“Life is divided into three terms. That which was, which is, and which will be. Let us learn from the past to profit by the present, and from the present, to live better in the future”.
Driving from a medical appointment this morning back home so that I could get ready for work, a very familiar song came on the radio. Brad Paisley’s “Letter to me”. This was especially familiar to me as most older country songs, as well as the subject matter. I am not an enormous fan of his. I have always liked this particular song because of the concept. Imagine for a minute if you will, the possibility of going back in time to speak with your 16 year old self. What would you say? What advice would you give? What wouldn’t you say? What would you keep to yourself? Or, would you say anything? Imagine if you had either a Delorean with Dr. Emmet Brown, or if you had the ability to send a letter upwards of 70 years into the past to your younger self. It is a very mind bending concept to me. My friend Owen Benjamin calls that sort of thing “mind gravy”. I have thought about it often, long and hard. I think I know exactly what I would say. And that would go a little something like this.
If you are reading this, don’t fret and don’t freak out. This is definitely me, therefore you, only the late 30’s version of you. Do not ponder too hard and do not try to make too much sense out of this. Just go with it. Trust me. You are going to want to hear what I have to say.
I know exactly where you are at. I have been there. Like, literally in every sense of the word. You’re sixteen. You have your license. You have your first job. You are still playing ball. The girls are starting to notice you. For all intents and purposes, you sort of have the world by the balls. At least, as much as a sixteen year old can. I don’t want to spoil any of that for you kid. I didn’t want anyone spoiling anything for me back then when I was, well, you.
I tell you what. I will make you a deal. I will do my dead level best to not interfere with your pathway, your life’s journey. I cannot make any promises. I may inadvertently shit the bed on one detail or another. Regardless, I promise to try. I promise you I will not give you any inside baseball that will alter the course of your life one way or another. This is YOUR life. You only get one. If Back to the Future has taught me anything after seeing it 400 times, it is that the consequences of interfering with time can have dire consequences. So, that having been said. Get a pen. You’re going to want to write this down.
Dude, I am going to spoil something and get it out of the way, right away. It may shock you. LIFE. WILL. NOT. BE. FAIR. It simply won’t. In any way shape or form. In fact, it is going to be quite the opposite.
You have a little less than one year before you are going to have to make the biggest and toughest decision of your life up to the point. It is going to twist you up inside, guaranteed. I cannot tell you what. Space time continuum and all. If I remember correctly, you already probably have an idea of what it might be. There are two paths, two roads diverged in a wood a la Robert Frost. Listen to me son, you need to listen to your heart, and go with your gut on this one. I already know what you will do, but I thought I would give you a little comfort withit. It will all be okay, and it will all turn out better than you think. Trust your gut, and be ready to part with what you already know you are going to have to live without anyway. All good things come to an end, and you will get past it if you allow yourself to. You have had a hell of ride in baseball, but scholarships just don’t come to many people.
You will find young love soon, very soon as a matter of fact. So much so, that you think it is the only love you will ever need to find. I am sorry, it isn’t. In fact, not even by a long shot. You will feel it very deeply, and you will feel the sting of heart break and betrayal even more so. It will not make sense to you at the time. It will be painful. The pain however my young friend, is temporary. And, it’s the pain, which reminds us that we are alive and that we feel.
Do you remember your (I guess our) favorite childhood book? Oh the places you’ll go. It will become almost prophetic. You will definitely have your share of ups and downs. You will feel like you are on top of a mountain one day, and dashed on the rocks below the next.
You will be happy, and sad, you’ll have successes and failures. You will have financial success, and ruin. You will have your highs, and lows. You will have the happiest of times with your family, and you will know strife that you never saw coming. You will forge incredible friendships that will last forever, and then once again, you will know deep betrayal. And Robert, you just wait until you become a father. That is one of the best parts of the whole story! At that point, you will know love like has never existed before. You will know the first unconditional love of your life, your first true best friend, the first star that has ever lit up your universe. You will be blessed in a manner that may never be duplicated. But every father has a mother in the equation too. And Rob, it brings me no pleasure to say this, but that will be the greatest betrayal of all. You will feel like the whole world is imploding. You will be at a point where you feel like all is lost.
Later, (I don’t want to spoil the good part, but here’s a hint) you will want to keep your eyes open and keep your antennae up. Take the trips you always wanted to, go to concerts, get outside, go fishing, and don’t forget your football games (hint hint)! Because no matter how dark things appear, the dawn is coming. Eventually, something so great is going to come along, it will make all of the darkness inside of you disappear. Something better than you ever even planned for. Remember, no matter how nervous you get during that time and how unsure of yourself you may be, just keep taking the next small step. I promise, that part of the story is really cool and definitely has a great ending.
I will end by saying this Rob, don’t ever have fear. Not even the darkest times are going to last. You will take your lumps, and you will get knocked down. If you are true to yourself, you won’t ever stay down. Dream big. Live your life like you won’t wake up tomorrow. Have confidence, hope, humility, and be humble. A strong man walks like line between hubris and humility. Never despair. Love hard, guard your trust, and always help someone in need. It sounds stupid, but it is better for you than them.
Always fight for what you believe in no matter the danger it puts you in. You will meet a man one day that tells you, “In the darkest of times, the stars shine brightest. They did for me, may they for you as well”. Then, you will know this letter is from you (me). Also, it is sound advice.
You have the whole world in front of you my friend. Time to start crushing! My last piece of advice is, when you find yourself in the direst and darkest places, remember.
The best is yet to come….
I will see you here in about 20 years. Won’t that be wild?