Letters Through Time #1 – To My Teenage Self

To myself, aged 16:

I'm not sure how this letter can ever reach you. In the present day, the technology for time travel doesn't exist, nor does it look like it'll ever be on the horizon in my lifetime. If by some strange miracle you get this letter, then I'd advise you to read it through to the end. At this point in time, I'm in my mid-20s. Having lived through so much, I wanted to give you some insight into your future struggles, anxieties, and ultimately, what you can do in your present to hopefully lead a better life than the one that I currently live. This isn't to say that the present isn't all doom and gloom, but there are things I wish I had done 10 years prior that could've made my life significantly easier today.

If this letter reaches you at the exact time frame that I think it will, you will likely be in your first relationship. I won't spoil how events turn out for you, as some things are better left experienced. However, I will say that despite the euphoria, the long nights that you spend with her talking about God knows whatever until 4AM, and all those other happy experiences, you will experience turmoil. Some of this is because of circumstances beyond your control and some of it is self-inflicted due to bad decisions. While I can't help you with the circumstances beyond your control, I can help you with avoiding bad decisions.

First and foremost, your girlfriend is her own person. Romantic affection is nice, as is the respite she provides you from the lunacy that you have to deal with on a daily basis. However, you should always remember that she doesn't exist solely to make you feel better. She has her own struggles, desires, aspirations, and such that you'd do well to remember. The dates at your house are nice, but don't be such a coward: visit her house every so often, ask her about how her latest personal project is turning out, develop a vested interest in her hobbies so that you have more to talk about, that kind of thing. Yes, she validates your obscure interests despite not fully understanding them, but don't you ever forget to do the same for her.

If you notice that there's something different from the status quo, be proactive and take the initiative to see what's going on. Don't just wallow in your comfort zone because she makes it easy for you to avoid accountability for your actions. If she's abnormally silent, if she's passive-aggressive, if she's ghosting you, or anything to that effect, be direct. I know how neurotic and anxious you get when you don't know what's going on, so tell her this up front. Even a simple message like “I can't read your mind, please tell me what's going on” could make all the difference.

With that said, there will also be times where you can't help her no matter how badly you want to. There will also be times where she just wants a moment to herself, and that's perfectly fine. You hate it when you get smothered with attention when all you want is a moment of silence, so it's only fair to give her that space when she needs it. Obviously, you have no way of knowing beforehand what she wants so don't be afraid to ask. Again, even a simple message like “Do you need some space?” can make all the difference.

No relationship is ever devoid of conflict, so there will undoubtedly be things I'm not covering that I'll only remember after I sent this letter out. With that in mind, this isn't meant to be an all-encompassing guide on how to maintain your relationship. It's easy to look back from a lens of hindsight and say “I should've done this,” but you have no way of knowing that in the heat of the moment. As a final bit of relationship advice, remember to give her the benefit of the doubt and never assume the worst has come to pass. So long as you maintain open, honest, and judgement-free methods of communication, you'll be fine.

Moving away from your relationship, let's focus on your school life. The only thing I can really say is to stop being so flippant with how you handle your future. School work is boring, it's tedious, and it's fucking stupid at times; we both know this. However, it's still something you need to do. Do you really want to be like me and graduate high school in September instead of June with all your friends? Do you really want to waste your evenings and weekends doing credit recovery courses for all the shit that you cut class for? Remember: every action has a consequence and while you can't immediately see that consequence coming, you'd do well to remember that your past actions will bite you square in the ass when you least expect it.

It's easy to cut classes that are boring for you, but you have resources at your disposal to make your life easier for a reason. Be proactive and speak to your Resource Room teacher, sign up for after school peer tutoring, do something other than cut those classes that you're struggling with. If your girlfriend has a firm grasp over something you're struggling with, again, ask her for help. Don't let your pride stop you from getting help that you need when you're secretly struggling. Similarly, don't be the toxic friend who encourages his other friends to cut class with him. As boring as it may sound, being a good lad now will go a long way later.

As the last bit of advice that I want to give you for your school life, please, for the love of God, develop some self-respect. Don't put on a facade of being “too good” for something while you're desperate for the validation of your peers. Surprising though it may seem, you'll make a lot of friends that will invariably stay in your life in one way or another while you're an adult. You're an eccentric person, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that; in fact, your eccentricities may very well be the reason why some people enjoy your company. However, there's a fine line between genuine appreciation of one's differences and outright malicious intent. Use your best judgement and go with your gut feeling. If you feel like some people are making fun of you behind your back, be direct about it and move on with your life. If you feel like something might be fun but incredibly inconvenient, go along with it anyway because the best memories are the ones that were made unintentionally.

Finally, I want to talk to you about your goals and aspirations. At this point in your life, you'll likely have a huge interest in the world of software engineering, Linux system administration, computer networking, and so much more. You might not realise it yet, but so much stuff that we now rely on in the “modern” world that I live in is fundamentally tied to the technology that you have a vested interest in today. Don't you ever give up on that passion; it can definitely take you places that you never would've imagined going in your wildest dreams. Talk to your guidance counsellor about it, learn about what options you have at that point in your life to see how you can have that passion realised, and look into colleges that can help you reach that fullest potential.

With all of that said, one of the most important lessons of adulthood is that life is messy and full of forks in the road. In my case, my own life circumstances prevented me from pursuing a career path in IT/comp-sci/whatever. However, one of the things that I learned as an adult is that there will always be new opportunities available for every fork in the road that you go down. Even if IT doesn't work out for you, there will still be other opportunities that you can pursue. The real key to success in any field that you wish to pursue is commitment and consistency; two things that we both know that you're currently lacking right now. As long as you put your mind to it along with your best foot forward, you'll be fine (or at least, I'd like to think that you will; I have no clue how your future will turn out after receiving this letter).

There's so much more that I want to advise you about, and yet I know for a fact that I would never be able to touch upon the minutiae of every little thing that comes to mind. Ultimately, I know that those are the big three things that are on your mind whether you're conscious of it or not. Perhaps this letter is an exercise in futility, because I already lived through everything you're currently going through and I know exactly how my life turned out. With that said, I'm hoping that if you ever come across this letter, you'll take what I'm telling you to heart and use it to make meaningful, lasting change in your life.

Your future is ultimately your own to make. I already chose my path in life, and I've got no choice but to keep on trudging forward. This isn't to say that I regret all the choices that I made, as there are experiences that I would never want to forget even if I had the chance to do things differently. With that said, I wouldn't have written this long-winded thesis if I didn't care about helping you avoid the same pitfalls that I fell into. I know your pride keeps you from reaching out for help when you need it, so I'm hoping that having a future self reach out to you will make the barrier break.

Sincerely, One of your possible futures from the year 2021.