Advice to a Younger Me

Billy Joel’s Piano Man is such a classic tune that contains nuggets of ageless wisdom. 

As the songs goes: “Son can you play me a memory I’m not really sure how it goes But it’s sad and it’s sweet And I knew it complete  When I wore a younger man’s clothes”   It got me thinking, if I could talk to a younger me, what would I say? What advice could I impart? 

I have always prided myself on being a student of politics.  As a political groupie in my teens and a twenty something year old staffer I would listen, for hours on end, to the older generation of elected officials and bosses as they regaled staffers and colleagues with stories about legendary power moves, secret county committee selections, bold campaign strategies, crippling opposition research, and on and on. I would like to think that I benefited greatly from listening closely to the wiser generation as they blazed a path decades before I was first elected.     If I had the chance to sit across from a younger me in 1985, I would tell the 20year-old staffer in Trenton to maintain all relationships, and do your best to cultivate relationships across the aisle. Also, keep in touch with people who retire and mentor more kids in schools in our urban cities and donate time to understanding why there are learning disparities among our communities.

I would tell that youngster to learn Korean and Spanish and get more involved with humanitarian causes. 

I would tell the 25-year-old Mayor in 1990 that politics isn’t just about the world in your orbit, expand beyond your natural borders. I would implore this up-and-coming politician to do more charity and continue holding annual toy drives for the needy.   

Work at a soup kitchen each week.

Believe in yourself to make the right decision and don’t allow peer pressure to move you.  

I would tell that brash up and comer not to sell your soul (never made that Faustian deal). Do not concentrate on blindly moving up the political ladder.

Hold out a helping hand just because it is the right thing to do.

Focus on helping senior citizens and try and make someone happy each day.

I would tell that 30-year-old in the state Assembly to stay grounded and have a purpose. Don’t be so partisan and be open to ideas from the other side. Keep your word in the game of life and stay close to family and friends. Don’t vote based solely on the next election, rather what is best for the people – same sex marriage vote always comes to mind with 20/20 hindsight. Work to create a positive environment where local police departments are an integral part of our communities as opposed to looked upon cynically – this will become an issue 20 years later. 

I would tell the Essex County GOP chair in 1997 that raising millions of dollars doesn’t make you special and having the power of a countywide seat doesn’t mean you are invincible – as it can all be gone very early one morning. I would focus some of those resources on not-for-profit fund raising and other worthy causes.

I would tell a younger me that serving in the State Senate isn’t the be all end all (tough argument). I would say do not adopt and employ the politics of hate – Hunger Games is not a recommended team sport. I would ask that this young State Senator focus less on redistricting and more on looking for ways to significantly fund our hospitals and push our pharmaceuticals to dramatically explore curing heart breaking diseases like dementia. 

Advocate for the nursing community, you will understand why as your parents get older.

As your priorities begin to evolve, make an effort to mandate every lawyer in New Jersey give a certain number of hours annually to doing Pro Bono legal work for the needy. 

 I would tell the Senator that New Jersey is costly and we need radical fixes, GO BOLD!   I would tell that younger man that December 3, 1993 was the turning point of your life and don’t wait 26 days to pop the question to your future bride. 

I would tell the young man that March 26, 1997 and September 2, 1999 would happen and define life for you like no other (the births of my two kids created the purpose of my life). 

I would tell the man to spend less time going to political events and more with your family, and don’t EVER let them go on vacation to Florida without you (this happened too many times). Work less and take your kids to Disney more. Get a family hobby (golf is good), read more and on and on.   There are many things that I would love to go back in time and tell myself, but I wonder if I would listen when I wore a younger man’s clothes?

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