My daughter Emily has asked some friends to write a letter to their teenage self. She asked me, too. She has a new book, Graceful, for teenage girls. Even though I was a teenage guy, her book would have helped me. Here's my letter.
Dear teenage me in the letter jacket with no letter,
Hi. You don't know me but I know you. Real quick, since you've got to get those groceries in the house:
The jacket is okay, but when you see the fluorescent orange socks at J.C. Penney, do NOT buy them. If you buy them, don't wear them. Same for the mock turtleneck and the dickey thing. If you do go crazy and have to wear them, do not wear them all at the same time. The black Converse high tops you get are okay, though--you can do those all your life.
Repeat after me, timeless not trendy . . . timeless not trendy.
And a bit more while Dad tinkers with the Instamatic . . .
You know how you feel guilty because you dilly-dally with your homework and read everything in your American history book except your assignment? Don't feel guilty. You're not lazy. You spend an extra hour on your homework--that's not lazy! You just like to follow your curiosity. Get used to it--you're going to do it the rest of your life. Satisfying curiosity is a good habit to get into.
If you're going to dream about being a major league ballplayer, please do something about it. Practice and try to get better. Don't just dream--this is a bad habit to get into.
Pick something to study in school. ANYthing. Just get going. You can change later. Whatever you pick will be better than never picking. Maybe your dad's right about that art stuff.
Learn to play golf now. You can enjoy it the rest of your life.
Keep picking the banjo. Seriously! You will not regret it. It may not seem cool but it can be whatever you make it later. If you just can't do it then pick another instrument.
Start journaling now. It will get you in the habit of paying attention to things and it will help you get better at writing to be understood. It might be forty-five years, but you'll be glad you did this.
When you meet that girl at the summer job after high school graduation in five years, don't break up with her twice for stupid reasons. She might not take you back the second time like she did me. Risky, buddy. Don't chance it.
Watch out for that first beer. There's a whole bunch more hiding behind it that will sneak up on you.
Consider starting a business.
Enjoy having hair on your head.
And that dog you're staring at? Don't get in his face when you snuggle him in that chair he sleeps in at the bottom of the stairs. If you do, wear a hockey mask. Trust me on this.
On second thought, ignore this letter. Tear it up and pitch it. The road you're on is the one marked out for you and it's a good one. No matter which way you go, it's a train wreck that God puts back together his way. I don't want you to miss a thing.