Hey buddy. I decided to write this to you even though you have been gone now for 30 years. But I thought, what the hell. Why not write a letter to you, now long gone. Myself 30 years ago. I wish I could have told you then the things I know now. Would you have listened? Probably not, but maybe. Maybe the fact that it was really coming from you might have cracked through that actually thin veneer of confidence and certitude. Maybe it would have led you to some different decisions.
The funny thing is this: at 26, time, which seemed like your friend, was really your worst enemy. Time seemed to stretch out before you like a lavish buffet of delightful unending options and choices. That was an illusion. A siren’s song leading to the treacherous shoreline of the fast approaching future. Now, time is more precious, and, while certainly no friend, it is at least more honest. Now time eases away from me like an embarrassed companion at a cocktail party disturbed by an unfortunate crude remark. No, time is not an enemy, but it certainly has not been kind. You will find out, 26, when you see time for what it is: the illusion of possibility.
So, 26, I remember you sometimes when I look in the mirror. You were in the middle of undergraduate school after a four-year tour of duty in the Marine Corps. You were still a fit and healthy young man. You were in love and recently married. You wanted and expected so much out of life. Position, money, power, recognition, and, most elusive of all it turned out, happiness. They all seemed just within reach. 26, if you knew that these would always be mostly out of reach, what would you have done differently? Would you have not dropped that Italian class and taken the B and learned a new language? Would you have been a B student in general and been happy and engaged, instead of calculating and recalculating your estimated graduation GPA every week? 26, I want you to know something. You will never be asked at a job interview for any job you will ever do after you graduate, “What was your GPA?” You won’t get into the graduate school of your choice, not because of bad grades or ability, but because of chance.
26, change your degree focus right now! Take that teacher’s advice and study kinesiology instead of political science. Coach and be a teacher. You won’t be able to escape it. So you might as well be better prepared. You will be sorry for a long time when you don’t take this advice.
26, tell the woman you love how wounded you are inside. She won’t love you less. Don’t be afraid. Be honest. Be real. Be vulnerable. Be happy. When you don’t take this advice you are going to live most of your life hiding your insecurities and pain from the only person who can help ease that pain. I grieve for your lost opportunity, 26.
26, care about yourself a lot more. Stand up for yourself. Demand more for yourself. Expect more for yourself. Don’t be surprised when you succeed and worry about having it taken away. When you do, that it is the same as giving it away. 26, be ok with your own abilities and talents; otherwise you will always devalue them and never really be able to enjoy doing well.
26, 30 years will pass and you will think it was a blink of the eye. When you get to be me, you will live in a world you can’t imagine, and mostly because why would you want to. A lot of people will really enjoy telling others NOT to follow their passions when you get to where I am waiting. But they are wrong. 26, follow your passions: do what thrills you! You won’t be any poorer in money or material things and your life will be ever so much richer for those bold choices!
26, good luck as you move forward in life… you’re going to need it…badly.