Well, here it is. I have been walking in these same bones for 25 years now…or they have been walking in me…
It feels like yesterday I was picking up a guitar for the first time, or sitting down on my uncle Ted’s vintage drum-set, or feeling a trampoline under my bare feet as the springs creaked, or making my Hulk Hogan figure suplex his next victim in the ring… The amount of memories I have acquired since then have already surpassed my brains ability to retain. I find it strange that there are things I have done, said and seen that I will never remember. However, upon that which I can recall, I want to reflect. The first quarter of my life has passed and many new leafs have turned. From this vantage point of a quarter century, I would like to send a letter to my 11-yeard-old self…
Mr. J. Miller.
The room at the top of the stairs, to the left.
I wish I could say I was writing you from a time when all is right in your world (14 years from the time you read this). Balance. Balance is key. To learn how to balance the good with the bad is a most important ability. To deny or embellish one is to not look reality square in the eye. You do not yet have much practice in this, but you will. Life-long friends will appear, as though out of thin air. Others will vanish as swiftly as the wind redirects. You will achieve great milestones and life goals, while failing and making mistakes along the way. The church you just started plugging into will help forge some of the very best and worst of memories. At times you will be wondering if life could get any better, while other times, you will be left simply wondering Why?… How?… For what purpose? Is this really my life?
I am writing you because I feel there may be a thing or two I have learned since your age, things that you might rather like to know. However, I am very cautious when tampering with history. I cannot say everything I would like in a letter, it is too risky in case it fell into the wrong hands or for fear that it would alter the future far too much (just ask Doctor Brown). Though there are mistakes I would implore you not to make, they are the lessons necessary for bringing you to who you are today…
Don’t be something you’re not. It only prolongs you becoming who you are meant to be. We all change, but you do not need to first be fake to get there.
Be honest with others by being honest with yourself.
Don’t buy into social media. Probably, anything with the word “media” in it is fine to not get too caught up in. I know, right now you are used to sharing moments, but that is going to change. Now, we mostly just share posts, and not ones you put in the ground (you will more than likely forget about this before you understand). You are even used to interacting with people face-to-face. One day you will accept talking at a 4″ screen of someones face, while the audio and visuals glitch due to poor connection, and consider that it suffices for human contact.
I find it strange that we all upload our own pictures of the same sunset instead of all going to see that same sunset together. As a human race, we have turned to live on and through the internet, we no longer live together. Community has become splintered. I would much rather spend a fun night with friends just watching the sun go down than scrolling over the same picture 10 times without the laughs and company of friends, like we all did, when we were young. I do believe in technology and the miracles it has brought us, but it comes at a cost if we abuse it (as with anything).
Everybody used to just work. I do not think we complained so much. I think finals and laundry just were. Maybe we complained to our family who lived with us in the house, but certainly not to hundreds of people. When did that become ok? Maybe the more important questions are how? or why? Social media gave everyone a soapbox. What I have found about the internet, however, is not that it gave us slanderous, argumentative, inconsiderate or covetous hearts…but that it simply magnified and brought to light such hearts which were always there.
If the presence of alcohol brings out the drunk inside, then it should be managed extremely well or, furthermore, removed. It may be best to treat social media the same way.
The more you live in the virtual world, the less you live in the real world. People can be whoever they want behind an augmented picture of themselves on the internet. Keep in mind my previous point about being something you are not.
Time moves quickly, but you have a lot of it. I know, 25 is an undefinable age beyond your scope, like some shapeless cloud lingering far above, out of view. Yet, believe it or not, people up here call me young. 14 years seems like a very long time from now, as it is longer than you have even been alive, and there certainly is plenty to do with 14 years of blessed life. But it will go quick if you do nothing with it.
Most people will overestimate what they can accomplish in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade.
– Anthony Robbins
Don’t give up. In a few years, you are going to set that trumpet down and pick up a guitar and drum sticks. You are going to fall in love with music like you have never known, especially when you learn about its magical, healing abilities. You will want to eat up every new sound you hear and figure out how to replicate it as your own, but you will slowly slip into a habit that will often cripple you for years on end: self-criticism. It is a double-edged sword and you must learn to wield it responsibly. It is the birthplace of self-doubt. It is a confusing thing that drives you to be better, yet simultaneously says you are not able, though you desperately want to be. You will see this struggle blossom mostly in your arts, but it has the potential to spread into every sphere of your life. The following are words that explain this inward-conflict and helped salvage my thoughts; words I strongly believe anyone with aspirations should hear:
Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
– Ira Glass
Sadly, you will not actually soak up Ira’s words until you are old enough to get behind a wheel. It will feel as though you read them much too late, and it would better serve someone younger than you (someone with time), but that would miss the beauty of the aforementioned quotes. They give no conditions of age. As long as you have the ability, the will, the desire…to produce, to create, to explore…quality will come and anything is truly possible.
You are not going to marry the first girl you like (or even date). You simply will not. Do not worry. I know this is a little ways off for you, but it will probably help if you went into it not assuming you will. I am working on another post about dating, you may have a hard time believing some of what you read, but just make sure you read it (please, for both of our sakes).
Don’t be afraid of your feelings. Unfortunately, some people or leaders around you will attempt to help you manage your complex feelings by trying to simplify them…by postulating the idea that they cannot be trusted or are innately self-centered, or at the very least, will lead you down a wrong path. Instead of facing them and coaching you through how to deal with them, coexist with them, learn from them and even know when to trust them…your feelings will slowly be quarantined over the next few years. This will lead to much confusion in your life, as (I can assure you) you still have feelings to this day. You were just never truly guided with what to do with them. You will even sense that something does not quite feel right about all this. Yet, since this is what you feel, you will write it off as wrong thinking, especially since going by your gut puts you in the minority in your current psuedo-buhddist community, much like, John Preston in the dictatorial film Equilibrium (2002). Except, he embraced his feelings and wielded them to his benefit. One day, you will too.
Jeremiah 17:9 does tell us “the heart is deceitful above all things, who can understand it?” Yet, it does not mean you should not try. It is also the very reason why you have surrounded yourself with people who care about and can look out for your soul. It does not mean stop living or trying to figure things out on your own, to clothe yourself in timidity. You should continue living boldly, and that does not mean keep sinning so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-2). It just means that you are intently walking forward trusting God will direct your steps, as you plan your way (Proverbs 16:9).
Enjoy your family. Though some interactions with family members will leave you annoyed or even flabbergasted, they have a lot of love for you. A lot. In the end, they are all you have, they are the family you have been given. They are your first friends. They were there before you got cool. Other people may not always understand you or your family, which is one reason why it is important to build strong relationships within your family. When you feel lost, family can be home. When you are scared and do not know who to talk to, family is there. When others forget or abandon you, family will take you back, every time. Let your family be the refuge it was made to be.
Your path is your path, and nobody else can walk it. Nobody else hears the song in your heart. Nobody else lifts their head from the pillow with your dreams. You cannot expect those who march to the beat of a different drum to understand, though they will think they do. Keep close those who push you deeper into the astonishing intricacies of your makeup, your talents, your gifts, your vision, and let it lead you to turn back and marvel more and more at the handiwork and creativity of your maker. A great teacher by the name of Morpheus put it:
“I can only show you the door. You’re the one who has to walk through it.”
You will know who he is in a year or two. Secondly, do not feel like you have to keep stride with those around you. This is an unnecessary pressure. You (and your caring mother) will soon realize you do not fit into a box so well, figuratively of course (it’s gonna be a little while before you break 100lbs soaking wet). Glean from the people who seek to equip you to make your own well-informed decisions and be wary of those who simply want you to think the way they think. Ask lots of questions.
He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever.
– Mark Twain
People will not always understand you (and vice versa). Once you realize that there will always be a cloud of people out there that will disagree with you or do things differently, life gets a little easier. After 25 years, I have developed an algorithm that may save you a dash of utter confusion and frustration at times. It consists of only to two principles:
- People are crazy
- People are everywhere
This may help shed some light on befuddling things you will encounter over the years. It is not much, but it is the best I can offer.
Break the mold. Find your pace. Call it home.
Just remember, no experience is a waste. Life is full of extravagant beauty and deep darkness. You will know both by the time you are my age. Yet, if there is one thing I can assure you of, it is that there is purpose in all your experiences. It is not promised that you always find out what it is, so be mindful and grateful for the times you do. You could never imagine some of the strings God will pull behind the scenes. His ways are not ours. In the midst of life’s mysteries, do not fall for the lie that the whole carnival has no purpose. The thought is a seed, if watered, grows up into thorns. God is a God of redemption. Hallelujah.
Finally: Have Fun. Fear God. In the end, you may acquire some scars along the way, but you are slowly, steadily making your way back home, to rest, to healing. You are a part of a bigger story, make it count. Just make sure you enjoy the ride. Besides, a few scars make for good stories.
I leave you with a invigorating quote a good friend of mine recently shared with me. May it liberate you the same way it did…well…you…
Everything we need, we already possess in Christ. This means that the what-if has been taken out of the equation. We can take absurd risks, push harder, go further, and leave it all on the field without fear–and have fun doing so. We can give with reckless abandon, because we no longer need to ensure a return of success, love, meaning, validation, and approval. We can invest freely and forcefully, because we have been freely and forcefully invested in.
– Tullian Tchividjian (One Way Love)
PS: Included is a copy of Gray’s Sports Almanac, 2000-2015. Use this to become rich and achieve world domination. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.
PPS: At 8am today, someone poisons the coffee. DO NOT drink the coffee. More instructions will follow.