A letter to my 13-year-old self

If there was only one thing I could tell you, ever, it would be this: it'll all be alright. Really.

...but since I'm not limited to telling you this one and only thing - in fact, I can go on for however long I wish, which you probably already know can be a very long time indeed - I'm gonna tell you a few more things. So, strap yourself in, kiddo, because here we go.

There will be many times in your life when you think you've screwed something up so colossally you'll never be able to fix it, ever, and you will live with this burden of shame and unhappiness forever, as long as you shall live, and let me tell you this - you're wrong.

You're wrong because you're a beautiful, sensitive creature. Sure, you'll make plenty of mistakes - some of the them will even be colossal enough to piss off a whole lot of people; family and friends, important people; many of them will go to great lengths to try and convince you that you're a horrible, horrible person for doing x, y and z, whatever that x, y and z is.

But let me tell you this - and I know that you will understand it one day, because I do, but if I could tell you this now, I would - and that is: you make mistakes because you're learning, and as long as you're learning, you'll keep on making mistakes.

Everyone does.

And it's not even always mistakes - sometimes it's simply disagreeing with people.

You are a beautiful, sensitive creature who has courage and stubbornness to go against what people say is a good way to live, and to question those people - and boy of boy don't some of them like being questioned.

Some of them will be your teachers at school. In fact, I think it won't be long now when you see a teacher send two boys out of the class because she thinks those two were making a racket. When you go up to her after class and say, teacher, you were wrong about that, because I sat next to them and I know for sure these two weren't to blame, she'll get so angry with you she'll go red in the face and start puffing.

Later in the evening she'll even call your home and ask to speak to your mother, to let her know that you stood up to a teacher like that. And that evening will be the first in a long line of many when you understand that authority isn't about subordinance - it's about respect. Your mother will listen to what your teacher has to say, pause, and then reply with, I'm very glad you called me to say that. It lets me know that my daughter isn't afraid to stand up for what she thinks is right. 

It'll be the moment you look up to your mother and think, dude, you're awesome.

And it's good, because there will be other times in your life when you will be standing up like that to your mother, and lots of other people. Sometimes it will be, yes, simply juvenile... something; you being an ass.

But it's part of your learning. You know already - I know you do! - that you don't do these things simply out of spite, or to piss someone off, or because you're bored; you do it because you're learning to stand up for what you think is right - and what is right for you is different from what is right for other people.

Soon you'll learn to give the freedom you expect other people give you to other people, too. You will learn to give other people space and to find ways to have that space yourself. You will learn to respect that each creature has its own path in life and it's only kind to allow them have that space, just as there will be more and more creatures who will allow you to have your path.

I say creatures, not people, because you will learn respect towards animals in a way that's different from just being kind to them - you will soon learn that what most creatures lack in relation to humans is a spoken language, and not much else.

And around that time you will also learn how special you are.

The thing that... I'd like to say breaks my heart, but it's not right, because it doesn't break it - it just makes me sad - is that for a long time you will live in uncertainty over how smart you are, or how beautiful, or many other things. I know it's part of you growing up and because of that, I should give you that space to grow and learn these things on your own, but it's just... years from now you will look back at the photos of when you were 16 or 17 or whatever, and you'll think: damn I was hot! It's probably not the best clothing you're wearing at 13, granted, but underneath all those baggy boyish clothes you're hot, like, really, really hot!

And talking of hot: when you get people tell you that this boy isn't good for you or that boy isn't good for you either, or whatever, I'd say: screw them and do what you think is right, for you. Wear a condom - and I know you'll always do - and just do what needs doing. And rather than listen to other people judging boys by how well they do at school, or what sort of family they're from, or what clothes they wear, judge these boys yourself by the amount of kindness they give you, and respect they have towards you, and how you feel around them. If it feels good, do it; and if it doesn't, go. Simple as that.

And you're smart, you already are! You will learn that a lot of things come - other people would say here "come naturally to you", but that's not right because I know and you know that it isn't about naturality, it's about work ethic and focus - that a lot of the things you're learning come quickly to you, and it'll make you cocky. For a while you'll think that you can do everything and anything, and you're right - but, dude, you still need to work at it to get good.

So when you recognise that you have a talent in writing, work at it. When you recognise that you can sing, work at it - screw the girl that says you don't sing in tune, and just keep on working at it. Basically, whatever you want to do and whatever you want to get good at, work at it. I know you've got the work ethic, I know you've got patience - work at it.

And the thing I want you to know is, you've got great friends. In fact, I think you are absolutely blessed with friends.

Many - most - of your friends are such diverse, talented people that you will keep seeing them evolve and go on an almost daily basis, wow, this is amazing. Keep sending them e-mails, keep writing postcards, keep meeting up with them when there's a chance and keep telling them how much you like them. I know that what you really mean when you say to them that you like them is that you love them, but just keep saying it in whatever form and it'll be alright.

And the last thing, for now: for a long time you will live in fear because several people you know will die unexpectedly, and you'll fear that one day you'll die like that, too, and people will say - just as you've heard them say about other people - that this person never got to do something because they were, well, whatever: saving money for a house, or waiting for a better time to rekindle a relationship, or all sorts of other stupid excuses that kept them from doing what they really wanted to be doing instead.

And to that I'd like to say: I don't know how long you'll live, but I know that you'll be alive when you turn 28.

Though maybe it's a good thing you don't know that, because otherwise maybe you would've walked into that surf on that abandoned beach - the one where waves crash against a steep bank - and maybe... maybe then you wouldn't be alive by the time you turned 28 anymore. I don't know. Maybe you would've gone up a few unstable snow slopes because you would've felt invincible.

And I'd also like to tell you that though for a while you'll be afraid you won't ever have children, by the time you're 28 you'll have a beautiful, 2-year-old son - but it's the same thing here, that maybe it's good that you don't know that. That fear will drive some of your big, important decisions that will, in the end, work out for the best, for everyone.

So I guess what I'm saying is: I love you, and it'll all be alright. You'll live a life I'm proud of, and from where I'm standing now I'll keep on trying to live a life I'm proud of, too.

Keep well, kiddo. You're a good kid.

Your 28-year-old self

1 comment:

  1. That was very beautifully said. Everyone looks back at about that time in life and evaluates themselves. Not many people can put the experience into words. I'll tell you something else, when you turn sixty, you'll wind up doing the same thing. I have a feeling you'll have a lot to look back on and be proud of. Just as you do now.