Hope you’re well.
I’m touching base because there’s some stuff I wanted to talk to you about. Re: what’s about to happen to you.
A few little things to begin with: the sooner you switch from vodka to beer the better. That pipe-dream you have of taking up running is going to come true one day. Glee ends up getting really bad so you might as well bow out now. And yes, sex is just as good as they all told you it would be.
Now for the more important stuff:
A bit over a year from now you’re going to be sitting with your best friends, a little (a lot) drunk, and you’re going to let go of that secret that’s been eating you for years now. You’re 17 at the moment and I’m 22 but I can still remember that moment as if it happened 30 seconds ago. This will be the most terrifying step you ever take. It will also be one that saves your life. You’ll let go of those words and watch them float into the night sky. That weight that was once impossible will become a feather.
This is where your life begins.
You’re going to date. A lot. This in itself is quite a fantastic thing for me to be telling you. Remember those girlfriends you had? The one’s whose hand you held because society was saying that’s what you were supposed to do. Remember how uncomfortable you felt?
Over the next few years you’re not going to have to worry about that. The very aspect of yourself you used to keep buried so far down will be something you’ll come to grow very proud of. Your identity will be shaped and you’ll become not just someone you genuinely like, but also someone you’re very proud of.
The first time you kiss someone and feel stubble is basically going to be most fantastic thing ever. One day you’re going to meet a boy who will finally make you understand what all those songs have been trying to tell you for years. Then you’ll meet another. And another after that. New doors will be thrown open all around and the full extent of the human condition will finally reveal itself to you.
This is where you need to buckle up.
Here’s the most important thing I’m going to tell you: When you fall for someone, it’s almost always going to end in a crash. That’s what falling is. A descent. You leave a place of comfort and you plunge to a scary new one, but it doesn’t seem that bad because there’s someone alongside you – until there’s not.
It’s the law of gravity. They let you go and you can do nothing but crash into the ground. Could happen after a month, could happen after a decade. Could happen sixty years down the line after a long and happy life together, in a sunlit room when one half is on their deathbed and the other is leaning in to say thanks for all the smiles.
You’re going to be faced with this situation quite a lot over the next few years. The circumstances will be different each time. The pain will not be. People will come along and they will touch parts of you that you never even knew existed. You will learn that a naked body and a naked soul are two very different things. The first time someone touches the second, your entire worldview will change forever. Don’t be afraid. Please don’t be afraid. Even if things don’t go to plan, appreciate those people for the part they played in crafting the version of you that’s heading out to tackle the world.
They were the ones who held the keys – the ones that unlocked the pieces of you so essential for the rest of your life. Never be scared of letting the good in. It’s a risk we all must take.
Things will go dark several times. You’re going to be pushed, prodded, stretched and torn by everything that life is going to throw your way. You will think about suicide. Not in a way that ever finds you drawing a blade against your wrist, but in a way that robs you of any desire to fight for a future. These will be the most frightening moments of your life, but you will survive them. I can promise you that. It will be fucking worth it.
Some of the family members you hold closest to you are going to pass away. When you’re sitting alone in an empty house surrounded by floral arrangements and sympathy cards, you’re going to understand death for the first time. You’re going to know it in such a profound way that you’ll hold yourself and sob quietly for hours. The absence will bathe you and the grief will exhaust you, but it will also enlighten. It will teach you to hold tight to what you have, to fight for the privilege of each moment.
You’re about to graduate high school. This in itself will be one of the biggest changes your own life will ever undertake. It will be subtle at first, but a few years down the track you’re going to go to the other side of the world. You’ll be sipping cheap beer on the roof of a Mexican hostel and there’ll be this really warm breeze coming in from the ocean. You’ll smell the salt in the air, you’ll stand up, and you’ll look skywards. This is when you’ll suddenly recognize two things: just how far you’ve come, and just how far you still have left to go.
Maybe I felt the need to get these words out because I’m about to graduate from university and I know from experience that it’s all going to change again. Maybe this is an exercise in catharsis, to prepare myself once more. Change is, in its own paradoxical way, one of the few consistent things we can count on in life. I’ve got absolutely no clue what’s going to happen next, but I do know that it’s going to be interesting.
That’s about all we can hope for, isn’t it?
If you could write a letter to yourself five years ago, what would you say?
WORDS: HARRISON CARTWRIGHT