I Wish I Knew Then …


I wish I knew then what I think I know now…but would I have lived life any differently?

By this time next week, my wife, twelve-year-old, and I will be waking up to a different dynamic in our home. My oldest will be gone. He’ll be waking up in a dorm room, probably both excited and nervous about the journey he is about to start. This upcoming experience, from my parent point of view, led me to thinking about my own journey that literally started the evening I returned home from my High School graduation. I left home that night, which is a story in itself.

A Letter To My Eighteen-Year-Old Self

I’ve read a few similar posts like this over the last year and they’ve always made me wonder what I might tell myself, assuming that was even possible, and, would it have made a difference? It did for John Conner in the second Terminator movie but that’s Hollywood. This is real life, and my thoughts and influences at that time were what guided me… Then.

Let’s just pretend for a few minutes that it’s possible. A letter from the future, to be opened and read that very first day on my own.

Dear Bill,

If you’re reading this, you’ve decided to leave home. You’re probably a little confused by now and wondering just what you’ve done. Last night was a turning point in your life. It wasn’t the first and it certainly won’t be the last. Standing on that football field after graduation only to find nobody was there is something that will eat at you for some time. I’d like to tell you why it happened like that but I don’t have a clue. My biggest advice is to get over it or you’ll spend too much time and energy wondering why. And while you’re at it, you should find forgiveness sooner than later. Trust me on this one.

So where do you go from here? What path should you choose? Regardless of what I tell you, you’re a stubborn kid and are going to do what you want. “No regrets” is what you’ll tell yourself later in life but you will have a few. And you’ll get over them. What words of wisdom do I have to share with you? Patience is something you won’t learn until later in life so I’m going to be brief or you will probably quit reading this. There are a few things however that you should know.

* Let’s establish one ground rule first. You’re eighteen. Although you think you know everything, you don’t. The reality of it is – you never will, and that’s okay. Lifelong learning should be your mantra.

* Adults. The first thing to know is that being an adult doesn’t automatically make one wiser, kinder, or more mature. Far from it. Some of the same BS you experienced in high school will continue throughout your life. I would love to tell you something different here but it’s just a fact and the sooner you realize that the better.

* Despite your wishes to pursue a career in the arts, you’re going to fall into a technical career. Embrace it. I know you fought this idea but you’ll learn to love it and it will provide you with a great living and you’ll be very good at it. You will travel, see many places within the U.S. and get to see a few places abroad. It can be as fulfilling as you want it to be. The best part is you’ll never lose the arts. Read. Write. Play the guitar. Who knows what can happen

* You convinced yourself that college is just high school with ashtrays. It’s so much more. So you f’d up and passed on scholarships. It would have been much easier on you had you just attended college immediately after high school. You’ll take the long route and still attend college albeit part-time. You’ll graduate. And with honors.


* The eighties. I could write a book on this subject. Suffice it to say it will be called a decade of decadence for a reason. You’ll live to tell about it and it will make great writing fodder someday. Just be careful.

* The nineties. This is when you are going to find yourself, not that you were lost. You’ll find true friendship and a long lasting love. How will you know? For this first time in your life, you won’t be looking for any of it.

* You will be a father and it will be the greatest high you’ve ever experienced. You’re going to be scared, and for good reason. Understand why you are scared and the rest will take care of itself. Embrace both the responsibility and challenge that parenthood will bestow upon you.

Tata, Nana, & Me

Tata, Nana, & Me

* As time passes, and it will at an alarmingly faster rate, never forget where you came from. It’s easy to get caught up in a life that most of society deems successful. Much of that is overrated. You’ll figure out what truly is a measurement of success.  

* Understand a few guiding words and make them a part of your being. Love, live, learn, listen, light, character, forgiveness, compassion, loyalty, friendship, respect, ethics, and passion are but a few.

* Simplicity. I saw a Hispanic comedian once who described the mystery of Mexican Food. He was asked what a taco was and he said: meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, and cheese in a tortilla. A burrito? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans in a tortilla. A tostada? Meat, lettuce, tomato, onions, cheese and beans on a tortilla. Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all going to work out kid,



  1. philosophoenix


    • wccunningham

      Thank you Erin 🙂

  2. Lori Lesko

    Simply wonderful Bill, I feel like I know you now.

  3. DenaRogers

    Reminds me of that Brad Paisley song, If I could write a letter to me. You know, I think if everyone did this, wrote a letter to their former self about the things they’ve learned, I think we’d all see and appreciate our journey’s for what they are. Love, love, love this post, Bill!

    • wccunningham

      Thanks Dena. So much I could’ve written here but in keeping it truthful, there is only so much of it I would’ve read at that age.

  4. Ula

    What a wonderful post. I’m a fan of letters to a former (younger) self.

    • wccunningham

      Thanks Ula. I had fun with this.

  5. dray0308

    I have read several of these types of posts, but this is one of my faves so far. Great post!

    • wccunningham

      Thank you!

      • dray0308

        You are welcome!

  6. Norm 2.0

    This is just wonderful. Well done Bill 🙂

    • wccunningham

      Thanks Norm. I had to travel for work yesterday and thought about you when I passed a very popular popular place here in Western NY: the Basilica. Amazing doors.

  7. Mary Rowen

    Good one, Bill! I’m sure all will work out well for your son too. Best of luck to you all!

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thanks Mary!

  8. Mary

    This is excellent, Bill! Also a great writing exercise that all writers should do. mater of fact, I think I’ll take the challenge one day. Time is fleeting. I wrote something not long ago while reminiscing over days gone by. http://maryaperez.com/2015/05/06/if-i-had-known/

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thank you. I think sometimes we forget how much we all have to draw upon to use in our writing. I enjoyed doing this.

  9. Gulara

    I love this post so much! Just read it again. So touching and heartful

    • W.C. Cunningham

      Thank you so much. So much more I wanted to write but, in keeping it real, I had to keep it short and to the point.

  10. lilyionamackenzie

    Thanks for taking time away from your writing to visit my blog and tweet about my latest post!

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