I had a sick day this week, but it was one of those lucky sick days where, though I was indeed feeling poorly from a cold, I wasn’t throwing up, or in terrible pain, and so got to appreciate the naughtiness of a midweek day off. I stayed in my jams and watched TV, read a book I’d been meaning to tackle, and generally lazed about, coughing intermittently.
It reminded me of a fabled day in my 13th year, a story I’ve surely told before. About ten minutes into the school day, the principal walks in, takes the teacher aside, then speaks to us. I guess a water main had broken in the basement and they were about to lose heat to the building and the upshot was that every student got to go home right then. I don’t remember exactly how I filled that day, except that it was unremarkable. I probably did just as I did earlier this week (watched TV, dozed off, etc.). Around that same time, my best pal Ryan skipped the elementary school track meet to go home and eat mini-donuts. We were truly living our dreams in those days.
On the night of my sick day, as I drifted off in a Nyquil haze, it struck me that I had spent a perfect bonus day, the kind I would have relished as a 13 year old, and I hoped that I fully appreciated it. Here’s hoping that advances in technology will allow me to communicate just that.
Dream: Get a message to 13 year old James.
Goal: Not achievable yet. Here’s the bummer about time travel: either it never gets invented, because no one from the past or future has come to visit us, or it has been invented, but we live in such a boring, shitty present day as compared to the glorious future, that nobody thinks to return to 2015 and let us know what’s up. That said, in case they do perfect the technology, I want to have crib notes for when I talk to a young James.
Plan: Write a letter to my 13 year old self.
Dear 13 Year Old James,
It feels weird now to qualify your existence based on your age, but our youth was all about that, wasn’t it? “Am I teenager yet? Am I cool yet? When does growing up happen?” 13 year old James, I’m sorry to tell you, but age matters less and less, at least to 31 year old me/you. As much as I’d like the directive, “Do this because I’m telling you to because I’m 31!” to hold weight, it just doesn’t. Nobody cares how old I am. The good side of this situation is that nobody cares how old I am, and so I have friends of all ages and it’s not weird.
Anyway, the main thrust of what I want to say to you is, it’s gonna work out. Whatever you’re worried about, stop worrying because I can’t remember it, this many years later, so how important could it have been? I think the luckiest people are those of us whose worries don’t transcend their circumstances. That is to say, you’re worried about grade 7 or 8 now because that’s where you are. You’ll worry about this job or that relationship because that’s where you’ll be at the time. But thankfully, you are/I am blessed enough that the worries seldom outlast their environment, so chill out. There will be peaks and valleys in the next 18 years, but nothing insurmountable. Enjoy the ride.
You’re not gonna get much fatter or skinnier. Okay, you’ll get a little fatter. Not a lot, though. Relax.
I know you’re SO WORRIED about being gay and having sex, but you’re gonna be and have both and it’s FUN!
You’re spending a lot of time cultivating tastes in music, movies, books, but that’s all going to change, as well it should. Get all you can out of those first two Spice Girls CDs because they’re done after this.
I know your parents bugged you about quitting piano and how you’re going to regret it someday, but so far you haven’t regretted it for a goddamn minute. You know what’s better than practicing piano? Almost everything.
Learn to cook now. It will take you too long to learn too many basics and you’ll eat too much garbage food. That’s why you’re going to get a little fatter.
Try to temper your teenage feelings of self-importance and guilt. You’re neither as good nor as bad as you think you are. You’re just a guy.
Spend time with your grandparents, and try to visit more. They miss you now, you’ll miss them later.
Keep your youthful fear of drugs. It keeps you off of them, and tempers your early alcohol consumption, so you are thankfully, blessedly, dependent on neither.
People are going to tell you, or you’re going to glean from pop culture, to savor these moments, these are the best years of your life. This is a fallacy because you can’t nostalgically appreciate the present time. And the good news is, there are better years to come, and better still for 31 year old you/me, I’m confident!
Memory helps us recall the circumstances of a particular time, but not always what we felt. Though nothing bad happens to you/me, I wouldn’t go back to our teenage years for a million bucks. The prevailing feeling was uncertainty. We bought into the idea of the significance of adolescence and took ourselves SO SERIOUSLY as a result. In so many ways, it’s just a deeper voice and more hair.
I don’t know more about life now than I did then, except to say that the view from here is pretty sweet. You don’t get everything you wanted, but you have everything you need.
An important programming note: Regular readers will notice I’ve fallen off regular updates terribly, and I don’t know yet what I’m going to do about it. I don’t want to stop blogging, but I don’t want to update for no reason either. Please be patient with me while I figure out the best way to keep Big City James going without repeating myself. I’m not going away, but I may not return as regularly as usual. It's all gonna work out. Stay tuned.