1,486 days until 50 years of age.
Recently while rummaging through some old keepsakes I came across a letter. Now while most of us at some time or another have kept letters from old boyfriends or girlfriends, or from our parents while we were away at camp, even notes from friends, this letter was a little different.
Wrapped in a dingy standard, business envelope it was thin, wrinkled and worn. The writing on its face was faded and simple, addressed to me from me. You see it was dated 1984. Mailed from the office of my old high school, a project straight from the bowels of a creative writing class. Premise;write a letter to yourself to be opened when you reach 25. Address it to your parents home to ensure you receive it and be “creative”.
Well being the pretentious Teaching Assistant that I had become, the whole thing seemed stupid and as such the writing was poignant to say the least. The letter was all of a 1/2 page written on wrinkled binder paper and said: Well asshole if you are reading this then good job! You made it to 25, now give yourself a pat on the back for still being alive. Never thought you would make it past 21! You are still a loser. Hope you still have some friends to pester. Loser!
So what does this all have to do with the price of tea in China and most of all my count down towards turning 50?
The letter drew a sad emotional response. Sad that I wasted a perfectly good opportunity to write something pertinent, honest, heartfelt, whimsical or even just plain factual. Yet I threw away that time being a punk to myself. Shorting myself with an alloof flippant attitude towards something that could have captured the feelings of being a teenager in the 80’s. A paragraph, a page, a note, a quotation, anything to show myself and the world development, growth and the ability to change, adapt and overcome life’s challenges and obstacles. To be able to map a path taken between the age of 17 and 25, from 25 to 46 and into the future.
Then I read it again and you know what, strangely that may be exactly what I accomplished. Not eloquently mind you but looking beyond that moronic statement to who I was at 25 its there, you just need to read between the lines. When I was young, I was a know it all, selfish, moody little bitch. To be quite honest if my 46-year-old persona met my 17-year-old moronic self, I do not think we would like each other very much. I would probably kick my own ass! You see back then if we were friends, I was a loud joke cracking fool, if we didn’t know each other I hung back in the corners like a wall flower scared of his own shadow. I was a contradiction of introvert and extrovert all rolled into one. Some days you just never knew who you where going to get. In some ways I am still that way today, with the exception that as an adult hanging back in the corner of the room allows me a few moments to figure out who all the “players” are and how to approach people.
Getting closer to 50 has given me the chance to reflect on my life, where it has been and where it is headed. I see a lot of the same attributes in my oldest teenage son and I am worried for him. He is at a stage where emotions, testosterone and the inability to become outwardly friendly towards new people have paralyzed his ability to cope with strange situations. He is moody and if you are his friend he is the dry witted life of the party, but if he doesn’t know you he clams up and can’t even muster the strength to say a word while he stares at the ground.
Part of me wishes my 17-year-old self could come back to life so he sees there is hope. As his father I want to protect him, but I know he needs to fall on his face to learn how to handle the rough edge of life. Learning from every encounter, mistake, misfortune and success are the building blocks to a foundation that forms our adult existence. I don’t know how to bring out the best in him, I don’t know how to tell him I went through all the same feelings as a kid without him tuning me out as his father telling the tale of walking both ways uphill in the snow barefoot to school.
But most of all I don’t want him someday to become mired in the fact he is closing in on 50 years of age while reading a letter from some 17-year-old asshole known as himself….