Advice to my 12 year-old self

I read at Slashdot a great question: “What advice would you give your 12 year-old self?”
Here’s mine:

Dear 12 year-old self,
Your life is about to be forever changed. You don’t know it now, but in three years, you’re going to be in millions of households world-wide.
Everywhere you go, people are going to scream at you that they hate you. Listen to this advice, 12 year-old self, because I know that nobody else is going to give it to you: whatever you do, don’t listen to them, and let don’t let them define your sense of self-worth. It’s going to hurt, a lot, and it will go on for years. You won’t understand it, and you’ll try really hard to convince them otherwise, but they will not listen . . . because they’re just as insecure and confused as you are right now. You’re going to want to quit the show, but if you do, you’ll be 30 before you stop regretting it. Trust me on this one.
Stay on that show until it’s over, and when you’re older, you’ll realize that for every person who screamed “I hate you,” there is another who was quietly inspired by something you did. It all balances out, kid.
You are never going to be cool, no matter how hard you try, so save yourself the agony of trying to fit in. You end up marrying a real hottie who loves your inner geek.

170 thoughts on “Advice to my 12 year-old self”

  1. When I was 12? Well it was 1987 and a few good movies were out:
    The Big Easy – Hey kid, these people seem old now, but someday you’ll appreciate what they’re going through.
    Fatal Attraction: My mom says, “Well, Ernie I hope you’ve learned something from this…”, I say, “Yeah, always keep a gun in the house.”
    Full Metal Jacket: The military isn’t as bad as it seems in this film, but it isn’t as good either.
    The Last Emperor: Watch and learn.
    Lethal Weapon: You’ve already seen what you need to know in Mad Max, but if you want more of the same without thinking this’ll do.
    The Princess Bride: True Love, it doesn’t happen everyday.
    Raising Arizona: Cage can act…see Adaptation some day.
    Robocop: It was almost X-rated. This gives SciFi the balls it needs to have its own network someday.
    Roxanne: You’ve already seen The Jerk, you’ll appreciate this too.
    Three Men and a Baby: The movie sucks, but making out with your date is gonna rock.
    The Untouchables: The music! Good god the music! It will scare you for life.
    Wall Street: You won’t want to work there anymore…that’s a good thing.
    The Witches of Eastwick: Enjoy. It’s just good fun.

  2. Hey Wil,
    I will confess to being a Wesley-hater back in the day.
    As with others, for me it was always a matter of it seeming that Wesley was always being used as a deus-ex-machina solution to whatever the jam of the week was. Wesley had a lot of potential, and I think you’re right as far as a lot of directions the writers could have taken with him.
    But the thing is, I was angered / frustrated by Wesley, not Wil Wheaton.
    I had a hunch that Wil wasn’t going in to the writers meetings each week demanding to save the universe yet again. 😉
    Anyway, I’ve been reading your site now for a while, and have been pleasantly surprised to see that Wil is actually quite a decent and interesting human being, and one I wouldn’t be adverse to hanging out with, given the chance.
    Just as the map is not the territory, its important to remember that the actor is not the character. And I think obviously, you know that.
    Keep up the good work

  3. I was one of the “quietly inspired.” I adored your character, and geeky as it sounds I when school (especially math) would get “too hard” I’d think “I bet Wesley could do this” and work harder at it. I used to watch the show with my parents, always hoping for a “Wesley Episode.” It also helped that I thought you were awfully cute, too. 😉 I haven’t read your journal long, but I’ve enjoyed what I have. I look forward to more.

  4. Hmm, 12.
    No, I’d do better if I could send advice to myself when I was 16. I’d start with “Girls will like the way you kiss.”
    12-15 wasn’t too consequential.
    I can see where the difference would be for Wil.

  5. Hi Wil,
    Thanks again for being so honest.
    Your 12 year-old self is listening… even if it is too late to change the past… it must be good for him to hear!

  6. I would just write myself 15 simple little thoughts to keep in mind…
    1. At least two people in this world love you so much they would die for you.
    2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.
    3. The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.
    4. A smile from you can bring happiness to any one, even if they don’t like you.
    5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.
    6. You mean the world to someone.
    7. If it not for you, someone may not be living.
    8. You are special and unique in your own way.
    9. Someone that you don’t even know exists–loves you.
    10. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something usually good comes from it.
    11. When you think the world has turned its back on you, take a real good look at things; you most likely have turned your back on the world.
    12. When you think you have no chance of getting what you want, you more than likely won’t get it, but if you believe in yourself, sooner or later, you’ll prevail.
    13. Always remember the compliments you’ve received. Forget the critical and rude remarks.
    14. Always tell someone how you feel about them; you’ll feel much better when they know.
    15. If you have a great friend, take the time to let them know that you think they are great.

  7. And to you Wil, read number 3 in my previous post, and take that one to heart. Think about it everytime some heckler gives you a hard time on stage or at a con or something. Think about it when you discover asshat troll comments here…

  8. Wil,
    Every time you mention the pain brought about because Wesley was disliked by some, I want to say: anyone who transfers their feelings about a character to the actor (let alone a teenaged or child actor) has psychological issues that need to be addressed. They can’t separate fiction from reality. And, if they’ve carried it forward until now, their psychological issues are ever more serious. You were/are hearing from some variety of nutcase if they mention this to you in any tone other than humor.
    You’d accept a good role playing some really despicable character today wouldn’t you? And reasonably balanced people would separate you from the role. I know it’s easy to say, and understand how it affected you. But, you were always dealing with the psychological problems of others, not anything about yourself, or even the character of Wesley. And, a lot of people like Wesley.

  9. When I was 12 I was always on the lookout for an older version of myself trying to pass a note to me. Unfortunately, now I know it was all a waste of time. Without the pain and failures I’ve experienced I think I would be a not very nice person.
    I only wish had realized that before I sunk my life into building this time machine.
    Wait a minute…

  10. Well, I have a choice of two things, depending on if I regret anything or not.
    If so:
    Don’t have sex next year, wait awhile.
    If not:
    Hang on, its going to be a bumpy ride.
    But honestly, at 46, I would live through it all again. I certainly wouldn’t begin to be the person I am now if I didn’t do those things.
    And even listening to those who said I wasn’t good enough, or that I wasn’t accepted, made me stronger.
    And I realize now how weak and truly pathetic they are. Sad.

  11. someone beat me to it allready, but the first reaction i had to reading that was ‘whoa..hey man…you ARE cool….and the less you try, the cooler you become!’
    i’ve been thinking about this sort of question a bit lately, but more along the lines of
    ‘if i could go back, what would i do differently’
    and while there are a few things i could’ve done in my college years, and shortly after that would have made me a bit more financially stable, i think i’d have to do it all over again, exactly the same..
    sure there were tough times, and sure, looking back i think, damn, if only i’d have thought of this or that…
    but, every choice i made, whether right or wrong, lead me in a certain direction, and put me in path to meet people i otherwise might not have met, and allowed me to live life in a way i might otherwise not have..
    and that path lead me to where i am right now..
    which is, to be honest….incredibly happy..
    it ends up like that ST movie ‘the final frontier’ that william fucking shatner directed…(which i think had a lot of good things going for it, to be honest)
    while everyone else on board is trying to be first inline to cleanse themselves, and erase their pain, kirk stand tall and says no
    ‘i want my pain,….i NEED my pain’
    kinda true i guess….
    what would advice would i give myself?
    i think i’d just say something like..
    just keep doing what you’re doing tyson…
    things are gonna be juuuusssst fine…
    and that hot east indian girl you’ve been flirting with, but are worried might be ‘out of your league’?
    take a close look…
    thats your wife! :)

  12. For some reason I feel horrible for you. I just want to apologize for every person that ever said anything bad about you in regards to your character on Star Trek TNG. I am one of those people that loved your character and still do. And you are cool. You have a website and a host of adoring fans posting on your message boards. You deserve all the happiness in the world. Please quit feeling bad about the whole situation because that makes me feel bad, and I want to be one of your many adoring fans.
    All my love!

  13. Wil,
    Some great songs and stories would have never been written,if you could write back to yourself. Tons and tons of post high school under-grad invites and I apply at the cold climate places. Go figure!

  14. Ok, well, Wesley Crusher was my first crush and quite frankly I still get all giddy when I watch reruns, which I have to RENT because I don’t have cable . . . on VHS because I don’t have DVD . . . – you see how much I loved Wesley? I frickin hated that shapeshifting girl. I’m sure she was very nice, but she had those crazy eyebrows AND she got to kiss you/Wesley. I’m pretty sure I wrote about it in my diary.
    Reading in the FAQ section about why you quit, though, it makes sense. It’s really unfortunate that it happened that way. I think if I’d been in your shoes at that time I probably would’ve done the same thing. I’ve had some minor scuffles with folks like the Minnesota Opera before – I don’t think that just because actors/singers get PAID dirt (at least in live theatre) doesn’t mean they should be TREATED like dirt, especially not by companies that ought to be supporting them.
    Sorry. Done with rambles.

  15. Taking that to heart…. except that I’m not 12. Or a future pop culture name. Still, I hope you took at least some of that advice, eventually.

  16. most of us can stick personal notes up on web but because no one has ever heard of us, no one cares. Wil on the other hand exposes himself every time he opens up like that. That takes some courage, and it deserves some respect.

  17. Good advice Mr. Wheaton. I wish I could go back & give my insecure 12 year old self a big ole hug & tell him that he’s a great guy & not to worry so much about the future.

  18. [quietly clears throat and raises hand politely in a non-obtrusive manner]
    Um, for what it’s worth, I thought you were cool at 12, and I think you’re beyond cool now.
    Thank you.
    [steps back onto the Last Train to Lurksville]

  19. I would tell my 12 year old self:
    Winning really isn’t every thing.
    Read your books, don’t hide in them.
    Learn to drive a car sooner rather than later.
    There is no closet monster.
    Its not the plague, you just are allergic to milk.
    I want you to look up the word

  20. I saw this over at /. too, but I didn’t end up posting anything there. I was going to make a big long comment, but then I decided to write it in my own blog instead.
    My little brother is 12 (going to be 13 in only a couple of months — wow, that’s scary), and he just finished reading Ender’s Game. I picked up the book the other night and reread most of it, and somehow it all just clicked in my mind. Of course, then I went and wrote about it in my blog, and it all came out stream-of-consciousness style and it doesn’t really say exactly what I wanted to say, but…
    You get the idea.

  21. Oops, you did it again…another profound and obviously heartfelt post, that is. Coming up with commentary for one’s 12-year-old self seems to me both easy and difficult–easy because of the 20/20 hindsight thing, and hard because of the “if I hadn’t gone through my life in the same way, would I still be the person I am now?” question. (Always assuming one likes where one is in life; if not, maybe it isn’t all that difficult after all!) What I’d tell Syd-at-12–and hope she’d listen:
    One day you’ll love your name.
    Walk more.
    When it’s time for college, pick the other one.
    Your mom had a life before you–ask her about it. Before 1979 would be good, but definitely before 1992, because after that you won’t get the chance.
    Your cousin will always be a jerk–avoid him like the plague.
    In 17 years there’ll be another Star Trek series. Watch it from day one.
    You’ll be great, kid!
    Thanks a bunch, Wil. Best regards to Anne and the family.

  22. I’ve always avoided thinking about my childhood, not because it was traumatic or bad, but because to me it was a time akin to the pupae stage of some type of moth/butterfly. I still don

  23. The funniest damned thing was magikslinger’s reply re: you saying “you are never going to be cool”.
    “In the Kingdom of the Geeks, Wesley Crusher is the Fonz.”
    [homer]It’s funny cuz it’s true.[/homer]

  24. This question, What would I tell to my 12 year old self?, was developed quite deeply by Author Richard Bach in his somewhat autobiographical story, “Running from Saftey” . If this subject interests you I suggest checking that story out. I have it on audio cassette but I imagine it is also in print somewhere.
    As far as Mr. Wheaton’s comments to himself, I think he is being true to what is important to him. What is really really important to someone does not change very often. This should be kept in mind for those who seem to want only new and different things.
    I respect Mr. Wheaton for being honest in his statements even though he is intelligent enough to know that some will say they are tired of that part of his past. I value honesty much more than someone trying to say only what they think their fans will applaud.
    If Mr. Wheaton were to do that he could become a successful politician, grin. I think we need more honesty, not more politicians.

  25. i think you did alright without the advice you would have given yourself…you took the more difficult path…but it was the path that lead you to the one you love…and if you think about it you are a probably a much better man because you did.

  26. I really like this. Yeah, I was one of the ones quietly inspired. Although your character could be a big geek in certain episodes, I had a little crush on Wesley for a while. One of my favorite episodes was the one where you and The Traveler have to save your mom/Dr. Crusher using a static warp bubble (or something like that. I was young :p) Anyway, I would like to believe that although I don’t think of myself as a “hottie,” I’d like to think that I’m an attractive young lady, and I totally love geeks. I wanna settle down after college and marry a geek and have a LOTR wedding. Yeay! :)

  27. You might also tell 12-year-old you that “Stand by me” was a great movie. Anyone who had a best friend growing up loves that one.

  28. A link to slashdot on the same day you have a front page story…
    Does this mean being on the slashdot front page means as much to you as the rest of us?
    My endless search for stories to submit is validated at last \o/

  29. Good stuff Wil. Very Nathaniel Branden. I too talk to my variuos child-selves from time to time. It’s good therapy.

  30. Remember though, if you stuck with Star Trek maybe you wouldn’t have met your hottie wife. You probably would have married someone who sucked and was materialistic. Or you’d be alone, all alone.
    Temporal cause and effect isn’t all neat and cool like it is in science fiction shows, it’s more like it is in the movies. :).

  31. Oh, if you DID have a conversation with your younger self, maybe it might go something like this:
    Wil 12: “I’m not afraid of the directors! I’m not afraid of the fanboys!”
    Wil 30: “Look kid, I’m trying to….”
    Wil 12: “…I’m not even scared of Rob Reiner. I’m not even afraid of…..of….Rik Berman!”
    Wil 30: ” Will you shut up and listen?”
    Wil 12: “Aw, YOU shut up!”
    Wil 30: “Precocious monster!”
    Wil 12: “Bossing bullfrog!”
    Wil 30: ” Spoiled BRAT!”
    Wil 12: ” LOUDMOUTH!”
    (fanboy points to the first one to get the in-joke)

  32. Lovely Wil, very profound. Personally though, I don’t think I really have any desire to get back in touch with my geeky 12 year old self.

  33. And at the risk of sounding like a Sar Trek-geek myself, last night on TNN, was the TNG episode where Alexander came back in time to persuade his 8 year old self to go become a warrior. or something like that.
    How ironic.
    Amazing that the writers hated writing for a good adolescent actor and then replaced him with a YOUNGER, bad actor (who now required hours in the makeup chair!)

  34. holy crap dude! how do you manage to get so many people visiting / commenting on you site? unreal.
    ..and where would anyone find the time to read them all? scary.
    ..oh hang on.. you’re an accomplished actor. Ok it makes sense now. still.. on average over one hundred comments per post? wow.

  35. Thank you Wil for this wonderful posting. Even today I am going through a lot of self-reflection and self-analyzing, which of course has been bringing out a lot of self-doubts. After reading your the advice you would give to your 12-year old self I was forced to sort of put together a list of things to say to my 12-year old self. While it did remind me of many of the bad choices that I have made in my life so far, it did also remind me that I still have a lot to offer and am still capable of doing great things, thereby eradicating my self-doubt.
    Your post helped me to find the answers I was looking for. Thank you!

  36. Unlike a lot of you I’m sure I’d listen to myself from the future… imagine being told the winning lotto numbers 😉

  37. *Sniff* Man, that was beautiful. That last paragraph especially did it for me. Glorious.
    (I wonder if I’ll end up marrying a hottie who loves my inner geek too? We live in hope.)

  38. Regrets of the past are obstacles for the future. And what we have to learn, is that we have the power to remove them before tripping on them.

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