A letter to the past

You’re about to enter a time in your life where people will tell you that you aren’t taking life seriously enough. They’re going to tell you to stop playing around and stop making believe. They’re going to tell you to act your age. When you don’t listen, some of them are going to ridicule you. Some of them are going to try and explain why you need to change. Some of them are going to genuinely worry about your development and your future.

But most of them will be wrong, because you’re going to be okay.

That isn’t to say there won’t be scary times ahead. Some days will be awful. Some days you’ll feel left behind–like others are growing up faster than you are, experiencing things you don’t yet understand. Some of that is going to be true, but someday you’re going to realize that growing up as fast as the others do is not as important as it seems to you now.

When the people that care about you tell you that things will be okay, listen. They might be wrong about the particulars–especially when you’re an awkward teenager–but you’ll grow beyond the worst of those particulars. And until then…

You will stay up all night with your best friends.
You will laugh so hard that it hurts all over.
You will talk about your crushes and tell secrets and try to dye your hair with kool-aid.

When you ask someone to dance, and they don’t want to…you’re going to take it hard. That’s okay. When someone asks YOU to dance–you’re going to forget anyone who said no. When you have a crush on someone, it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to you…and it’s going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you. Both of those feelings are okay.

You’re going to realize that you’re not the smartest person in the world–or even in the school, or the class, or this room. And that’s okay too. As you get older, you learn how much that doesn’t matter, and you’ll find out how much you really like the people that are smarter than you–especially the ones you have crushes on (and there’s a lot of them).

Some of your best memories will come out of junior high.

It will take you months and months to gather the courage for your first kiss, but after it happens, you will replay it over and over again as you walk down Main Street on a
warm day in May. A spring shower will break even as the sun keeps shining through it–and for the rest of your life, you will be in love with the rain.

One cool starry night, you will sit on the dock at the lake–alone–and come to the conclusion that God is nothing like anyone tells you. You’ll stop calling God “he”. You’ll stop calling God a person. You’ll stop thinking of God as something that punishes and blesses you according to your actions. In the coming years, God will become formless, and you will slowly rebuild it as a teacher–as a guide of experience. Eventually, you’ll come to see God as everything that is.

High school will be big and scary for the first two years. You’re going to be miserable. You’ll never have felt smaller than you do there, but over time, even that will be okay. Your friends will be few, but they will make the days worthwhile.

One day you’ll realize how big the world really is. You’ll spend time with people that are older and smarter and way more cultured than you. Cooler than you. Cooler than anyone you’ve ever met. They either won’t like you much–or they’ll see you as a silly kid brother, or an ignorant fool–but your admiration of them will spark transformations in you. You’ll get a taste of the kind of person you want to become.

You’ll spend the last two years of high school in a fog of late-coming hormonal rage, obsessing over infatuations with people in the most pathetic way possible–but this will pass–and in the meantime, you’ll make some of the best friends that you’ll ever have in your life. You’ll find your voice. You’ll meet teachers–both in and out of your academic career–that will change the way you think about language, expression, thought and life itself. You’ll begin writing and reflecting, starting you on a career path that you won’t properly recognize except in distant hindsight.

You’ll start playing guitar. You’ll drink and smoke pot. Sometimes you’ll be fragile as a film of sugar-glass. Sometimes you’ll be as invulnerable and impenetrable as machine steel.

Some of your crushes will start to notice you, which will feel wonderful–but at first, you’ll be too self-absorbed to feel anything that you’ll recognize as love. You’ll cling to some, and others will cling to you. Sometimes you’ll be hurtful and selfish. Sometimes you’ll be remorseful and alone.

After high school, you’ll swing even higher and lower. Nothing you have planned today will turn out as you expect. You’ll scare people. You’ll scare yourself. You won’t recognize the person you’ve become. Still, you’ll dream big dreams. In becoming lost, you will begin searching.

You’ll drive to Los Angeles and play guitar on lonely, deserted streets. You’ll get scared and run home, but it won’t feel like home anymore. You’ll go to college in the frozen north, cocooned in drugs and self-loathing. You’ll feel so alone that your contemplation will never be darker. The guilt of your past will weigh you down. You’ll think about people you’ve hurt and people you’ve disappointed.

You will plan your own end. You will consider selling your body to the state and letting them finish the job for you. But the best friends you’ve ever had will be there for you–even if it’s just over the phone–to save you from yourself. They’ll help you rebuild, and in hindsight you will find that your darkest hours will lead you to the most important revelations.

You will retreat to the Midwest and find yourself comfortably alone. You’ll write songs and sing out your heart in the darkness. You’ll commiserate with your lost generation over screens and wires and realize how very alone you aren’t, and how many of you there are. Life will slowly trickle through you once more.

You will beat on drum sets and strum guitars, and they will heal you. You will smoke joints and swim miles down rolling midwestern rivers, and they will heal you. You will find a poet with beauty and wisdom far beyond their years. They will help you to forgive yourself. Their love will make you realize what your experiences have built inside of you. Their love will make you realize that you, too, are capable of love–not the clingy immature neediness that you once knew, not the selfish use in your past–but love. Of another, of the self, of the moment and of the world around you.

They will help heal you, and eventually you will realize that all this phenomenal healing could happen ONLY because you ALSO chose to heal yourself.

And one day–when you’ve healed enough–you will return home, and you will feel home once more. You will seek out the fears of failure and worthlessness–fears of idleness and emptiness that you once left behind–and you, resurrected by passion, will face them down. Some days you will grow, some days you will slip into old habits–but you will have regained the will to fight…to live and to love.

You will see beauty in stacking boxes and other seemingly mundane tasks. You will fuse with machines and learn production and communication in wordless languages. You will sweep streets and empty trash cans and feel strangely fulfilled. You will begin to see the effervescence in every task, in every moment, no matter what the task is.

Then, having conquered the demons you kept running from, home will grow stale. And though you become aware that you’ve outgrown it–that you’re now overstaying your time, you will linger for fear of the unknown future. You will begin to cultivate old habits once more.

Then one day, as another winter descends upon you, a strange rain will break again–unseasonably warm. As the water falls on your body, it will wash away everything you were. You will see, clearly, for the first time, what you are. You will feel love in every droplet, soaking through your skin and dissolving the walls you’ve built around your heart. The furnace in your soul will burn brighter than it ever has before.

And when fate calls you to a new world, to an opportunity to build your own path–you will leave the home you’ve outgrown, and find a new one.

From here, the cycle will go on–fear and passion, habit and change–but in your new home, in your new life, you will begin to map that cycle. You will learn rhythm. You will see the impermanence and you will play in the waves. You will realize that the goal is not one of final mastery, but one of flow. You will see the beauty of change, in joy and in pain.

Suddenly, you will find yourself reimbursed to simply let out what lies within you. Your thoughts, moments and experiences will earn your living. Your nourishment will be provided through nothing more than your uninhibited expression. Your labor will meet your love. You will have phenomenal experiences that you can’t yet imagine. You will have opportunities before you that seemed impossible dreams during the darkest days of your life.

Whatever new fears you encounter, you will feast on them–carrying surging bravery, breathing furious passion. The gratitude you feel–for simply being here now–will grow as long as you are alive.

You will accept that you are always a student. You will accept that there will always be fear and awe on the horizon, and that your path is in the love of this flux, bound in gratitude that the horizon will always be there, offering up everything.