Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Letter to Myself From 25 Years Ago

Back in 1991, when I was on the Student Senate at Sauk Valley Community College, we created a time capsule.  We all wrote letters to ourselves and sealed them inside with the understanding we would read them to ourselves twenty-five years later.

I've lived in dread of that moment.  And today, that moment came.

First, the letter was incredibly personal with no regard for which idiot would find and read it.  There was some seriously insane lines but that wasn't what really stood out to me.  What jumped out was the certainty that I'd be dead.

The letter to myself was totally certain I'd be dead and there was just a slight chance I'd be alive.  Furthermore, there was no clue as to how bizarre that belief was, or how unnatural it is to know you're going to die young.  Not believe, but know.

The letter, for some stupid reason, went on to list all the various failings I'd had with women because obviously that would be important twenty-five years later.  Obviously.

I feel like this letter to wisdom is what a bottle of ketchup is to an emergency Go! bag.  Useless, pointless, and completely inept.  I was nineteen and only knew depression, loneliness, and anger.

But there was this weird, optimistic side I had completely forgotten.  I had dreams back then.  I had dreams and goals.  In a weird way, I looked forward to the future.  Granted, they were pie-in-the-sky hopes, but I had hope.  

I never knew how to achieve a goal in life until just recently.  It sounds weird, but it's true--I figured dreams were something that just happened to other people.  And when you think dreams are like that, and they don't come true for you, then obviously there is something wrong with you and you know you'll never be happy.

Goals have to be earned.  Dreams have to earned and more often than not, you'll never really achieve them.  I had no idea back then.  I just figured I'd dress up and show up and magically things would just happen.  After all, I'm Ted--I'm awesome.

Does your current life live up to what you expected?  What are you driving?  Are you still writing?  Why not?  Did you forget your goals?  Let's review, shall we?
1)  Become on of the top horror writers ever. 
2)  Become the best, most followed political writer of your generation.
3)  Become the voice of your generation.
4)  Because the first writer to go in space and write about the experience.
5)  Possibly teaching English in high school or college.

No, this isn't what I expected.  I'm driving a 21 year-old Buick that needs work.  In fact, it overheated the whole way down and back, so I had to keep the vent on hot and the fan on high, basically cooking me. And yes, I'm writing.  Again.  I stopped for about 15 years or so, but I'm back at it.  And I'm making progress.

And yes, I forgot my goals.  I totally lost the plot.  I got confused and stuck in the fog of war.  Over the years, I lost track of where I was heading and what I wanted to do.  I was lost in a labyrinth of monsters, quicksand, and demons.

In a lot of ways, I needed this letter.  I needed to see it and I need to go back to where I once was to get the old scent back.  That feeling of "Yeah, I can do this!"

I needed to get out of the trenches so I could see the vast landscape around me and all the opportunities that are available, while at the same time remind myself that I am, indeed, a writer who needs to write.

I'll end with a Ted Moment.

So, I'm standing up in front of a group of people.  I'm opening my letter and I make the comment, "I'm glad I'm the one opening this and not somebody else.  I wasn't sure how this would go.  Good thing I didn't confess to any murders, eh?"

Silence.  Crickets.

The whole crowd got awkwardly silent and I was thinking, "Fuck you, people!  That was funny!"

The Way of the Van isn't for everybody but it's my way and I'm moving forward.

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