How have you been? Of course, I’m asking more out of politeness and courtesy than anything else. If I think back hard enough I can remember how you have been feeling lately, how I was feeling six years ago. Congrats on finally getting your braces off, by the way. Metal-free is the way to be, after all. I actually am writing with a purpose larger than just congratulating you on your metal-free existence. If you can tear yourself away from David Caruso and his sunglasses and whatever Sean Kingston song just came out, I want to tell you some things.
You don’t know me very well, but I know you. The next six years are going to change you a lot. They changed me a lot. They’re going to knock you off your feet, time and time again. From what I can tell, that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Nothing about the next six years of your life is going to feel safe. Maybe this isn’t reassuring to hear, but you should know now. Those goal posts you see in front of you, getting into college, finding a significant other, figuring out what you want to study, those are going to move. The goal posts will move further away, and seem altogether unreachable. Instead of getting into college the goal post will be getting a job; instead of finding a significant other it will be finding someone who isn’t just DTF (I’m not sure if the term DTF was even coined yet six years ago, TBH. Or if TBH has even been coined yet for that matter). The goal posts are going to move quickly and often. Don’t let that scare you.
I know right now the world seems pretty scary. This may not be helpful to hear either, but it’s going to get a little bit scarier. You’re going to see a lot of things in the next six years. You’ll lose family members and watch the places you live become more dangerous. The questions you, and everyone, have to answer are going to get tougher. The world now, if I’m telling you the truth, is going to be scarier. In the next six years you’ll learn how to be brave. You’ll learn how to see the bad out there and use it to push you to do more good. You’re going to learn so much about yourself, too.
I remember I hated so much when people used to tell me that I was going to learn so much. It sounded like a distant cousin of the snide and condescending, “You have so much left to learn.” This letter isn’t meant to sound condescending. There are so many things that you have that I wish I still did. There are so many ways in which you are better than I am now. If this advice could be retroactive, I would want to tell you to hold onto your drive. It’ll be hard in the next six years not to feel like the small things you do pale in comparison to what else is going on. It’ll be hard not to feel like nothing one person can do can make a difference. That’s a beast you’ll have to fight. And that’s a fight that will probably go on for your whole life. So don’t lose your drive.
Don’t lose your optimism either. I’m sure you’re shaking your head at me right now. I remember not feeling entirely optimistic about things when I was your age, too. But you are. There’s a feeling that you get, that I used to get, when you heard a really eloquent quote, or saw a really beautiful piece of art, or remembered that a lot historical discoveries were complete accidents. It’s that wonder hiding in the, “How did they do that?” It’s that excitement hiding in the, “Could I do that?” Don’t lose that wonder or that excitement.
Cliches have really ruined that “anything is possible” attitude. They’ve commercialized it and crammed it into every television show about high school and into every coming of age novel. They’ve made it tired, made it mean less and made it eye-roll-worthy. Don’t let them ruin it for you. Sixteen is too young to feel like things aren’t possible. Hold onto the “anything is possible,” and onto the “you can achieve your dreams.” Where other people see them as naive, silly or unrealistic, you should see them as enablers. People will try to ruin those ideas, but don’t let them. Sixteen is too young to feel like things aren’t possible. Twenty-two is too young to feel like things aren’t possible.
I won’t warn you of any mistakes you might make in the next six years. You need to make them. I need you to make them. I won’t tell you anything except that you should’ve really started watching Parks and Recreation already. What are you waiting for?
I wanted to write you to tell you not to be scared of the next six years. What you’ll find if you look hard enough is that as the world becomes a darker, scarier place, people become brighter, braver. Don’t be afraid to take risks now, because the older you get the harder it will be to take them. I don’t even mean that at thirty years old it will be hard to take risks. I mean that twenty-two years old it will be hard to take them. So take them now. If I know you at all, you won’t take them on your own. That’s why I’m writing.
I hope this letter helps. I’ll see you in six years. Except, if logic and The Lake House (oh, Keanu, why?) is to be believed, I’ll be 28 then. Maybe I’ll write you again.
I wish you way more than luck,