Akira Yamaoka, for the Silent Hill 3 soundtrack, composed a song entitled "Letter - from the lost days". Sung by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, it's the narration of the present-day protagonist directed to herself some years in the future, expressing her hopes, dreams, and fears. It's a hauntingly beautiful track:
But while flipping through a book of inspirational writing ideas yesterday, one in particular caught my eye. The suggestion was to write a letter to yourself in the past. Amidst the traditional 'creative' suggestions like "Write the ad copy for a product you'd like to see manufactured," or "Re-write the ending to the last story you read so it conveys the opposite emotion (make a happy ending into a sad one, or turn a hopeless ending into one that offers a glimmer of inspiration)," this one struck me as being particularly relevant. We all have things we wish we could have told our younger selves with the benefit of a few more years on our side. With that in mind, this is the letter I would write to deliver to myself at age sixteen:
It's been a long time, hasn't it? Nineteen years to be exact. At least from my perspective. As you no doubt are aware, a lot of things can happen between where you are now and where I am today. A lot of things already did. Maybe reading this will help you come to terms with what you have yet to come to terms. Confused? Maybe I am too.
I want you to know that right now, at age sixteen, you will never, ever feel emotions with the intensity that you do now again. You've yet to learn how to build those barriers, so every success sends you soaring like an eagle, and every defeat and every rejection crushes you like a monster truck tire rolling over a rose. You love, you hurt, you laugh, you cry, you experience every emotional high and low in between. That's not a curse, it's a blessing. It'll give you something magical to look back on once the benefit of a few years' passage have graced your life.
College is different. High school sucks, but you're almost done. I know it's depressing to think about. You want so badly to be an adult, and honey let me tell you, in another year, you're gonna get the height, the hips and the chest that will define you for the rest of your life. You're pretty now, but next summer you're gonna bloom into "beautiful" and take that with you wherever you go. It comes late, too late to get that date to the prom or anything else that you're silently wishing will happen, but high school is transitory and in another few years you won't remember most of your classmates and they probably won't remember you so don't let it get you down. Things work out fine.
I know you won't want to hear it, especially at your age, especially at this time, especially at a Christian prep school, but the simple fact is that there's nothing wrong with you not finding guys attractive. They'll make good friends through the years, and in fact once you get to college one of them will SEEM like he's Mister Right, but you won't love him. You think you will, but that's only because you haven't come to terms with the fact that you like other girls and there's nothing wrong with that. Right now, that idea is scary as all hell to you; so scary in fact that you can't even conceive of it because "gay people" just don't exist as far as you're concerned and the church drummed it into you years ago that if you don't get married to a guy because of THAT reason, there's something wrong with you. A few years from now, you'll meet the girl who makes you realize it's THEY who got it wrong and not you, and you'll give back that engagement ring. You'll cry like you never cried before, and you won't be able to tell anybody why for a long, long time, but when you're still with that same girl in the twilight days of 2011 you'll know you made the right choice. And that first kiss? Hoooo boy, it's a doozy!
Remember all that time you spent in the computer lab or the library at school, writing your silly little stories on the computer? Remember all the hours you spend pouring over notebook paper in that binder you always keep close to you because it contains the poems that no one else but you know exist? Yes, even the ones that would be considered too Emo to be cool today? Those are important. Keep them close to your heart...closer even, if you can, because that's your gift. You were born to write, born to create, and though you'll have your period of ups and downs, you won't believe the number of e-mails you'll start getting from fans all over the world when you start writing your Tomb Raider stories. Yeah, stories. Plural. You'll get lots of practice learning how to structure plot lines, write dialogue, and most important of all take criticism (the good and the not-so-good kinds). You know Barry Lyga, the guy who wrote that Warrior Nun Areala story that made you cry? You'll get a really nice letter from him in a few years, telling you how nice it was to hear that someone felt as passionate about that story as you did. (By the way, your idea of using "Areala" for your internet nickname? It's a good one. Don't ignore it.)
In a couple years' time, your aunt is going to sit down with your mom and record some stories on tape about what her life was like growing up with your father. For God's sake, don't just put 'em in a box somewhere. I can't begin to tell you how much you'll wish you hadn't lost track of them when 2008 rolls around. Just for the record, you're really going to hate 2008, more than any other year save maybe 1982. Thank God for you, that's a long time off.
All those letters you get from friends and family when you go through Confirmation at your church next year, keep them too. Read them whenever you need a pick-me-up. That highlighted Bible verse is a good one, even if in another twenty years you won't consider yourself a practicing Catholic. You can be a good person to others while still searching for the truth wherever you want to look.
Getting that 4.0 GPA will pay off huge dividends when you get that nearly-full-ride scholarship to attend Ball State. Even though you'll get letters of acceptance to several other schools, trust your heart and go to BSU. If you don't, you'll miss out on the single most important event of your entire life and there's a good chance I wouldn't be writing you this letter today. Don't fret about what will look best to your employer, because you're not trying to become a lawyer or a doctor. You're working in a bookstore right now, just like you have been for the past twelve years, and you love every day of it. They won't care that you flubbed that one Chemistry test, believe me, and you'll get enough extra credit with your AP classes to gloss that over. Oh yeah, those SAT scores? In exactly two years' time, they won't mean anything to anybody, so quit worrying about it. You know your stuff, and anything you don't know won't matter. Just ace the English portion and Math will take care of itself.
Most of all though, just try your best to forgive and let go of all that anger. Dad didn't die on purpose. The world isn't out to get you (though it sure seems like it now, but that's how everybody feels in high school). When "Mortal Kombat" comes out in theatres, go see it to laugh. When "Titanic" comes out in theatres, go see it to cry. Most importantly, when that book by Richard Laymon catches your eye at the library, check it out. The other one by him too. Don't stop until you've read all of them (though this will take you the next twenty years).
Finally, remember that you are you. You have a right to be you. And no one else will ever be you. Live life, laugh, sing, dance, cry, and celebrate. Especially celebrate the rainy days. When that one particular rainy day happens, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. And you may as well resign yourself to the fact that you're going to be a night owl well into your thirties.
Thanks for taking the time to read this, my younger, wilder, darker, more passionate, vibrant, moody and depressed self. You owe it to yourself to own these years as dearly as you'll own the nineteen that are yet to come. I can't promise everything will turn out perfectly, but they'll be good enough I'll feel the desire to write this letter to you after all.
As ever, I remain yours truly,
P.S. - Newspaper doesn't sop up paint on carpeting. If you only acknowledge one piece of advice from this letter, please let it be this one.