even care.

Maybe that is the way I felt when I was that age, but I think it would be great if young people put aside their inadequacies and arrogance and at least listened to those who had gone before them and experienced all the tribulations they are going to come up against.

Wouldn’t it be valuable to see how things were handled so many of the really terrible problems could be tempered or avoided?

It is pretty obvious we age. No one denies the reality of getting old and finally passing away. That’s life — a one way ticket to, well you know where. But if you are 18, 19, 20, or in that age range, you have absolutely no concept of what it is to grow old.

You look at your parents and relatives and, yes, they appear to grow old; but they have no effect on your future. They are a different entity because they are “old” and obviously you are “young.” That’s wonderful — but it doesn’t last.

Age when you are young is not reality. It only becomes reality when the door of age hits you on the backside and proclaims, “You can’t go back. Youth has left you.”

OK, I’m sorry. This was never meant to be a depressing look at youth and the aging process. It was, on the other hand, meant to give me a chance to speak from a position of age and just say, “When you are young, you need to do a few simple things that will make your passage into the rest of your life a whole lot more pleasant.”

This thought started with a student in the Engineering Building asking me how old I was. I didn’t respond right away, because who wants to be old.

The problem is that I am, and at this point there is nothing I can do about it.

As I move closer to my 70th birthday, I am fully aware I have failed to do my part in keeping this one and only body I had in the peak of health.

The student also reminded me that his parents are on all kinds of medications, have suffered health problems and now are experiencing the ramifications of being young.

We who are aging are in the same boats and some of those vessels are taking in more water than we would like.

So, what is the message — or am I just griping about getting old? Absolutely not!

I have enjoyed life to the fullest and have had a wonderful time doing almost everything I ever wanted to do. The reflection I have is that it is wrong I sit down now and realize what I should have done. I should have thought about that 50 years ago.

Wow! I can close my eyes and contemplate where I would be today, health wise, if I had made a very concentrated effort to simply exercise 10-15 minutes a day when I was younger.

If I had stood up while watching television and given up a few minutes to maintain the body I had, I think the number of pills I take today would be a whole lot less.

If I had set the regimen when I was young and made it a part of my existence — like eating, sleeping, reading and watching TV — maybe things would be different.

When I think of the tons of sugar I consumed, the salt that flowed like rain and the red meat that was oh so delicious, I realize my health is what I made it.

I can’t blame McDonald’s or the candy companies or the beef industry.

I was young, footloose and fancy free. I was never going to age, and nothing I ever did to my body would come back to haunt me.

That was 50 years ago and hindsight is a worthless entity. Looking back provides me with nothing but memories that can never change.

Youth is a wonderful time of existence, but it also is a time of responsibility — a responsibility to oneself.

So, this is not meant to preach or moan or groan. It simply is a few words to remind all those who are young that it is important to look closely at what you can do to provide for the future in an attempt to age gracefully with the least amount of hardship.

Think about it.

Craig Gunn is a guest columnist at The State News and an academic specialist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Reach him at

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