ERROL CASTENS: What my 16-year-old self ought to know…



If my 56-year-old self could go back and talk to my self of four decades ago, well … If Errol at 16 could talk to Errol at 56, he might have saved up his Coke money and bought a Waterpik. My dentists’ vacations would have been a little less spectacular.

He might have striven harder to get control of his appetites, but then maybe not: Errol at 56 sees up close more of the reasons not to be obese, but he isn’t much more self-disciplined in that area than 16 was.

But he’s still trying.

Ol’ 56 would definitely warn Lil’ 16 about that one tree that had his name on it and advise that when our 20-year-old self decided to take a hiatus from college to find himself, he might go into a safer line of work than cutting trees.

Errol 2014 might try to convince Errol 1974 of the value of thrift and being on the top side of the compound interest equation.

But most of EHC2014’s advice to the 1974 model wouldn’t address being more careful and conservative. With a few notable exceptions, my younger self already lived with an overabundance of cautions and concerns and coloring inside the lines.

Errol 2014 might tell his younger self that dread is almost always more painful than reality (tree crashes being a major exception). The elder might tell the younger that the “no pain, no gain” rule applies not just to weight-lifting and running but to experiencing new cultures, ideas and people. But the elder would also remind the younger that new tenets can beguile and that intelligence is free and knowledge is cheap, but wisdom will exact a dear price.

Today’s me would tell yesteryear’s me that “falling in love” befalls most people many times but that few of those instances would be fatal, no matter how desperate the need might feel. I would want Young Errol to know that each new case of being twitterpated would yield to the next, until one love grew past mere desires and daydreams and into a commitment that surpasses diarrhea and despair and deaths of loved ones.

I would tell my younger self that fighting fair and forgiveness would be even more vital to marriage than moonlight and magnolias, but that doesn’t mean that moonlight and magnolias would ever lose importance.

In reality, what I most would want my 16-year-old self to know is that Romans 8:28 is true: Enjoy good, knowing it’s from the hand of God. Endure trial, knowing it will eventually prove so. And trust Him every minute.

Errol Castens is a reporter and columnist for the Daily Journal and the Oxford Citizen. Contact him at (662) 816-1282 or

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