Dear eleven-year-old Matthew,
I hope you’re enjoying your winter break. God, it’s almost Christmas again. It’s amazing how time flies. Speaking of time, this is you at twenty-one writing. Hi! Another decade is approaching and I wanted to take some time to reflect. Whenever I write, I imagine the audience I want to write for. Then I imagine who I was at that time and what I wanted to see or, more importantly, needed to see. So, here are a few things that might be good advice for you going forward in your next decade.
Cherish those close to you. The friends you make from now through the rest of school are going to be some of the best friends you’ll make. Some of them you’ll keep in touch with all the way from now until you graduate. Some of them you won’t, and that’s okay. Sometimes people are only supposed to be in our lives for a little while. Thank them and let them go. Remember them, but don’t worry about them. Same goes for family. I know Mom and Dad and Tia and Cassie are going to get on your nerves at time, but family will always have your back. They won’t always be here, so love them and hold them tight while you still can.
Learn how to actually communicate. Life gets so much easier when you tell people what you actually feel. That’s not an easy thing to do. You do make yourself vulnerable by doing that. I’m not going to lie, you will get hurt more than a few times in the next decade. You’ll have your hopes dashed, your heart broken, your fears realized. But, if you can be honest with your emotions and tell people what you want and what you need from them, you’ll at least be on the same page and be able to grow from that.
Listen when people give you advice. You’re so bad at this. You’re still not great at it, ten years later. Sometimes people give you advice even when you’re not asking for it, and that sucks. But, when you do ask for advice, just lay it all out there and be willing to hear feedback. Don’t just fight every impulse that comes your way. I know you don’t believe it, but sometimes adults actually know what they’re talking about. And sometimes, they don’t and your friends know better. And sometimes, only you know what’s right to do. But you’ll never know if you don’t listen.
Go to therapy. This is my piece of practical advice for you. Go to therapy much sooner than I did. Going to therapy doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. What it means is that you are a person with a brain and you want help figuring out how to make your brain work for you. Having a space where you can talk about your feelings, free from judgment and prejudice, and work through those emotions? It’s amazing. Seriously, go to therapy, probably some time in high school, freshman year college at the latest.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be yourself. You are the only one who knows what is right for you. You’re going to learn a lot of things about yourself that are big and scary. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. You’ve got a lot of growing up to do in the next ten years. And we’ve still got a lot of growing up to do in the next ten. Just keep holding tight to what you think is right for you to be doing and go forward.
People always call you smart, but I don’t know if that’s the best thing to say to kids, so I’ll say this instead. Matthew, you are kind. You are caring. You are creative and curious and always willing to lend a hand to a friend in need. You have a way about you that always knows how to cheer people up and you are there for those who need it most. Your love is strong and your mind is vast. More than being smart, this is who you are. This is the core of your being that’s going to stay strong over the next ten years. And hopefully, it’ll stay strong over the ten after that.
I’m not quite old enough to know if that’s the case. But hey, that means we get to find out together.
11th Birthday, 2009