Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

Don't be too smug

Okay, you're 18. You're post-high school. You have no idea what to do with your future. I'm not trying to sound smart at this point, fuck all the formalities. You're at that pretentious age. You have no idea. You don't know the rules of the game. Why do you think adults are so boring? That subtle smirk is the vague knowledge that you, the youth, are about to do the wrong thing.  They're not as giddy as they could be because they have to spend all day making sure you don't fuck up. I'm not saying you know nothing, but what makes adults adults is knowing roughly the extent of all that they don't know.

Education is unavoidable

You hated school, but you should still pursue it. I can't blame you. Education was more concerned with telling you what to do than why to do it. There were no ethics or meditations on morality in your lesson plans. You learned more about that from your peers, which is a shame. You learned memorization. You focused on people and events, and to a lesser extent, ideas. There's a reason creativity isn't championed in schools. People want to keep the boat steady to a certain degree, and a level of predictability benefits everyone. On the other hand, you have music and the arts. How do you create a structure for teaching and engaging non-structure? It's a bit of a paradox.

Continue reading. I'm the future you. It's the least you can do.

With school, I wish I could be there to tell you a few things. You already know you don't know what you want. That's everyone's dilemma. Some people know what they want to be, and for certain jobs, degrees are vital. For you, what else are you going to do? You either figure out how to get a scholarship or go to a cheap school to partake in some learning. What kind of learning? Learning what it is you don't like and don't want to do, and why. Cross those options off a list. At best, you may find something you like. You don't have to succeed or get a degree necessarily, but college catapults  you into the uncomfortable area where people are herded like pigs to slaughter and forced to become something they're not: usually meat. It's not a bad thing. You'll either learn to be happy as someone else's commodity, or have the eye-opening knowledge of how the world actually operates.

Education is unavoidable. Even if you drop out or opt out all together from a formal education, the day you stop desiring to learn new things you're dead. Living itself is an education. May as well put it toward an aim, something you want that you can see yourself doing almost indefinitely.

"To my future self"? The fuck is this shit

Think about this, dude. I'm a decade older than you. It's mind-blowing. And I'm writing this shitty English essay, not for school, for fun. What the fuck have we become?

Avoid the low road

Interpersonal relationships. Friendships. Sex. Getting along. Co-workers. Resumes. Quitting jobs. Always take the high road. Always take the route with class. That sounds boring but believe me, it'll save you some hardship. No tricks, no gimmicks. Generally, let people know what you want out of them. If it doesn't work, move on. There's no point in burning bridges unless you're sure you don't want to go back. Just make sure you've crossed it and can live with the consequences.

The alternative to this is an existence of awkward uncomfortableness. You'll run into people you've burned. What you can do will be limited. Regret will eat at your soul and stunt your ambition. Do you want that weighing you down wherever you walk? I bet you never heard of the heavy weight having grace puts on your shoulders. Because it does the opposite. Doing right takes away weight, giving you a spring to your step.

Likely a bad idea in practice

Distinguish fantasy and reality

Life isn't like the movies. Zany antics rarely land you the job or the girl. That's why they're fantasies and dreams, they're not rooted down in reality. Reality has certain negative things that make people anxious like violence and murder and fraud and theft and manipulation. All these things tend to make people anxious. You've got to butter people up and disarm their fears before you go around acting like Willy Wonka on steroids. It's a simple point.

Because you live in your head, everything makes logical sense to you. Your thoughts, ideas and intentions. It's all crystal clear. Yet, when you enter the real world, read: the world inhabited by other people, you've got to transform to some degree to cater to what's in their heads. Well, you don't have to, but if you want to not be a dick you do. But the mind is pervasive in its desire to be free of restraint, and etiquette, and in thought, and its reptilian brain wish to do everything it pleases. You can totally say and do as you please, all the time, it's called being alone. Hanging out with others, regrettably, always involves comprise. : (

Learn to let things go

If you're a thinker, you're constantly booming with ideas. Now, you probably think, "Most of my ideas suck." That's some pessimistic catchphrase. This one is just as valid: "Most of my ideas are great." It's only a matter of finding out what doesn't work in your ideas, throwing away that part, and upgrading the parts of the idea that work. Here's the problem: trying to do everything at once means you'll end up doing nothing every time. Find your best ideas, or the ideas most intriguing to you, and work to streamline those. Whatever most enables you to do what you love and be in control to the extent you want control, do that. More control might mean doing things yourself, though. With that reward of freedom it means you're also taking in all the risk and responsibility.

Don't get hung up on failures, either. Life leaves loose ends and no one owes you an explanation. Random events happen. Bad turns. The more you try to force your way into finding meaning for events or other people's actions, the more elusive it becomes. It's like becoming obsessed over a detail, over a misplaced brushstroke, to the point the bigger picture loses focus. People will come and go, same with opportunities. As a callback to earlier, don't get upset when you get burned, just or unjustly. If you're right they'll come around, or you're better off without them. If you're wrong, the realization can only click with you over time.

Left of center from attention

Being ignored isn't the worst thing. Would you rather be a wallflower or a public mess, begging for a grain of attention? Every decision has value. Forcing yourself into uncomfortable positions to get what you want might just mean, what you thought you wanted, you didn't really want all that much. Maybe in some situations, your instincts are right. Maybe, jumping 60 feet into a river isn't the right idea. Maybe not getting laid in high school is cooler than have two 10-year-old kids at 30. Maybe drugs and drinking are a short-term solution with diminishing results. Instincts and exercising caution, uncannily, can be good things. And as far as peer-pressure shit, no friend worth having won't give you a minute to think.

Sometimes trust adults

The crazy thing about adults is, they're not automatically wrong. Sure, most of them are out of touch with the youth. They don't realize what it's like to be in your shoes. That's because they're invested in the overarching reality of the way things really work. So when they throw all this "hard work, dedication, loving your fellow human" type corny stuff, there's a..kernel of truth to it. But as a kid, you're sheltered from a lot of the ideological complications and diplomacy. It's easy to be an idealist when you're young, you just say, "Fuck all that red tape. Let's get things done." Then you try and fail a few times.

Eventually you learn the rhythm. True change is hard, there's no easy cure, and the sun coming up is the only thing that's ever happened overnight. The big issue with being idealistic and young is that it's super easy to point out problems, but a much, much bigger task figuring out how to solve them. Yet as a young person, it's easy to get all dark and rebellious when you see people fighting over such nonsense, but you don't have the full scope or context of how things turned out that way. It's not enough to simply know the right path. You've got to know why people take the wrong one.

You're definitely the next James Dean
Don't be edgy

Being a knee-jerk reactionary is probably the same thing people did when they caused all the problems you see in the first place. If someone treats you like an asshole, and you're an asshole back, that's not rebellion, you're doing the exact same thing. You're perpetuating the problem. It would be more rebellious to not react, and politely inform someone that they're bad behavior is externalized, amplified self-hate. Which brings me to:

It's usually not about you

Very often people will lash out at anyone over what's going on inside them and it has nothing to do with you. It's the same for how we treat others. Because we lead our lives from our own perspective, does not mean life revolves around us. Forget about social anxiety and embarrassment. Everything's too busy caring about how they look and are perceived to give a damn what you're doing. All you have to worry about is that brief moment when it's your turn to speak that line you've been reciting all week.

Exercise some restraint

Balance defines life so it's good to exercise restraint even in things you enjoy. Being out on the fringe will give you great insight, but you risk becoming detached completely from reality and losing your mind. Draw a few lines, even with your obsessions. Whether it's work, school, guns, drugs, love, gardening, have a few parameters for everything. Except pornography. The end of this article can't come soon enough.

Final thoughts

Superheroes aren't real. They are non-sense pulp fiction, so realism doesn't matter. They're meant to inspire you. That's why you should know now that Batman is a disturbed sociopathic jerk off with no regard for the destruction of private property. So if you need to idolize some fantasy made up person it may as well be Superman. Because although perfection isn't possible, it's the best place to aim.

Sure, I could end this on a poignant note but I've already given you enough of a heads up. You get to decide and make up the rest, past me, for better or worse. In the end, knowledge works better if reasoned rather than dictated. I can only relay a point of view. At the end of it all, you pick who you want to be.

Also, skipping prom and graduation was the right thing to do. No regrets there.

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