My Story, A Letter Home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward, I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here almost two years ago following the inspiration given by that book.  After posting the importance of Your Story this week on Serendipity, I thought about this again. Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it up once more.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

An emotional life

Two years ago today, there was a tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It seems to be time we take another look at that tragedy as school shootings and deaths continue to happen.  This was written soon after the Sandy Hook shootings:

Taking desperate measures

Sometimes we are just at wit’s end.  The business of living gets so difficult that a feeling of exasperation washes over us.  What do you do in these moments?  What do you say?  What will relieve the stress?  Some people squeeze foam rubber toys.  Others go for long walks or get in their cars and go for long rides.  Some might lash out at friends or family although they may not mean to do so.

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous ...

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous edition of Rousseau’s works, after an original by Angelique Briceau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In moments of deep frustration I may have snapped at someone when I should not have.  I recall moments when I was not my best.  I usually feel quite bad if I raise my voice or say mean things.  People may not believe it at times when I am upset, but I really do try to keep my emotions in check.  What I say and how I react should be a measure of true feeling, and not some instant burst of emotion.  It is hard to live a carefully measured life.  It is an emotional world and many of us live an emotional life for which we have no good explanation.

I recently watched the fine PBS series called  “This emotional life.”  It examined the things that make us happy or sad, feel loved or unloved.  It also took a look at what makes us angry.  It showed how some react to certain situations with anger and even violence.  Interestingly, some people who exhibited antisocial behavior were not nurtured properly as children.  They may have gone without the touch of a parent or loved one with whom they could bond.  An interesting case of an adopted boy who had trouble accepting the love of his parents was also one where the boy lacked attention and personal care from others.  His orphanage had no time for that.  It took counselling and therapy to try to get him to love his parents back.  Being or feeling rejected even as young as infancy can have a terrible long-term effect.  In the final analysis however, we all want to love and be loved.  We all want to be happy, what ever that entails.  Although we can not really define it, we may spend a lifetime seeking happiness or fulfillment.

At some point most of us do stupid things out of anger that we regret.  We may or may not apologize for these transgressions.  We may or may not lose a friend over it.  We may or may not do something bordering on criminal.  Most of us will stop short of that, and that is what keeps society rolling along, even if on a somewhat wobbly tilt.  Then there are the few who have lost control.  Perhaps they did not get nurtured in the proper way.  Perhaps they did not benefit from good examples in their lives.  Perhaps there was a chemical imbalance in the brain that needed relief through modern pharmaceuticals.  Perhaps we just don’t know.

This week we were ripped apart by this: Charlotte Bacon, 6. Daniel Barden, 7. Olivia Engel, 6. Josephine Gay, 7. Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6. Dylan Hockley, 6. Madeleine F. Hsu, 6. Catherine V. Hubbard, 6. Chase Kowalski, 7. Jesse Lewis, 6. James Mattioli, 6. Grace McDonnell, 7. Emilie Parker, 6. Jack Pinto, 6. Noah Pozner, 6. Caroline Previdi, 6. Jessica Rekos, 6. Avielle Richman, 6. Benjamin Wheeler, 6. Allison N. Wyatt, 6.  These are grade school children and their ages.  They are innocents.  We do not know what they would have grown up to be.  Perhaps one would grow up to find a cure for a form of cancer.  Another may have taught children to be better people.  There could have been a girl here that would be leader of the free world.  There may even have been a boy who would have mediated a peace in the Middle East.  We will never know.  Why?  We may never know because there was a boy who grew up unhappy and troubled.  Something happened  that made his emotional life spin out of control.  Before taking his own life, he robbed many families of the most precious thing they had: their children.

The horrible nightmare that fell on a late fall day in a Connecticut school will lead to many hours of debate on gun control.  How did this troubled young man get these guns?  Who sold him the ammunition?  Were the proper background checks performed?  Did he have the proper permits?  Some will listen to the rhetoric and the subtle, or not so subtle, political undertones and wonder, “are we missing the point here?”  While the debate will rage on until it fades away in talk of  the pending fiscal cliff, the college Bowl season, or New Year’s Rocking Eve, will the actual issue ever be addressed?  What was it in this man’s life that drove him to such desperate measures?

While states and the federal government contemplate budget cuts that slash funds to mental health facilities and critical medical and psychological research, should we not ask where our priorities lie?  More police and stricter laws do not necessarily lead to less crime and punishment.  We need to be less concerned about the aftermath and more concerned about prevention.  I think back to This Emotional Life and the adopted child who was not given love as a child.  Although he was only a few years old when adopted, he needed a tremendous amount of help to get past the lack of love a child needs in early development.

When we consider providing for domestic tranquility, let us carefully consider what it will take to insure that as many children as possible grow up with the love and care that they need.  Yes, I know many will come forward to claim that it is not the role of any level of government to interfere with a family or tell people how to raise children, but is it better than to wait to punish those who commit horrendous acts upon our society?  It seems that when we formed this nation we also agreed to a social contract with government.  It is one well rooted in the philosophy of such thinkers as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  We made a deal with the government to protect and defend, to nurture and preserve our freedom.  One concept of government is to help provide a peaceful society that brings education and culture to all.  Another concept is to arm ourselves against one another and execute those who do not follow the laws.  Which society will you have?

Sending a letter home

Not so long ago in A Glance Backward. I wrote about The Letter Q and the letters it contained from authors who wrote to their younger selves.   Below is a letter I wrote and put up here over a year ago following the inspiration given by that book.  I must confess that it was much harder to read now than it was to write it then.  Following the inspiration from another blog, I offer it again.

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however.

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NEIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it gets better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich

Taking desperate measures

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous ...

English: A portrait engraved for a posthumous edition of Rousseau’s works, after an original by Angelique Briceau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes we are just at wit’s end.  The business of living gets so difficult that a feeling of exasperation washes over us.  What do you do in these moments?  What do you say?  What will relieve the stress?  Some people squeeze foam rubber toys.  Others go for long walks or get in their cars and go for long rides.  Some might lash out at friends or family although they may not mean to do so.

In moments of deep frustration I may have snapped at someone when I should not have.  I recall moments when I was not my best.  I usually feel quite bad if I raise my voice or say mean things.  People may not believe it at times when I am upset, but I really do try to keep my emotions in check.  What I say and how I react should be a measure of true feeling, and not some instant burst of emotion.  It is hard to live a carefully measured life.  It is an emotional world and many of us live an emotional life for which we have no good explanation.

I recently watched the fine PBS series called  “This emotional life.”  It examined the things that make us happy or sad, feel loved or unloved.  It also took a look at what makes us angry.  It showed how some react to certain situations with anger and even violence.  Interestingly, some people who exhibited antisocial behavior were not nurtured properly as children.  They may have gone without the touch of a parent or loved one with whom they could bond.  An interesting case of an adopted boy who had trouble accepting the love of his parents was also one where the boy lacked attention and personal care from others.  His orphanage had no time for that.  It took counselling and therapy to try to get him to love his parents back.  Being or feeling rejected even as young as infancy can have a terrible long-term effect.  In the final analysis however, we all want to love and be loved.  We all want to be happy, what ever that entails.  Although we can not really define it, we may spend a lifetime seeking happiness or fulfillment.

At some point most of us do stupid things out of anger that we regret.  We may or may not apologize for these transgressions.  We may or may not lose a friend over it.  We may or may not do something bordering on criminal.  Most of us will stop short of that, and that is what keeps society rolling along, even if on a somewhat wobbly tilt.  Then there are the few who have lost control.  Perhaps they did not get nurtured in the proper way.  Perhaps they did not benefit from good examples in their lives.  Perhaps there was a chemical imbalance in the brain that needed relief through modern pharmaceuticals.  Perhaps we just don’t know.

This week we were ripped apart by this: Charlotte Bacon, 6. Daniel Barden, 7. Olivia Engel, 6. Josephine Gay, 7. Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 6. Dylan Hockley, 6. Madeleine F. Hsu, 6. Catherine V. Hubbard, 6. Chase Kowalski, 7. Jesse Lewis, 6. James Mattioli, 6. Grace McDonnell, 7. Emilie Parker, 6. Jack Pinto, 6. Noah Pozner, 6. Caroline Previdi, 6. Jessica Rekos, 6. Avielle Richman, 6. Benjamin Wheeler, 6. Allison N. Wyatt, 6.  These are grade school children and their ages.  They are innocents.  We do not know what they would have grown up to be.  Perhaps one would grow up to find a cure for a form of cancer.  Another may have taught children to be better people.  There could have been a girl here that would be leader of the free world.  There may even have been a boy who would have mediated a peace in the Middle East.  We will never know.  Why?  We may never know because there was a boy who grew up unhappy and troubled.  Something happened  that made his emotional life spin out of control.  Before taking his own life, he robbed many families of the most precious thing they had: their children.

The horrible nightmare that fell on a late fall day in a Connecticut school will lead to many hours of debate on gun control.  How did this troubled young man get these guns?  Who sold him the ammunition?  Were the proper background checks performed?  Did he have the proper permits?  Some will listen to the rhetoric and the subtle, or not so subtle, political undertones and wonder, “are we missing the point here?”  While the debate will rage on until it fades away in talk of  the pending fiscal cliff, the college Bowl season, or New Year’s Rocking Eve, will the actual issue ever be addressed?  What was it in this man’s life that drove him to such desperate measures?

While states and the federal government contemplate budget cuts that slash funds to mental health facilities and critical medical and psychological research, should we not ask where our priorities lie?  More police and stricter laws do not necessarily lead to less crime and punishment.  We need to be less concerned about the aftermath and more concerned about prevention.  I think back to This Emotional Life and the adopted child who was not given love as a child.  Although he was only a few years old when adopted, he needed a tremendous amount of help to get past the lack of love a child needs in early development.

When we consider providing for domestic tranquility, let us carefully consider what it will take to insure that as many children as possible grow up with the love and care that they need.  Yes, I know many will come forward to claim that it is not the role of any level of government to interfere with a family or tell people how to raise children, but is it better than to wait to punish those who commit horrendous acts upon our society?  It seems that when we formed this nation we also agreed to a social contract with government.  It is one well rooted in the philosophy of such thinkers as John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.  We made a deal with the government to protect and defend, to nurture and preserve our freedom.  One concept of government is to help provide a peaceful society that brings education and culture to all.  Another concept is to arm ourselves against one another and execute those who do not follow the laws.  Which society will you have?

Letter to my younger self: Taking a tough look back

Dear Rich (at 14),

I know you are going through a tough time right now and you have learned to clam up about it.  You don’t know who to tell or even who to trust so you build walls of defense around your personal life.  These walls will not serve you well over time, I am sorry to tell you.  I can say it is good you did not run away, although you probably did not have the courage to do that anyway.  Your parents are going through an ugly time.  When they sold the house and got an apartment, you and your brother both knew it was a mistake.  The worst part about it is they made that mistake, they thought, for you.  It was to see you through grade school, but it should have ended when it was over.

The good thing about the apartment was the large bedroom and large walk-in closet.  It was an actual closet you could go hide in when necessary.  Too bad you only lived there for a year.  In this time you will take refuge frequently at a Boys Club where you have been a member and played sports, even though you were not real good at sports.  You are further away from the club now so school, a few friends and the Club will keep you away from home most of the time.

Soon you will learn that the first person interested in you sexually is another boy.  He is a year behind you in school, but not very much younger in reality.  He seemed quite experienced next to your naiveté.  The brief friendship will weigh heavily on your Catholic, guilt ridden conscience.  You will come to terms with this, although it will take you years to do so.  Many years later you will learn from your mother that this boy married (a girl) and still lives in the old neighborhood.  You will have moved to another area and stayed put for years.  I write to you from there and I can tell you that we found employment at the Club for a while and spent many years playing in that same park you found as a kid.  These will be good memories.

While you attend high school proms and college dances with girl friends, you will discover there are other boys who find you “cute.”  You never thought of yourself as cute or handsome so these attentions may seem a bit confusing.  When you get hit on by the younger brother of a close friend, you fear that the world will soon know all about it.  Don’t worry, no one knows.  At least, I think no one knows.  Other boys travel through your life, but none stay.  I think that is largely due to your stubborn attitude about most things.  I guess it is less so from where I am at now.

You will come to believe, perhaps rightly so, that your various groups of friends, and various lifestyles, will not mix well so you make sure they don’t mix at all.  This is a talent you picked up when you were very young.  Within these several groups, people only see one side of you and may believe that is all there is.  It is a defense mechanism on your part and I must tell you that in the long run, it is not beneficial.  You are solidly convinced right now that you are doing the right thing, but people will leave your life not knowing who you really are.  That will make you sad.  It is a hard time to be open, but I am convinced your friends will stand beside you, even as they do now.  Would you be surprised to learn that your closest friends after college and for many more years to come are mostly from your high school days, both from your class and a few that followed?  When you finally let them get to know you, they remain your close friends.  You will also make new and younger friends right about now.  They will be great friendships, perhaps because they really know you.  I guess I am not sure about that, however..

I would like to warn you that after high school and college you will make a lot of stupid mistakes.  You will invest times in meaningless friendships and all for the wrong reasons.  Dare I tell you of the beating you will take for who you are and the scars it will leave on your face and your spirit?  You were not going to have your class portrait taken for graduating from NIU because it was soon after, but they convince you to come.  Your face will be bruised and battered from what they would now call a hate crime.  The photographer tells you that you can reject all the pictures and you are convinced you will.  I am glad to tell you they come out OK.  We would call it photo shopping now but you will know that they did a great job of air brushing the pictures.  I still don’t know exactly what that process is but it worked well.  I do not think my words of caution will do much good since I know you so well.  Would you steer a better course if I showed you the way?  I fear not, since you remain stubborn.

Despite the mistakes and the down times that will follow, I need to tell you this one very important thing.  It gets better.  Those three words will almost be a cliché by the time you get to where I am now, but it is true.  You will find many around you who will say the same.  It is the only thing I can tell you that matters.  I can not alter your course, but I swear to you that it get better.  Please believe me.

Your future friend,

Rich