I trust you to be open-minded enough to take this letter for what it’s worth, a bit of foreknowledge from your future self. It’s one of the things I like about you, frankly – your willingness to listen and learn. For what it’s worth, I don’t think you lose that in the future, which is to say, I don’t think I’ve lost that – you in your early 40s still listen and learn . . . a lot, every day.
Okay, for the purpose of this letter , “you” are me at 17; “I” am you in the future. I’ve been thinking of what I could say to you that would prove that it’s really me – something we’ve never told anyone. Here’s your clue: “It’s Not That Easy, Being Green.” That clue in itself holds a lot of significance to you now, I know . . . it will continue to hold significance.
First, let me tell you a few things about you that you may not know. You’re busy playing ball, writing papers, doing the band thing, and being a leader in the youth group - you may not have the perspective that I have. Besides, if you end up getting a handle on this stuff, my life might be better, and by extension, your life . . . whatever, you know what I’m trying to say.
You are strong – you know that. You have moments, many moments, of wishing you weren’t so strong, wishing you could break down the way other people do. I want to tell you that it’s okay to let people in, and that you don’t have to be strong all the time. The very people who appreciate your strength often wonder what’s going on with you, but are too polite to say so. They understand more than you think they do. It’s okay to let them in.
You are beautiful/handsome. I know you don’t know that, but you are. Some selected others recognize it, and there will be more as you get older. Also, for the record: YOU ARE NOT FAT! Athletic, yes. Muscular, yes. Clothing sizes and pounds are not good indicators for your body type.
You have battled depression. It helps to call it what it is, but do not let it become your label, and do not allow it to define you. Be aware of it, understand it. Don’t let it scare you. Whenever possible, let it teach you, but do not be seduced by it. There are more weapons in the arsenal than you think – don’t be afraid to find the weapons that work for you. You will battle it again, and you will get better at it.
DO NOT START SMOKING CIGARRETTES!!! I know you think you never will, but I did, and I regret it. I’m not even going to try to explain why I started smoking. Do us all a favor, and don’t start.
Also, avoid storage units. All I’m saying is that they’re great for keeping a lot of extra stuff in, until you get behind on payments, at which point the stuff becomes forfeit. Trust me: either don’t have that much extra stuff in the first place, or don’t store it somewhere you’ve got to rent the space for above and beyond whatever you’re paying in rent for living space. I know you think you’ll never have that much stuff . . . you are wrong.
No matter what you think, your family – meaning the people who raised you – will not abandon you. You may sometimes wish that they would - life would be simpler - but there they'll be. There are things about your life that will conflict heavily with what they fervently believe, and what you more or less believe right now. They may not change their beliefs, but they will always love you. You are not specifically responsible for their happiness, or unhappiness. Do what you can to stay connected to them, because time flies, and rifts suck. But try not to worry about losing them, as you go about living your life.
Oh, and another important thing: it’s early 2010, and as far as I can tell, the rapture hasn’t happened yet. People are still worrying about the end times, but I suppose these are no more the end times than they’ve ever been. This may take a load off in the future. Also, almost nothing happened when the year changed from 1999 to 2000 – so all the hysteria will not be worth bugging about.
I know that you are a serious Christian, thankfully more gentle than you were in elementary school, but still . . . Here’s the thing that’s cool about you, whether you realize it or not: I think if you and I went out for coffee, you wouldn’t hate me. I think you’d agree with me that my life is pretty full, and good, even if it’s not what you expected. Then, of course, you’d pray and fast for the good of my soul. Please don’t stress over it. It’s going to be okay, and God is much bigger than the Church would have you believe.
(By the way - that youth pastor that you have mixed feelings about? YOU ARE CORRECT to think there's something off about him. He likes the boys a little too young . . . that's all I'm saying. I don't know exactly what you can do about that, but maybe keep your eyes open for evidence . . . the sooner he's stopped, the better.)
I’m deliberately leaving out some information that I think would just turn your world on its head right now. You already semi-consciously carry the world on your shoulders, and there’s no need to add to that. Be of good faith, though – so far as I can see, you will always have the strength you need to keep walking, keep learning, keep growing.
Thanks, by the way, for keeping such good mental notes. Your perspective and recall have been really helpful as I've been shuffling through memories, and writing little bits here and there. It would seem that what we lack in factualism we make up for in, um, storytelling.
I'm not a music producer, or a song writer, or a missionary, or a novelist, or a short-story author. A lot of your dreams haven't come true . . . yet . . . and a few of the dreams have come true, just in a different form than expected. But on the whole, we're doing good and we're doing well.
Yeah, so . . . I guess that's it for now. I treasure you - you are always with me. You're okay. And you're gonna do fine, even when you don't think so - trust me.