Sooner or later every blogger falls into the “letters to my younger self” genera. Some are quite serious, others tongue-in-cheek. I figured I would give it a whirl.
First let’s put on some Violent Femmes to set the teen-angst mood. Hit play:
Ok, here goes…
LETTER TO MY FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SELF
Well, I see you are masturbating. Don’t worry, take your time, this letter will still be here when you are done… You know, real girls are not that hard to talk to. I know that all the ones you know don’t live up to your lofty ideals of beauty and virtue, but that is because – get this – they are real girls. Believe it or not, you will one day look back on them with a lot of affection. You could (actually, you will) do a lot worse…
… and so on.
I won’t reprint the rest because there are limits to even my self indulgence.
This is really a post about suffering.
I guess the point of the “letter to myself” exercise is to reflect on how you have changed, things you have learned, maybe rediscover some good qualities you forgot you had or make peace with your old flaws. I actually found it helpful.
Funny thing was that as I wrote it that I could not bring myself to write any really concrete advice that would improve my life: no investment strategies, lotto numbers or sports gambling tips; no warnings about bad decisions (and I’ve made a lot), not even career advice beyond would it kill you to think about what you want to do for a living? (at which point my 15 year-old self would say oh no, I become my dad!) Because my most colossal mistakes – the decade wasting, career destroying, publicly humiliating face-plants – were also the ones that gave me any wisdom I might now possess.
And that is just the mistakes. Then come those nightmare events that are not your fault, maybe not anyone’s fault, that knock you flat for a year or two. When I was 15 I was blissfully unaware of a world of hurt bearing down on me. I thought wow, that kid doesn’t know what is about to hit him. Well, a warning to that boy would have spared him no pain, unless the warning was “love no one”.
So my advice to my 15 year old self all came to generalities: be merciful to others, don’t be so arrogant, be a little more practical, don’t mope so much.
But I couldn’t wish myself a life without error and suffering. I like how I have turned out. I’ve always looked at suffering as just part of being a limited material being (worse one with free will) and never quite understood a theodicy that argued that man is somehow better for his agony. Man is in agony because he is man, not because it improves him. The only other option to suffering would be non-existence and given a choice I’d rather exist.
But in my letter to myself, if I were in a position to play God and spare myself suffering… I’d do what God does and not spare me suffering.