You don’t know me yet, but you will. I’m you in 20 years. Together we became 41 a couple of days ago, and I wanted to take a moment this morning to write you a letter – to tell you about some things that I’ve learned over the last 20 years. So, shake of that rite of passage hangover that I know you’re still suffering from your 21st birthday and read on.
Enjoy that hair of yours while you can. It’s going to start disappearing in a few years.
Yes, receding, thinning – going. It’s okay. We have a pretty decent skull, so when we just decide to say “screw it” and shave it all off, it’s going to be fine. No one will point and laugh when you do. Don’t worry about it, because that facial hair that you’re playing with right now that’s so thin and awful – that barely grows sideburns – it’s going to be thick and awesome. You can play with that instead of your hair.
Enjoy being skinny. Take your shirt off more. That won’t last forever either. Don’t freak out. You’re never going to need a rescue team to cut out a wall to get you out of your house, but you’re going to have some serious pudginess around the middle. Just remember. Little Debbie is not your friend.
Of course, I didn’t write to you to appeal to our vanity. I wrote to you to share some insight on things you are completely unaware of – things that might be valuable to us as the years go by. You probably still won’t understand them at the moment, because it’s 1993 and you’re still a 21-year-old punk who thinks he’s got a firm grasp on everything. It’s okay. We will ‘get it’ eventually.
About our career …
I’m not going to tell you everything about the future you, but no, I’m not a syndicated political cartoonist who works for a major newspaper. I know that might burst your bubble, but I’m not. We had to eat along the way.
You’re going to take many career paths over the next 20 years. It’s going to change over and over, but please listen when I say this. Treat every job as if it was the best job on the planet. Pick up all the skills you need and give it a 100% of your effort, but remember to stay passionate about what you love doing. Continue doing it whether you get paid for it or not – even while you’re working somewhere else. It’s going to come around full circle to something that you are far more passionate about and probably far better at than simply drawing and living on cable news. Those other skills that you picked up along the way are going to help you be better at what I’m doing right now and that will make all the difference in the world.
You may think you know what love is right now, but I promise you that you don’t. It’s okay. It’s the process of loving that gives you the experience you need to truly understand it.
I won’t tell you what’s going to happen, but I will tell you what I know.
It’s a shame that there’s only one word for love in the English language, because love is so much more than one word. In the next 20 years, you’re going to experience every different type of love there is. Some love will be instant and bonding for life – a love you can’t explain to anyone until they experience it for themselves. Some love will take time. Some love will be tested, and yes, some love will test you – break you down – and make you wallow in the pain of it.
Here’s what I know. None of it is wasted. None.
Love and trust are very similar beasts. You don’t earn love or trust. You give and receive them. When you love someone, tell them. Don’t hide it. I know it’s a scary thought, but I promise that it’s worth it when you do and a regret when you don’t.
There will be people who want your love and people who don’t, and that’s part of this thing we call life. Just never regret having expressed love for someone or falling in love with someone, even when it’s over. You didn’t waste your time. You truly lived and loved and gained experience that will be invaluable to our future.
And if I could impart one more thing on the subject of love that I have learned in the last 20 years without boring you too much, it’s this. Don’t use your love as a reward. Don’t parse it out as if was tokens for good behavior. Give it freely and willingly as much as you can, because you never know when it’s going to be the last time you get to give it – or even receive it.
There’s a contingent in our generation that thinks that you’re supposed to reach this magical place in your life where you’re happy all the time. That was a steaming load of crap in 1993, and it’s a steaming load of crap today. There is no magical time or place in life where you are always happy. There aren’t leprechauns and unicorns either, in case you were wondering.
Life in general is filled with day to day tedium of things you have to do whether you want to or not – getting up early, doing work that sucks, paying the bills, and mowing the yard. Life is a lot more ‘meh’ than it is happy, but that’s okay, because that’s what makes the happy moments so good. Savor them as they come, because they are what you will remember and hold onto and cherish.
You’re born into one, and you’re going to make one. They are often dysfunctional and bizarre. Just remember this. You didn’t get to choose your first family, but you do get to choose how you construct your second, and that family doesn’t have to be related by blood or marriage or anything else conventional. It can be made up of anyone you choose. Choose wisely, because you’re going to spend more of your day to day life with that second family than you are with your first.
And just a few more quick thoughts…
Friends come and go. Cherish the moments you have with each and stop mourning the loss of ones that disappear from your life. This thing called the Internet will allow you to reconnect (or not) with them in about 10 or 15 years.
Take the ladder away from the house on your 22nd birthday. It doesn’t go with a keg party. I promise. Don’t worry. We’re not paralyzed or anything.
You’re going to gladly pay almost five dollars for a large cup of coffee. I shit you not.
Don’t throw out our Levi’s button-fly 501 blues. You’ll wish you had them even when we’re in our “fat jeans” stage.
Accidents and surprises will turn out to be some of the best things that happen in our life. Enjoy them.
Don’t forget to live, love, laugh, learn, and smile, and never forget that life is too short to be that serious.
You (in 20 years)