If Only I’d Known. Letters to Lost Years: 1987.1

Dear X,

What you need to know is that this is a phase, and all phases pass much faster than you think they will when you are stewing in them.

You are waking every morning to a sense of dread.  You go to school and have to walk down that hallway, which just seems to get longer and longer, like this:

When you get to the end, you find your own demons.

Right now, you think this is all there is – your whole world is at the end of that hallway.  And it seems endless.  A day in school, a lifetime.  The school year, eternity.  Each word that is said to you, good or bad, echoes in your mind, growing in strength.  Affecting how you think of yourself and what you believe.

If I tried, I couldn’t convince you that soon, you will hardly remember those teachers’ names.  The people who you wish so much would like you… well, they will have all but disappeared from your life.

But I probably can’t convince you of that any more than I can make you believe this is all leading you where you need to go, helping you grow into the person you’re meant to be.

Even the insecurities your developing – which will sometimes plague you – they’ll help you understand yourself and eventually give you some perspective on what matters and what doesn’t.  More importantly – on who matters.

If only you didn’t take it all, each moment, so seriously.  If only you didn’t think it was all somehow defining.

It’s only a phase…  Just when you think you’re stuck and things will never change, they do – that’s the nature of time.  Sometimes it gets better, and sometimes… well, it will get harder. But none of it will be permanent.

So, what do you do in the meantime?  Focus on little moments of cheer. (Remember that Frankie’s hot dog with dad? Like that.)  Take it easy on yourself.  Do the things that you enjoy, read a book, watch a show, take a class.  Keep searching for opportunities to make things better.  Don’t fight to fit in places or with people you know just aren’t for you.  Look for the friends who make you feel like you’re snuggled up under a fleece in front of a fire.

“This too shall pass.”  It does.  It becomes just memory, existing only in your mind.  And you can choose to acknowledge it… or not.

Every time you take a step down that hall, you’re one step closer to change.  One step closer to a new direction.  While you’re still there, relax… deep breaths.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote, “All that we see or seem is just a dream within a dream.”  When you wake up a dream fades and has only the power you give it.  And before you go to sleep, you have no idea what wonders might be in store for you.  So too, your days.

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Published in: on February 13, 2013 at 3:41 pm  Comments (2)  
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If Only I’d Known: Letters to Lost Years: 1983.1

Dear x:

You stay up late doing extra homework because you’re not the best in your class and you want to be.  I admire how hard you are willing to work, but I have to ask – why is it so important to you to be the best?  In a couple years, you will barely remember the names of most of the kids in your class.  No one will compare you to them.  I’d so very much like you to learn not to compare yourself.

It’s nice to win awards and earn first place, but when you set that as your goal, you are trying to achieve something over which you have no control.  It can lead to unnecessary disappointment.  Focus on what you have the power to change: yourself.  Reframe your goals and put your effort into being your best.

Who cares if you win – if you are better than others – if you haven’t given your all?   If you haven’t pushed yourself to do more than you thought you were capable, you haven’t really achieved much.  The satisfaction of an accomplishment comes from stretching yourself to overcome a challenge.

Likewise, if you have given all you can, practiced and tried, then who cares if there is someone out there better than you?  Let that provide a benchmark and a goal.  Don’t see it as a sign of your failure.  Everything is a learning opportunity.

Speaking of learning, don’t forget that’s why you are in school.  Not to prove anything, but to prepare yourself; to learn about yourself and understand your world.  What interests you?  What makes you excited?  What would you like to understand better?  Don’t forget that on those late nights when you’re doing extra credit just so you can move ahead.

From day 1, at the heart of every lesson in every school should be an explanation of why it is relevant to life – there is a reason for every fact we learn.  Not every class will be interesting or easy, but we can take from it something that will help us know our world a bit better and prepare us for the future.  If they aren’t teaching that to you, then think it through, ask yourself or the people around you why what you’re learning matters.

Sorry, I digress.  The point I want to make is simply this: try to enjoy and appreciate what you’re learning.  Figure out what interests you. Focus on your effort and your knowledge, on knowing more.

Being best in the class, little one, is less important than learning as much as you possibly can – improving yourself.  Don’t define yourself by where you stand in relation to others.  Define yourself by what you attempt to achieve compared to what you are capable of achieving.

Published in: on February 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm  Comments (2)  
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