Dear Young Me,
I hope you are well. It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, I forgot what a kid you are. You are eighteen. And even though you don’t know this, you are very, very stupid.
But that’s okay. Stupidity isn’t all bad.
You have big ideas. I’m tempted to call them dreams. But then, they aren’t dreams. Dreams are ambitious things. You aren’t ambitious. You start a project, then peter out.
You’ve been told you’re lazy, and slow, and not good at things you do. But I’m writing to say that you are good enough.
If you remember nothing else I write, please remember that last sentence.
You once had a girlfriend tell you—and in one case, even her mother told you—that you were going nowhere. You believed them.
You’re watching friends get accepted into good colleges. They’ve set compasses for their lives. They are doing well for themselves. Everyone seems to be succeeding. Except you.
Take heart, Young Me. Your life is going to be full of surprises. You don’t know it yet. You have no idea what’s around the corner. None. I get excited just thinking about it.
For example: you will meet a beautiful woman who knows how to make beautiful biscuits. You will marry, and you will be beautifully poor. So, so poor. And it will only make you happier.
Let’s see. What else? You’ll total a few trucks. You will have back surgery. And on one occasion, you will be lost in Toledo, Ohio, without a car.
And brace yourself for what I am about to say:
The Chicago Cubs will win a World Series.
I am dead serious about this. When this happens, you will shout at your television—even though you aren’t a Cubs fan. Even though your wife is asleep in the other room.
You will meet a dog named Ellie Mae, who will change you. She will look at you and see perfection. No human will ever see this in you. Because it’s not actually there. But this dog will give you the holy gift that only canines can give.
You will visit the mountain grave of your father after a lifetime of avoiding it. When you visit, you will see something incredible at the summit. Something fairy tales are made of. And it will feel like coming home. You will touch old scars and they won’t hurt.
And when you least expect it, you will become a writer.
It will be an overnight explosion in your brain. It will almost be like having a stroke—only in reverse. It will feel as though someone woke you from a nap. Your life will begin again.
It will happen when you’re an adult. You will be camping in Indian Pass, Florida—of all places. Something will come over you one afternoon. You will be looking at the Gulf of Mexico. Your bloodhound will be with you.
The stars will align, and you will feel it. And you will say to yourself: “Hey, maybe I’ll try writing.”
It will be that simple. That same night, you will write a few hundred words and they will change the direction of your life. For good.
Now, I don’t want to mislead you. Life won’t be easy. For starters, not everyone will like you. And people who reject you you will not feel sorry about it. Not everyone is nice. Some people are downright mean. Almost everyone is greedy.
But you will also meet magnificent people who ride this two-lane highway of life. People who have the capacity to love beyond their capacity.
And when you get older, you will feel less alone. And alive. And revitalized. And whole. And happy. And you’ll realize that the souls of your late loved ones are not dead, but hang like morning mist over a peanut field.
And when you reach the end of your life, Sean, I hope you remember this humble letter. It was written on a warm September night, years too late. And during your final moments, I hope you think to yourself:
“I am so lucky. So, so lucky. I wish I could go back and do it all over again.”
I envy you. You have no idea what awaits because you are, more or less, a complete bozo. I know this because I am also a complete bozo. And what a gift our ignorance is. Because if we knew what is in our future, we’d only screw it up.
Anyway, I have to go now. I love you. And one day, I promise, you will love yourself, too.
I’m not kidding about the Cubs.