Over the past few months, I’ve been working backward going through my old private entries, taking names and specifics out of them, and posting them as public. It’s cathartic. It is also difficult, because it is a bit saddening to me to see where I have come from, how far I’ve come, but really sometimes I feel like I haven’t come that far at all. I’ve been writing for about two years. I haven’t achieved any goals…maybe some weight loss…maybe my job is more secure and I’m getting paid more…I’m better with money. But I lost my wife. I’m a single parent. I lost my house, I feel like I live in a dump sometimes. I have just as many questions about what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, maybe even more. I still feel stuck. At no point has my faith helped me. It’s discouraging. But at the same time, I have to think that in the nine months I’ve been separated, I have made some quick progress. I have made excellent friendships that will hopefully last a long time. I have done good things financially to be on a firmer foundation (although this past weekend was a real shitter in terms of blowing money). I’m anxious about spirituality…I feel bad that I don’t go to church, but I feel good about it too. That’s confusing. There’s a lot of confusion in me. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t really have any goals, or any faith in myself to achieve any goals that I might set. It’s frustrating.
I thought about this the other day – it might be helpful to write a letter to my teenage self. Tell him all of the crazy shit that has happened? What would I say? Maybe now is the time to get it out, while I’m thinking about it.
Hey man, it’s me. Well, you know. It’s you. Older me. Older you. I’m almost 30 now. You’re what, 12? 14? You’re just a young guy. You’re toward the end of middle school, getting into high school, your brother is having some problems but it looks like he’ll be going on a mission in a year or two. That’s cool. You’ve got some good things going for you. Remember the spelling bee? That was awesome. And being in seminar…you don’t realize it yet, but that’s what they call being “gifted” these days. You’ve got a gift buddy. You’ve got dreams. You want to be a sports broadcaster, don’t you? That’s a good goal.
You’re thinking about girls a lot more these days, aren’t you? When you turned 12 you started going to church dances and you really liked it. Being appreciated feels good, right? You’re a good looking guy, you should be more confident in yourself. I know you’re afraid of rejection, especially public rejection…being told “no” in front of a group of people hurts. But it’s one of those things that, once it happens a couple times, you kind of get used to it. And the payoff is really good. I’m no expert on these things, but I’ve read about it a lot since I was your age and I’m trying to get better at it myself.
Enough about me though, it’s time to talk about you. You’ve got some things that you’re dealing with. I know you have been taking magazines out of the mail. I know you’re kind of confused about…well…the way they make you feel. You should talk to someone about that. I don’t know what mom and dad would do if they knew, but maybe talk to someone you trust. You’re going down a slippery slope…that kind of stuff can consume you my friend. It can steal away your teenage years. Don’t let it. Focus on your goals and dreams, not on boobs. There will be plenty of time for boobs later on.
Let me tell you about another thing to watch out for. Are you on the internet yet? You might still be on AOL. Maybe you’ve started playing around in those chat rooms. If you haven’t started doing that yet, let me be the first person to tell you that it’s really unproductive to be wasting all the time on line. I know it’s fun and new and exciting, but don’t let it consume you. I guess that’s kind of a common thing, for you and me both. We get consumed by these things and lose sight of what’s really important. Virtual stuff isn’t as important as what happens IRL (that means in real life, buddy). Your real friends are what count. Your family is what counts. Yakking it up in chat rooms? Not so much. And stay away from the adult stuff man, you’re just a teenager. You’re not ready for that much drama yet.
The internet is about to become…well…the biggest invention ever. People being connected to people all around the world, just a click of a button away. The internet is going to get faster too. Lots of pictures and videos. Remember what I was saying about those magazines? The internet is going to fill up with all of that stuff, and a lot more that you really don’t need to be involved with. I know it’ll be tough to keep your eyes elsewhere, but you can do it. You’re a good guy. If you need help, talk it through with somebody. Open up. Don’t keep your feelings bottled up.
Let’s talk about your potential for a second. You’re going to do well in school whether you make the extra effort or not…that’s part of the whole “gifted” thing. You can slack off and get by. But when you’re older…when you’re my age…you’re going to wish you had put just a little bit more into learning. There’s a difference between “going to school” and “learning”, you see, and you’re spending too much time doing the former. Spend more time learning about things that interest you. You’re going to get pretty interested in psychology soon, and you should really pour yourself into it. You’re even going to go to college for it. Don’t give up.
I’m not saying that because I have regrets. I do have regrets. There have been avenues in life that were wide open, and because of things I did or didn’t do, they closed. That’s my thing to deal with, not yours. But what I do want you to know is that life is more enjoyable when you do the little things right. I’m still in school, and I’m searching for what I’m passionate about. You can start that search now. Maybe you do just as good in high school as I did, maybe a little bit better. You’re going to want to go to BYU either way. That’s a good goal. Don’t give up on it like I did. I quit after a semester.
Remember the whole girls thing? Don’t give up on your own dreams to chase a girl. I did. That’s why I quit BYU. I was married six months after graduating high school…you don’t need to do that. The right girl will wait for you. The wrong girls…well…they won’t. And it might hurt, to feel like you’re passing up on someone who tells you that they care about you and love you and want to be with you forever and all the mushy, feel good stuff that makes you feel accepted and cared for. Believe me, it’s tough to pass up on that. But it’s worth it. It’ll be okay if you wait a little bit. You’re always getting ahead of yourself buddy, that’s something that I would do differently if I could. You’ve still got those choices to make. And speaking of girls, don’t get too serious with them. Remember all that stuff about the magazines and internet? Eventually they don’t cut it anymore, and you want the real thing. Don’t let it consume you. It clouds your judgment…you give up on the things that count for a little momentary pleasure. Not worth it. Keep your focus my man, keep your focus. Being a dad is tough work. Being a dad means putting yourself second. You’re too young for that, even when you’re 18 or 19.
What else can I tell you? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a failure. I’ve failed and gotten back up more times than I can count. But I chose the difficult path. You don’t have to. You can be patient. You can be focused. You can chase your dreams now, while you’re young, and don’t worry about all the grown up stuff for a few more years. Get a job, quit. Get fired from someplace. Get out with your friends more, they’re having a great time out there and some day you might look back and realize that you didn’t know them as well as you wish you did, and now they’re not around anymore. Maybe they moved away. Or maybe they aren’t on earth anymore. It can happen. Believe me. You don’t want the regret of a missed friendship weighing on your mind.
Let go of pride. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to fall down. I know that, for some reason I can’t explain, you feel like you have to be perfect. If it’s mom or dad who make you feel that way, tell them about it. Be honest. Don’t hide things. Ask for help. Take a chance. Take a risk. Fall on your face. Get back up. Try again. Show your true feelings. Tell someone what you really feel. Be a good friend. Be a shoulder to cry on, but don’t let people push you around or guilt you into things. Don’t be a pushover. Save up some money. Cry in front of someone else. Get a speeding ticket. Hell, get arrested. Just not for something really big. Go to the big city and just walk around for a day. Be spontaneous, but never lose sight of those long term goals. Do the little things right, but always give yourself some room to shoot from the hip. Love. Get your heart broken. Oh, big one here – get involved in theatre. It is so fun and rewarding, and I know you’ve got a million characters in you who are trying to get out. Give them an outlet. Be someone else for a little bit, walk around in someone else’s skin and really get to know them. Then do that for the rest of your life. Understand first, then be understood. Sweet tea tastes really good. Read more…you were such a reader when you were little, what happened? Books will feed your mind and your soul. Sing louder. You’ll get a guitar some day soon, keep playing it. You weren’t that bad. Get rejected over and over and over again so that by the time you’re my age, it doesn’t scare you anymore.
I don’t know what else to tell you buddy. You’re a good guy. You’re an amazing guy. You’re going to go far whether you listen to me or not, but I feel like you need to know that if you put just a little more effort into things, you’ll go a hell of a lot farther a hell of a lot faster than I did. Then you won’t have to worry about getting ahead of yourself all the time. I love you man.