I have been enjoying reading the selection of letters offered on the blog "Letters of Note" for a couple of weeks now. Today's post, a letter from the lead singer of a rock group I have never heard of to his 16-year-old self threw me into a personal tail spin.
The idea of reading successful people writing letters to themselves to tell them that everything will get better is really not my idea of fun. I read some of the first volume of Dear Me in a book store a few months ago, and had no desire to look at it again.
When I think about the problems I faced as a 16 year old person, they are pretty much the same problems I face today.
Sure. I could write a letter to myself and tell myself that the skin and hair problems associated with hormonal changes are temporary. I could tell myself that the physical awkwardnesses connected with not fitting into the airbrushed standards of "beauty" are also temporary. I could even tell myself that having to spend the best years of my life trying to function within a society of hormone-dazed adolescents who have a false sense of freedom is temporary. Those problems are luxuries as far as I'm concerned.
Here's what I would tell my 16-year-old self:
Start playing a string instrument now. Don't wait until you are 30. While you are at it, take piano lessons.
Take your school work seriously. Your teachers are not doing you a favor by not expecting you to work to your potential.
Consider going to a real college rather than a trade school (Juilliard). You might find other paths in addition to music.
You are never going to be taller than 5 foot 1 and a quarter inches, but some day in the future someone will design jeans that will fit you.
Don't expect people to change, and don't count on the physical world remaining the same.
All the important buildings of your childhood (including your elementary school, your junior high school, and your public library) will be turned into other things. Going "home" will never feel like being "home," because the house you grew up in will be changed completely.
The musical maturity you want to have will come with time and experience. There are no short cuts.
Music gets better with time. Many of the pieces of music you love now will remain true friends for life.
By the time you are 50 people will stop thinking you are 16.
They may even take you seriously some day.