Advice To My 19 Year Old Self From My 29 Year Old Self From My 69 Year Old Self
Wednesday, August 31 2016
I’m back at the same job you were at a decade ago. Today is my last day here. I spent my time back here it doing the same thing you did when you were here: cultivating some vaguely contrarian music/lifestyle based identity in common work areas, singing along to punk records released a decade ago, crying in nice office bathroom stalls. This is a familiar pattern. Only now I’m feeling shame about about all this. I turn 30 in four days.
I thought this time I figured enough out and this was going to work because I wasn’t ‘you’ anymore.
I’m not mad AT you, I swear.
Let me back up.
People write these things and they largely just come off as phony humblebrag smeared Möbius strip echo chambers. For every like ONE that’s actually resonant, 99 are just people *coughstraightwhitedudescough* who stuff these with eye-winking twee pop-culture observations and saccharine platitudes about how important it is to backpack through a third-world country. And to talk to an ethnic person or to not watch TV and about the importance of ‘hustle.’ I think the people who write these masturbate wildly in the mirror as they practice their commencement speeches they’ll never give to legions of graduating high school kids.
This is all in the hopes that all of while all our experiences and lessons are universal their’s ARE THE MOST UNIVERSAL TO WARRANT THIS BECAUSE they describe themselves as entrepreneurs who “run” a “company” and “wear” flip-flops and how they “got” “into” “meditation.” They want to make a point about themselves by making a point about themselves. And maybe some schmuck will subscribe to their e-mail list where they’ll get more relevant content and life hacks that provide value.
Their favorite movie is probably Dead Poets Society.
I’m not going to tell you much about what happens or what to do or how you should react. Should is a death word. I can break all the rules of the time/space continuum to get this letter to you, tell you exactly what you need to do, and honestly it will probably be as useful as all of the Andrew WK lyrics you printed out and look at intently to foist some kind of existential inspiration upon yourself hoping that will shake you out of your rut. And I’m not trying to talk shit either. In fact, Andrew WK is a full blown motivational speaker, and you got in on that ground floor FAST.
What is any of this good for without the necessary context and experiences you’ll be having? You might as well be staring at self-help books in Barnes and Noble, choking back tears (which you do a fair amount of). And best case, if I tell you what exactly you need to do? You get it together, this version of me fades from the timeline. Who’s to say that a slightly different version of me writes to a slightly different version of you, only we’re exactly the same pile of neurosis and insecurities trying to learn the same lessons only in a different context? Worst case, you’re staring at this letter should-ing yourself into an infinite loop about what you should be doing and how you’re not doing it and that you’re awful because of it. And that’s what I’m afraid of.
Fun fact: you get into a drunken argument with a psychic at Oaktoberfest about free will vs predetermination after a free tarot card reading — you get super into LOST.
This letter is more for me than you, by the way, and I’m sorry I’m dragging you into this as a cipher/gimmick/vehicle/conceit to work out my own shit.
This is totally not about me turning 30 either, just so we’re clear. I’m looking forward to it. Because spoiler alert, a bunch of the past decade has been spent harnessing an impotent rage, dragging yourself through the coals, chasing down imaginary lines in the sand and arbitrary age thresholds, seeking out the people your age doing what you want to be doing as self-harm. You spend way too much time looking to confirm to yourself that your choices/skills/abilities were all wrong, and that you’re the lame, value-brand version of someone else’s best life they’re living, while you’ve backed yourself into an unwinnable situation.
There’s a continuous buzz that drones on about how the cure-all is that you should be doing something else or you should be at a certain skill level, ideal weight, doing something else, etc. Because then, that’s the only way you’ll be fucking happy and the thoughts will finally go away. See what I mean about should being a death word? These feelings burn twice as hot and still get you nowhere. And besides, they only want you when you’re seventeen, remember?
It’s not that turning 30 will cure that at all either, I’m sure of it. It’s just, every therapist you have between 2006 and now says you’re enough. And it’s true! And it’s also true that you still won’t feel like enough, and while that’s less true, it’s not a lesser feeling to feel. And for the long stretches of time life feels like the Big Goddamn Fucking Rot, abundance is still everywhere even when it doesn’t feel like it or can acknowledge it at all. This shit took me a decade to even start to broach and internalize what the fuck that even means.
After you left your job the first time and spent the ensuing years beating yourself up for the years you lost and how you could have done this, should have done that, and that you threw away an opportunity, your brother tells you that ‘just because you’re hung like a horse doesn’t mean you should go into porn.’ That was profound. You won’t find out until 2016 he was quoting Harold and Kumar. That doesn’t make it any less valid though. Just thought you should know.
Don’t feel even worse if you still feel the way you’re going to feel even after reading this. Don’t feel like you should be feeling any different. You’re going to be learning that you’re enough, and learning and re-learning a bunch of lessons again and again to help with your outlook. It’s not for me to say what those lessons are. And don’t feel bad about needing to re-learn those lessons. It could be our cosmic divine birthright; that we have the ability to keep forgetting and re-learning and it’s not so much backsliding or that we’re weak but we’re regaining past divine information about ourselves and to inhabit that joy of re-remembering and re-discovery. And I know I’m going to be learning and re-learning too. Maybe that’s not the answer you were looking for. And maybe that’s why I was mad at you in the first place when I couldn’t make it work here a second time, and that despite all the years I’ve been spending on ourself, I was still undeniably, you.
And I can’t be mad at you.
PS: I can tell you that you meet the Dudley Boyz in 2015