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. Okay, I just don’t get it. Over and over again I hear Wil talk about how much people hated Westley, but when I was a kid and watching that show with my parents, Westley was SO my favorite. I mean, since I’ve grown up a bit, I’ve kinda taken a liking to Riker, but when I was a kid, it was all about Westley. Especially after they did that whole traveller thing, and he’s like a super-genius and leaves the show a while. I always looked forward to the few where he made an apearance.
    It never occured to me at any point that Westley Crusher was hated in any way, shape or form.

  2. Dear Wil’s Twelve Year Old Self,
    Oh, and those people that say they hate you… they’ll be the self same people giving you their money on this thing called “eBay” for your headshot and autograph. And that’s pretty cool.

  3. Also, never forget that for every dork who shouted “I hate you” there was someone like me for whom you were living a dream. I mean, dude… You were on STAR TREK!

  4. Wil, it’s reassuring to know that someone like you who was considered as a geek and worried about fitting in (much like I do at 16, it’s not that I don’t fit in so much but I find it very difficult to find a girlfriend who’s actually my type (not that I have any trouble in particular with getting GIRLS), I’d call myself a classic geek.
    I can’t help but wonder whether I actually will have that “Dr. Rowan Wilson of computational physics” title in 4 years and if I will end up working for a large company developing simulation systems. It seems far off but it’s not. And I don’t know if it will happen.
    Oh – advice for my 12 year old self? Just carry on doing exactly what you did. It’s not like you can go back and change the past, so why try?
    Sorry for the depressing post.

  5. Yup, I was one of those that were “quietly inspired.” Ok, ok, so most of the time it was me and my friend Michelle talking about how Wesley and Riker were really hot, but still. I really did love the show and my friend Kaytee and I are were talking the other day about how we’re glad we didn’t have the internet when the show was on cause neither of us had any inkling at the time that people didn’t like Wesley because both of us loved him.
    And today, I’m inspired by your blog. And you. Cause yeah.
    Wil Wheaton, you are mad cool in my book and I really loved this post. :-)

  6. Besides ending up with a great family of your own; there are many other great outcomes that you forgot to mention.

  7. Wil, thank you so much. You actually inspired me to do my own, which made me feel pretty good… though I desperately wish I had the key to time travel so I could actually go back and deliver my letter. So many regrets. Anyway, thank you.

  8. What film was it in which someone said…
    “Have you ever noticed that the bad stuff people say about you is much easier to believe than the nice stuff?”
    I can’t remember, but I think it’s a good point, and relevant to your posting, Wil.

  9. P.P.S.
    The advice I’d give myself? Simple:
    ” Don’t waste time worrying about possible outcomes – because whatever happens, you can be certain it will be the one thing you hadn’t already thought of.”

  10. you have more insight than most people when they think about what they’d tell a younger version of themselves. anything I’d say would probably make me worse off than I really turned out. :)
    hope everyone is having a good weekend!

  11. As usual, someone else usually says it better than I can:
    Jimmy Eat World – The Middle
    Hey, don’t write yourself off yet
    It’s only in your head you feel left out or
    looked down on.
    Just try your best, try everything you can.
    And don’t you worry what they tell themselves when you’re away.
    It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle, it’ll up the ride.
    Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).
    Hey, you know they’re all the same.
    You know you’re doing better on your own, so don’t buy in.
    Live right now.
    Yeah, just be yourself.
    It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.
    It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
    Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).
    It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
    Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).
    Hey, don’t write yourself off yet.
    It’s only in your head you feel left out or
    looked down on.
    Just do your best, do everything you can.
    And don’t you worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say.
    It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
    Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).
    It just takes some time, little girl you’re in the middle of the ride.
    Everything (everything) will be just fine, everything (everything) will be alright (alright).

  12. I don’t think most people understand the real power of the letter to your 12 year old self. The time travel thing probably is not going to happen, so what is the significance of the letter?
    It is to help you, today, accept what has happened in your life. What you would tell your younger self is not as important as the effort of reflecting upon you life since you were 12, understanding what happened, and putting it into perspective. Almost everyone ends with something like “don’t worry so much, it will all be okay.” That is good advice to yourself today and at age 12.
    And kudos to you for having the courage to post the advise publically!

  13. Wil,
    Seems to me like you need to take your own advice.
    You ARE a cool guy, and you have achieved much more than you can ever realize. Forget what the nay-sayers would have you believe…finish your book and look upon your life as a success…because you have a family that loves you. That looks like success from where I am sitting.
    Go for it Wil…the world is your mollusc.
    Oh, and I know that no-one cares…but I have just set up a blog. It sucks and it needs about four or five days of admin (its real basic just now), but anyone who is bored enough is welcome to go read my first post. Just remember I was a tad drunk when I wrote it.

  14. Stay away from skinny boys that love themselves too much and don’t leave your clarinet in the band room on Jan. 14, 1999.

  15. I don’t know, ending up with a hottie who loves your inner geek sounds pretty damn cool from here…:)….
    Check out the book, the Alchemist, for a story about a path to happiness not always being a straight line…..
    I used to write these kinds of letters years ago during the ‘inner child’ craze…and I always found out something cool out of them…so I’m inspired to do it again….
    Happy trails..

  16. Hey there Wil,
    Having watched you on the show for years, its interesting to get a little insight as to how things were to become for you.
    Your advice to yourself at 12 speaks volumes. I think that as an individual around the same age as yourself, there were times that I dispised your character on TNG and a couple of time where I liked him. Its really a shame that people would confuse you with a job you did. But, I guess they did. Their loss I suppose.
    I ran across your site by accident when I was doing some activist related activities for the G8 here in Calgary. Its nice to see other sides of you, and its good to be reminded that Geeks are cool. This is from a person who still communes with his inner geek now and again.

  17. Wil, you are HELLA cool.
    Your advice to your 12 year old self was something (minus the TV show stuff) I might have said to myself. I wouldn’t have listened, though. I was (am?) plagued with low self esteem and I think I was my biggest hater at 12. I look back and reflect a lot on my growing up and have many regrets.
    I have come to the realization, though, that if I had done one minute thing differently, I would not be the person I am today. I would not be living in Alaska (coming from, oh gods, New Jersey!), happily married. I would not be starting to realize that I am a good person and people do like me.
    And for the record, I was and am a Wesley fan. My husband is named Wesley… coincidence? I think not! ; )

  18. Hey Wil.
    About the Wesley thing, because I don’t think I ever said it here. I never knew that *anyone* hated Wesley Crusher until I started reading your site. All my geeky TNG-fan friends loved you as Wesley and loved the character himself. He was a petulant teen just like the rest of us (we had to suffer on reruns in high school, but hey…) and Wil Wheaton was *the* hottest actor alive. For a bunch of California girls who were too geeky to ever quite fit in with anyone *under* 30, it was good to see a kid on TV who similarly related not to his peers, but to those of his parents and who, like us, suffered from it. Wesley Crusher had depth as a character–all the TNG characters did, and that’s what made them so great. TNG allowed us to geek out about the possibility of ‘subspace’ while simultaneously watching a show about real people and real problems.
    I was unhappy when I was twelve, but then so was everyone my age. Middle school sucks, and there’s no way to get out of that, because no matter how hard you try, you do care. I would not give myself any advice, because when I was fourteen, a good friend of mine gave me the best advice I could ever have:
    1) Don’t ever sugarcoat the truth
    2) Live life with no regrets.
    Such advice is not easy to follow, but it’s done me a lot of good. When I find myself obsessing over something that’s done and gone, I just think “no regrets” and I remind myself that while it sucked, I’m okay now, and I’ll do a lot better by myself and everyone else if I focus on making the future great rather than trying to “fix” the past. If you get stuck in the past, you’ll just miss the present.
    Again, I would not give my old self any advice from who I am now, but it wouldn’t hurt to take some advice from the 5-year-old Clara:
    1) Don’t take an office job. You won’t have any fun.
    2) Save the world and don’t give me any excuses why you can’t.
    3) Hug your mom and dad.
    4) If you’re mad, sometimes it’s good to scream and cry and get it over with.
    5) You’re not better than anyone else and no one is better than you.
    6) Sometimes it’s good to get up early on Saturday and do something just for you.
    7) Never lose your capacity to be amazed by the universe and the people in it. It’s easy to get bitter, but it’s no fun.
    8) Dance and sing along every time you hear “Somebody who Loves Me” by Whitney Houston. It’ll remind you of all the other advice I’ve given you.
    So that’s my inner child giving me advice, as much as I can call her up. I have been given so much wonderful advice over the years from so many sources. My dad always told me he’d be proud of me if I made myself happy and left this world a little more beautiful than it was when I got here. I think that’s a good goal.
    So, Wil, here’s the best bit of advice I can think to give anyone: In order to love who you are now, you have to embrace who you used to be.
    Best of luck with the books, I look forward to reading them.

  19. Enough already,
    What is more self absorbed? Wil Wheaton or a moist towellete?
    Here’s a guy that gets to have his cake and eat it too before hitting the age of 20. He makes some career decisions that are just plain bad, regrets them forever, blames the public for “hating” his character, and creates a website to post his regrets / insecurities.
    You all think Wil listens to anything the responders say? Do you think he actually considers our opinions? What if we take a view that opposes what Wil has said? Do you think he gives that post careful consideration?
    Wil seems to believe in positive peer review. He expresses an opinion or belief, waits for others to say “cool” or “profound”, and then moves on to the next opinion / belief. If someone replies that Wil’s opinion is not cool or profound, Wil screams for the madness and abuse to stop. That negativity is coming at him in unimaginable quantity and that he is nearly “Done” posting anything.
    I’ve gone through nearly the entire archive looking for a sign that Wil is actually an open minded individual. Show me the entry or post that indicates that Wil listened to an opinion contrary to his own and changed / modified his view based upon the contrary opinion? (Evidence that includes anyone he is related to or close friends with are not admissable, that’s just Wil getting his leash tugged from people he allows to influence him.)
    I’m amazed at the sheep that read this Blog and nod their heads in unabashed ignorance. To offer praise to an individual for sharing his fears, insecurities, his political bias, his self-promoting anecdotes, and his ever-lasting regrets for making bad career moves.
    Wil claims to “not follow the crowd” but that is exactly what he wants the readers of this blog to do. Mindless servants who feed the id and ego of the one called Wil. Why?
    You’ll ask “Why do you bother reading this blog” and I’ll respond that it’s kinda like watching a train wreck. Morbid, nearly immoral, fascination with the psycho-meanderings of someone who was once a celebrity struggling to deal with the loss of fame and trying to recover it via publishing his opinions / stories in a public medium.

  20. Funny I wrote something similar in my blog tonight (2/22) before surfing here. Essentially, I would request my 10 year old self get to Central Park for the Simon and Garfunkel concert.

  21. I would have told myself and my parents to buy the hell out of Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, JDS Uniphase, Sun Microsystems, YAHOO!, Amazon and every other tech stock known to man. Then sell them all in March 2000. Sell all of them short and cover in late 2002.
    We would all be rich as can be and sailing around the Abacos with a great tan.

  22. I think I would dearly love to tell the tall, skinny 12yr old girl chewing her nails in the corner that “Yes, one day you will look like, and become, a beautiful and accomplished young woman. You will do some amazing things, and meet some fantastic people. Don’t worry so much.”
    “Oh, and leave your nails alone…it’s a disgusting habit!”

  23. To Brian (Feb 23, 8:28)
    You make some good points – though harshly put.
    Ultimately, though, much as I agree on some of the truly objective statements you made, there’s one over-riding fact:
    It’s Wil’s blog. He can do what he likes with it.
    Well done for being bold to state your opinions so publicly though.

  24. Hey Wil,
    Yer the coolest. Although I wouldn’t have had so much trouble finding your web site if you spelled your name ‘Will.’ Whatever your still cool for putting this stuff up.
    You know, what with all this talk about telling your 12-year old self to buy stock, doesn’t it call to mind the scene in ‘Frequency’ where Jim Caviezel tells a young Noah Emmerich to remember the word YAHOO?
    I dunno, somehow being rich now would be cool, but there’s a lot of more important crap I would have liked to tell myself. Like, hey, this is how Middle School and High School work. Here is the small amount of info on women I’ve collected in the past 12 years. Here’s how to get into college. Here’s what to take seriously and here’s the stuff to absolutely forget about. Actually I think that last piece of advice would have added another 10 years to my life that have since been taken away from me by useless stress.
    And of course, buy Dell computer. Cause bein’ rich wouldn’t be so bad.

  25. >>>You end up marrying a real hottie who loves your inner geek.
    Hahaha… Cuuuute… :o) But at least you have the guts to admit that you, in fact, do have an inner geek… Your wife is one lucky lady. :o)

  26. That’s pretty cool. But you are wrong. There is not one person praising you for every one that says they hate you. There has to be way more than one good for every bad comment. I seriously believe that.
    The whole time I watched the show, I felt I could relate to you the most. Beyond the closeness in our ages, I too had the whole inner geek thing going. I still do.
    I will have to use the same idea and advise my 12 year old self as well.

  27. I know exactly what I’d say to my 12 year-old self:
    1) the B.O. will settle down. Really.
    2) when you’re a teenager, boys won’t talk to you. This is not because you’re ugly, but because you’re so hot they’re terrified.
    There’s a lot more info I could relate, but then I wouldn’t have had the experiences that make me who I am.
    You rock, Wil!

  28. “I’ve gone through nearly the entire archive looking for a sign that Wil is actually an open minded individual.”
    Wow, that’s a lot of time you have on your hands there.
    I would suggest you search your own “archive” (ie. inner self) to find out why another person’s open-mindedness (or lack thereof) is so important to you.
    People seem to think that if they post on a website, things like respectful discussion and the golden rule go out the window. Most people wouldn’t dream of hand-writing a note to tell someone they “suck” or anything equivalent. That would be rude, or at worst constitute harrassment. But look at how often people post messages that are designed specifically to hurt the reader.
    If you wouldn’t say it in person, why write it?

  29. Once, when I was twelve, we had to list three goals which we wanted to accomplish by the end of our lives. I think mine were:
    1. Graduate from college.
    2. Publish a book.
    3. Meet Wil Wheaton
    Then my best friend became angry because she also wanted to meet Wil Wheaton and we were having a big fight about who copied whose goal in life (as 12-year-old girls will) when the teacher came up and wanted to know what the problem was. We were both quite reticent about revealing this goal, even though it was VERY important to both of us at that point in time. We would watch Star Trek: TNG and phone eachother at every commercial break to discuss how we were going to get on the show and convince Wesley to marry us. I think one time we spent three weekends in a row watching ‘Toy Soldiers.’ We were really pissed about you dying. We even sent money to ‘Tiger Beat’ or something for a picture and fact-sheet.
    I once stole a picture of Wil Wheaton out of one of my friends’ teeny-bopper magazines and she became irate because she wanted the picture of Christian Slater on the back. (Why am I still telling this story? It just gets worse…) Best friend and I were so incensed that I drew a likeness of Christian Slater on her butt which had a bubble coming out of his mouth which read “Greetings and salutations” (a line from ‘Heathers.’) She mooned the whole slumber party (a bunch of Slaterphiles) at around 2a.m. Havoc ensued. That’s when my mom came out and said everyone needed to put their pants on and go to sleep.
    So you see, Wil, there were those of us who were more than ‘quietly inspired’ by you. We were inspired by you to fist-fight in homeroom, squander our parents’ money, memorize whole movies and create new artistic genres, (ass-art.)

  30. To Emily:
    [quote]I would suggest you search your own “archive” (ie. inner self) to find out why another person’s open-mindedness (or lack thereof) is so important to you.[/quote]
    I could just as easily ask you the same question. Why do you bother reading the blog of some another person? Why is their life so important to you? I think the answer is obvious.
    And yes there are people that just have a general desire to make all things right.
    [quote]If you wouldn’t say it in person, why write it?[/quote]
    Who says they wouldn’t? Not all have the same amount of tact and reserve as other people. I’m bluntly honest myself, and personally, I don’t call it a fault. Brian could have been less harsh, but as Corf said, he made some good points.

  31. Apparently I’m in the minority, but I always liked Wesley Crusher. I thought he was a pretty cool character. And, Wil? You’re way cool!

  32. A letter to my 12 year old self? Hm. I’d say something like:
    College is WAY better than high school, so don’t let it get to you.
    Take more chances, you nitwit.
    Geeks in high school always wind up being The Cool Adults, so just let yourself have fun being a nerd.
    DON’T STUDY PHYSICS, YOU IDIOT! Do archaeology like you want and ignore those people who tell you you have to study physics because you’re smart and a girl adn smart girls have to do what’s hardest to prove to everyone they can.
    Aroudn the time you turn 25, the world will suddenly decide that you aren’t beaky and rail-thin but extremely beautiful. Ignore them; they’re the same losers they always were. Don’t let your face and body convince you or anyone else that you don’t belong with the geeks. Punctuate this with a fist when necessary.
    Talk more to your great Aunt Irene, cuz you’ll regret it when she’s gone.
    As much as you love your family, you’re going to LOVE being on your own.
    Get a job with a 401K EARLY. :-)

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