Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dear Me

Dear Russell,

I'm writing to you from 30 years in the future.  I call you Russell because that's what more than half the folks of your time still call you.  That won't last.  In a very short time, you will become Russ, a name change spawned by one person's stubborn insistence on calling you by a name your parents told you to say wasn't yours since the day you were born.  Don't worry - the name change will be a good thing, and by the time you reach my age, only your parents will still call you Russell.  You have since morphed into Russ, and things have gone better than you dared hope.

I know that things seem a bit depressing now.  You're 13, scrawny, short, and a tremendous nerd.  You know what?  THAT'S OKAY!  I want you to embrace your inner nerd, for it's who you truly are.  You're that weirdo who enjoys playing chess, reading encyclopedias, and discussing philosophy while most folks are caught up in why the junior high school football team can't make the playoffs or how cool their high top sneakers are.  I know you wonder how you became such a dork and why God cursed you as such, but I'm here to let you in on a secret.  Shhh...don't tell anyone...

...but we nerds rule the world.

That's right.  That line you thought sounded so haughty but in your mind sounded so desperate is actually true.  You see, the things that seemed important when you were 13 don't matter much when you're an adult.  Early maturity gave you an incredible advantage over most of your peers.  You saw the value of setting goals and saving money.  You've achieved most of what you set out to do, and while most of the folks you know are wallowing in debt, you and your wife have your heads well above water.

Yup, I said wife.  You have an amazing, beautiful, charming, caring, and compassionate wife.  It may take you a long time to find her, but believe me when I say it's worth the wait.  Forget the travails of the teenage girls that mock you for having the audacity to be smart(and the arrogance to tell everyone).  You'll watch most of them float through life from person to person, as will most of the teenage guys who seem to have all the luck right now.  I know you wonder why you're watching Perfect Strangers on Friday night when others are out partying, but let's be honest - partying isn't your thing anyway.  You feel awkward around crowds and prefer a few good friends as opposed to many you barely know.  That won't change.  And those guys having all the luck look cool now, but they don't look cool with a rap sheet, no money, and a beer gut.

You think one of the reasons you get scorned is your looks.  You have stringy hair you never comb, and in addition to being the size of a hobbit, you might weigh 80 pounds soaking wet.  Get past that.  Everyone grows at their own speed, and it's only down the line that you can accept this.  Believe me when I say that you'll come into your own - it just takes time, and it might take more time than you'd like, but the end result is great.

And you get to keep it great as part of your job.  Yes, you - the chess club geek who likes cats and has trouble holding a ladder still - will grow in ways you can't imagine possible now.  You know all those World War Two movies you watch with awe?  You get to live them.  You get to be the one who demonstrates paths to courage that many can't fathom.  Sure, you're going to wonder if you have it in you, but I can assure you that after several trips into hell, you have the fortitude.  Trust yourself and your instincts.  Look out for your buddies.  And know that the biggest take away when it's over is that since you faced it once, if, God forbid, you ever have to face it again, you can.

Let me tell you some things you're working on now that you won't need:
1.  Calculus and trigonometry.  Neat math things that have no application to you in real life.  You're not going to be an engineer, and there are miniaturized computer programs that will do any calculation you need beyond basic arithmetic and geometry.  Some people will scream and cry that these things matter.  They don't.

2.  Knowing that the reason nitrogen nodules cling to the roots of plants is symbiosis will become meaningless the moment you're not in school anymore.  No one cares.  It doesn't matter in your profession.  In fact, it matters in almost no one's profession.

3.  White Out.  You know...that stuff you cover typing mistakes over with?  No one uses typewriters anymore.  No.  One.  White Out was a great thing for its time, but I doubt anyone could even find a typewriter any longer.  They've become outdated.

4.  That collection of cassette tapes you recorded off of the radio.  Yes, it's cool that you have the entire Thriller album by recording off of WROQ, but tapes are gone too.  Even if your tape collection survives the decades, you won't be able to find a tape player - or "boom box" as the cool kids like to call them - anywhere in my time.  Music is mix and match, and unlike yesteryear, where bigger speakers were cool, the smaller the speaker, the more desirable it is.

5.  High top sneakers.  They're dumb.  They mean nothing to anyone over the age of 16.  Shoes are shoes - wear what's comfortable.

You're going to go on lots of adventures, and those adventures are going to take you places both exciting and unexpected.  Stop worrying what other people think; when you do, you'll be amazed how freeing it is.  Live life by your own rules, and realize that if others don't want to join you on that journey, the loss is theirs, not yours.  You will lose some friends along the way, but you'll make incredible new ones that are more closely aligned with you personality.  And the ones that do stay with you are the best you'll ever have.  Treasure them and never lose sight that you're all at nearly the same point in this journey, no matter what each projects now to protect him or her psychologically.

Last note - appreciate your time with your own children.  Yes, you have children, and they grow up fast.  Guide them as much as you can through their own rough spots, even if they won't listen to you.  After all, are you really listening to me now?  Of course not, for the things I'm trying to teach you must be learned by you on your own.  That's the only way the lessons will stick.


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