A Letter to Myself at 10 Years Old

Devin,

Not sure what you’re doing 16 years ago right now, but considering its 12:30 on a Tuesday you are probably sitting with Kelly and Angie up towards the front of Mrs. Harrelson’s classroom. You might even be making words using the letters from ‘Happy Easter’ or some other topically relevant phrase.

You’ll be in the spelling bee this year, and you’ll go out in the first round for misspelling ‘bonsai’, ‘bonzai’, which I (you) still think is kind of bullshit considering that the winner, your friend Robbie’s sister and a 7th grader, achieved victory by spelling ‘sherriff’.

You spend most of the summers camping and sight seeing with your parents or riding bikes and fishing right now. Travel itself, the process, independent of destination, will give you intense, almost trasncendental joy, which it kind of does already, I’m just not sure you would be able to articulate that. To this day you are transfixed by airplane windows and the instrument lights and hum of driving through the night. Your happiness will depend in no way on material goods or the availability of comfort. You will be drawn to birkenstocks and tevas, and you will never understand why people spend money on hotels with so many campgrounds around.

Keep reading, I know you will, but its the only form of escapism that always works. In times of doubt and dejection books will unfailingly offer reprieve, however temporarily, from reality. They will also do amazing things for your SAT verbal scores (but nothing for math I’m afraid). You have no idea what SATs are yet, or college really, the former is unimportant but will seem relevant for a brief time after high school. The latter, college, was a profoundly life-changing experience for you, or it will be. You won’t realize this until a solid two years after your tenure there.

As an undergrad you’ll find out that a world exists beyond the rural provincialism of childhood. It will be filled with interesting, talented, intelligent, creative, enjoyable people. And you will have to start letting go of things. It will be painful, all the more so because you can sense the space opening up between yourself and the comfortable, familiar world of your youth. People will begin to fade from your life, people you’ve sworn to stay in touch with. Go easy on yourself. They are falling away from you too.

So far you’ve avoided cynicism, dodged the complacency and existential lethargy that skulks around within the accelerating fabric of time and experience. You’ll find that idealism is treated almost as a disorder by ‘grown-ups’, as if an unshakeable belief in human kindness and empathetic altruism in this deeply flawed world is some kind of psychological disease.

Be kind. Be patient. Stay reckless. I wish I could tell you not to stress so much, unfortunately relaxation is still a work in progress, you haven’t quite mastered that yet.

And thats pretty much it for now.

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2 comments

  1. cassiebehle

    I absolutely love this. It’s sincere, yet at times, sardonically funny. Also, may I note that I have never seen the word “provincial” used outside of a Disney movie (particularly, Beauty and the Beast)? Kudos.

  2. devin howard

    haha, thank you, I figured ‘provincial’ was a little classier way of saying I grew up in a tiny, insular township (township because it wasn’t incorporated, really just part of the town). and I was so angry about that spelling bee too.

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