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

BUT NOW THE DAYS ARE SHORT

It is not just autumn, but also “the autumn of my years.” It is a time for reflection. Sometimes the past is the image you see.

SERENDIPITY

The Autumn of the Year, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

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When I was seventeen, it was a very good year…

As I turned seventeen, I had finished my Junior year in high school and was looking forward to Senior Year at a new school.  It was a bit scary, I admit.  No one wants to leave his mates behind and start again, but that was my fate, not my choice.  At least the new school was in the neighborhood, and I already knew a few students who were going there.  Although we did not admit at the time, the final year of high school put many new thoughts in our heads.

You may think sex or sexual orientation, but those thoughts had already arrived years earlier.  All the passing of a few years meant was these thoughts and curiosities intensified.  As you might imagine, a few of the boys and girls were a…

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A glance backward

What advice do we have for our younger friends?  What advice would we have for our younger selves?  Will our young friends listen?  Would we have listened?  While reading The Letter Q, I gave some thought to passing back advice.

Your younger self

Recently another blogger suggested a book to read this month that is a collection of letters that writers would send to their younger selves, if only they could.  Some letters are just a couple of pages.  Some are a bit longer.  Some of these writers may be well-known to you.  Others may be interesting just as a study of what an older person still sees of his younger life.  Although I am not yet far into the book, I can already tell that theses letter will touch me.  I can feel the emotion that I am reading.  I suspect that is because I am looking back over my shoulder at the same time.

If you were to write such a letter today, at the age you are now, to what age would you send it?  Would it be you at 12?  14?  18?  Older or younger?  When would you need your advice the most?  I guess it should be no surprise that many of these letters were sent to teenage years.  Perhaps it is when growing pains are felt the most.  Maybe it is when young love hurts the most.  It could be when you were terrorized by bullies, parents or supposed friends the most.  It might be at the time you needed advice the most, but you trusted no one to give it to you.  Would you even have taken it if it came from a more experienced you?

It seems pointless to me to send back a letter to a good time.  What would you say?  “I am glad you had such a great time at the picnic?”  No, that has just melted into a fond memory.  At your current age, you would probably want to send yourself advice to help see you through a problem.  You might want to send words of encouragement for times when you may have wanted to give up, or worse.  An early letter in the book is sent to a child alone and crying in a park.  She hopes to be murdered there because she thinks it can not possibly be worse than the hurt she is feeling.  Of course, you would go back and comfort that child, if only you could.

Few fall in love with their high school sweetheart, get married right out of high school and live happily ever after.  Even Cinderella had a tough life before her prince came along, and so it is with fairy tales.  Most of us may have thought that we were falling in love in high school, but we are really just falling and needed to get back up.  It does not look that way in the isolation of your teenage room, however.  What words would have helped you then?  You got little comfort from the one you longed for and had little or no desire to tell your parents, teachers or anyone more than 25 years old.  Do you now have the words for your younger self?  How would you help yourself through teenage angst?

If the thought of living without your “true love” was scary, I suppose life after school held a bit of panic for many as well.  “What will I do?  Will I make enough money?  Can I support a family?  Can I support myself?”  What answers can you send back to those questions?  Somewhere between 10 and 20 lie the years that produce emotional changes, doubts and questions.  Can you write the letter today that could have helped you then?

In looking through these letters, I think it is fair to say that people are writing back to what they see as a defining moment in their young lives.  While some may see that as 12, others are writing to 18.  Perhaps they only wish to send letters to a time that today’s knowledge could help.  Maybe we can not even find the words for certain moments in our young existence.  Some can only say that he or she will have to work through the problems with the knowledge from your older self that it gets better.

Awkward, yet emotionally charged, are those that struggled through their sexuality, the questioning, “Am I loveable?  Am I attractive?  Am I gay?”  We may spend many youthful hours looking in the mirror and asking questions.  We may spend many more avoiding the mirror because we do not like what we see.  Some years ago I spent a lot of time reassuring a handsome teenager (not me, btw) that he was indeed handsome.  I am not sure he believed me then, but he is much more self-assured now.  What could you tell yourself about those self doubts?  What would I tell myself?

This book was not just for those who “made it through the rain,” and came out the other side a stronger person.  It is also for those who are struggling now.  The Letter Q gives half of its royalties to The Trevor Project to help reach youth in crisis.  There are those that desperately need advice.  Let’s hope they are around to send word back to their younger selves that “it gets better.”

Next week: My letter to my younger self.

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

A glance backward

What advice do we have for our younger friends?  What advice would we have for our younger selves?  Will our young friends listen?  Would we have listened?  Last fall while reading The Letter Q I gave some thought to passing back advice.

Your younger self

Recently another blogger suggested a book to read this month that is a collection of letters that writers would send to their younger selves, if only they could.  Some letters are just a couple of pages.  Some are a bit longer.  Some of these writers may be well-known to you.  Others may be interesting just as a study of what an older person still sees of his younger life.  Although I am not yet far into the book, I can already tell that theses letter will touch me.  I can feel the emotion that I am reading.  I suspect that is because I am looking back over my shoulder at the same time.

If you were to write such a letter today, at the age you are now, to what age would you send it?  Would it be you at 12?  14?  18?  Older or younger?  When would you need your advice the most?  I guess it should be no surprise that many of these letters were sent to teenage years.  Perhaps it is when growing pains are felt the most.  Maybe it is when young love hurts the most.  It could be when you were terrorized by bullies, parents or supposed friends the most.  It might be at the time you needed advice the most, but you trusted no one to give it to you.  Would you even have taken it if it came from a more experienced you?

It seems pointless to me to send back a letter to a good time.  What would you say?  “I am glad you had such a great time at the picnic?”  No, that has just melted into a fond memory.  At your current age, you would probably want to send yourself advice to help see you through a problem.  You might want to send words of encouragement for times when you may have wanted to give up, or worse.  An early letter in the book is sent to a child alone and crying in a park.  She hopes to be murdered there because she thinks it can not possibly be worse than the hurt she is feeling.  Of course, you would go back and comfort that child, if only you could.

Few fall in love with their high school sweetheart, get married right out of high school and live happily ever after.  Even Cinderella had a tough life before her prince came along, and so it is with fairy tales.  Most of us may have thought that we were falling in love in high school, but we are really just falling and needed to get back up.  It does not look that way in the isolation of your teenage room, however.  What words would have helped you then?  You got little comfort from the one you longed for and had little or no desire to tell your parents, teachers or anyone more than 25 years old.  Do you now have the words for your younger self?  How would you help yourself through teenage angst?

If the thought of living without your “true love” was scary, I suppose life after school held a bit of panic for many as well.  “What will I do?  Will I make enough money?  Can I support a family?  Can I support myself?”  What answers can you send back to those questions?  Somewhere between 10 and 20 lie the years that produce emotional changes, doubts and questions.  Can you write the letter today that could have helped you then?

In looking through these letters, I think it is fair to say that people are writing back to what they see as a defining moment in their young lives.  While some may see that as 12, others are writing to 18.  Perhaps they only wish to send letters to a time that today’s knowledge could help.  Maybe we can not even find the words for certain moments in our young existence.  Some can only say that he or she will have to work through the problems with the knowledge from your older self that it gets better.

Awkward, yet emotionally charged, are those that struggled through their sexuality, the questioning, “Am I loveable?  Am I attractive?  Am I gay?”  We may spend many youthful hours looking in the mirror and asking questions.  We may spend many more avoiding the mirror because we do not like what we see.  Some years ago I spent a lot of time reassuring a handsome teenager (not me, btw) that he was indeed handsome.  I am not sure he believed me then, but he is much more self-assured now.  What could you tell yourself about those self doubts?  What would I tell myself?

This book was not just for those who “made it through the rain,” and came out the other side a stronger person.  It is also for those who are struggling now.  The Letter Q gives half of its royalties to The Trevor Project to help reach youth in crisis.  There are those that desperately need advice.  Let’s hope they are around to send word back to their younger selves that “it gets better.”

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

Your younger self

Recently another blogger suggested a book to read this month that is a collection of letters that writers would send to their younger selves, if only they could.  Some letters are just a couple of pages.  Some are a bit longer.  Some of these writers may be well-known to you.  Others may be interesting just as a study of what an older person still sees of his younger life.  Although I am not yet far into the book, I can already tell that theses letter will touch me.  I can feel the emotion that I am reading.  I suspect that is because I am looking back over my shoulder at the same time.

If you were to write such a letter today, at the age you are now, to what age would you send it?  Would it be you at 12?  14?  18?  Older or younger?  When would you need your advice the most?  I guess it should be no surprise that many of these letters were sent to teenage years.  Perhaps it is when growing pains are felt the most.  Maybe it is when young love hurts the most.  It could be when you were terrorized by bullies, parents or supposed friends the most.  It might be at the time you needed advice the most, but you trusted no one to give it to you.  Would you even have taken it if it came from a more experienced you?

It seems pointless to me to send back a letter to a good time.  What would you say?  “I am glad you had such a great time at the picnic?”  No, that has just melted into a fond memory.  At your current age, you would probably want to send yourself advice to help see you through a problem.  You might want to send words of encouragement for times when you may have wanted to give up, or worse.  An early letter in the book is sent to a child alone and crying in a park.  She hopes to be murdered there because she thinks it can not possibly be worse than the hurt she is feeling.  Of course, you would go back and comfort that child, if only you could.

Few fall in love with their high school sweetheart, get married right out of high school and live happily ever after.  Even Cinderella had a tough life before her prince came along, and so it is with fairy tales.  Most of us may have thought that we were falling in love in high school, but we are really just falling and needed to get back up.  It does not look that way in the isolation of your teenage room, however.  What words would have helped you then?  You got little comfort from the one you longed for and had little or no desire to tell your parents, teachers or anyone more than 25 years old.  Do you now have the words for your younger self?  How would you help yourself through teenage angst?

If the thought of living without your “true love” was scary, I suppose life after school held a bit of panic for many as well.  “What will I do?  Will I make enough money?  Can I support a family?  Can I support myself?”  What answers can you send back to those questions?  Somewhere between 10 and 20 lie the years that produce emotional changes, doubts and questions.  Can you write the letter today that could have helped you then?

In looking through these letters, I think it is fair to say that people are writing back to what they see as a defining moment in their young lives.  While some may see that as 12, others are writing to 18.  Perhaps they only wish to send letters to a time that today’s knowledge could help.  Maybe we can not even find the words for certain moments in our young existence.  Some can only say that he or she will have to work through the problems with the knowledge from your older self that it gets better.

Awkward, yet emotionally charged, are those that struggled through their sexuality, the questioning, “Am I loveable?  Am I attractive?  Am I gay?”  We may spend many youthful hours looking in the mirror and asking questions.  We may spend many more avoiding the mirror because we do not like what we see.  Some years ago I spent a lot of time reassuring a handsome teenager (not me, btw) that he was indeed handsome.  I am not sure he believed me then, but he is much more self-assured now.  What could you tell yourself about those self doubts?  What would I tell myself?

This book was not just for those who “made it through the rain,” and came out the other side a stronger person.  It is also for those who are struggling now.  The Letter Q gives half of its royalties to The Trevor Project to help reach youth in crisis.  There are those that desperately need advice.  Let’s hope they are around to send word back to their younger selves that “it gets better.”