“These Are Nowhere Near the Best Years of Your Life”

I’m a big fan of Country music: I love it. To me it’s one of the most reliably pleasant and uplifting art forms on the market today. And one of my favorite artists is Mr. Brad Paisley. As a matter of fact, it was Mr. Paisley’s music that first made me a Country fan. Before discovering him, I had heard Country music before that I had liked, but Mr. Paisley was the one who caused me to embrace the whole world of Nashville with a delirious enthusiasm.

Among the first songs of Mr. Paisley that I discovered, and still one of my favorites, is a bittersweet song called “Letter To Me,” in which the singer meditates on what he would say if he could write a message to his seventeen-year-old self. There’s a lot of gentle wisdom and heart-tugging regret, but in the midst of it all is the simple message which Mr. Paisley says he would end with: “Have no fear / these are nowhere near the best years of your life.”

That is to say, high school is not life. It isn’t even an especially important part of life. It’ll pass away, and you’ll experience joys and triumphs that you could never have imagined, while all the drama and heartache of adolescence will appear, in retrospect, to be rather silly and unimportant.

It occurred to me that this is true not only of high school, but of life in general. The life we are leading now is only the equivalent of high school: a highly atypical and often unpleasant threshold on the way to something much greater and more substantial than we can appreciate. Like in high school, there are people who obsess over this life and who seem to consequently do very well. But they’re putting their energies into something temporary. To be sure, some of the skills required for success in high school will help you get by in life, but not as many as you’d think. Besides, high school is so unlike normal life that it won’t really help you much. Even so, those who obsess over success in this life will find themselves unprepared for the next.

Similarly, those who actually are preparing for their actual future existence tend not to be very popular either in high school or life. They are the outcasts, the losers, the freaks, and yet very often they’re the ones who actually make something of their lives while the popular kids sink into obscurity, knowing that their best days are gone.

And so, the same advice applies to life as to high school: it’ll pass and it’s not as important as it seems now. Just be yourself and concentrate on preparing for your future and don’t worry what anyone else thinks. Their power and prestige is based on a world that will pass away much quicker than you think. Just like how “at seventeen it’s hard to see past Friday night,” it’s hard for us to see past the temporary mortal existence which comprises the bulk (I will not say the entirety) of our experience. But, just like high school, this will pass away and we’ll look back and wonder at how silly and stupid the whole thing was.

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