(I wrote this in June 2017, while I was on reservist)
How are you? It’s me, your oldest friend, who’s always been here for you, who knows you by heart. We haven’t had a lot of time for each other lately – and that’s okay, life is hard. You have a lot on your plate. I’m proud of you for achieving all that you have. You’ve grown into a decent young man, considering your messy past. And I truly believe that you’re only going to keep growing and learning and doing justice to this strange opportunity you’ve been given called life.
You’re 27 years old now. Decisively, resolutely a man, no longer a boy. Isn’t that quite something? So much of our memories are of our boyhood. School and video games and music and girls. And now here you are, married, a homeowner, solidly employed for a full four years and counting.
Remember how that felt? 2013. Your life had changed so radically. You were no longer the center of your own life – now you had a spouse to think about, too. You had bills to pay. You had to start doing chores and make bigger decisions. Next, you’re going to be buying insurance, planning holidays, organising house parties for friends and loved ones.
I need you to know that you need to take care of yourself. You are the most important person in your life. You are the agent through which everything else happens. You need to rest. You need to eat well. You need to exercise. Do these things with love and gratitude. It’s not an obligation, it’s not a chore. It’s a gift.
I also need you to know that it’s okay to let go of your fears, worries, anxieties. Many of those things were created by our younger self – and we both know that we’re better than that. Many of our fears are mere spectres, shadows. We’re stronger now. And smarter. And more sensitive. We can face these fears together, lean into them, walk through them, diffuse them. We can smile knowing that we have developed mastery over ourselves – at least, more than we had yesterday.
You know, the hard thing about life – which also makes it endlessly fascinating, so be thankful for it – is that there are no universal answers. Sometimes you need to hold your ground, sometimes you need to give in. Sometimes you need to be tender, sometimes you need to be aggressive. Sometimes you need to be open to everything, sometimes you need to focus on one thing. As you read, learn, reflect, act and reflect again… you’ll develop a better idea of when to do what. You’ll definitely make mistakes – and that’s okay! Most mistakes are survivable.
We’re going to die in the end. This too is a sort of blessing. We don’t have to take anything with us. Everything is temporary. We’re all just tracings in the sand – our greatest triumphs, our bitterest defeats, our crippling anxieties and our burning desires – everything is transient. All will pass. There’s a freedom in that. There’s a lightness in that. Let it in, and let it pass through you.
At some level, practically, everything is in your mind. We still don’t understand this very well as a species – perhaps our descendants will, and they’ll do something wondrous with that knowledge – but the point is that all of the change that you seek, or need, or want… it’s going to happen primarily in your mind. (There’s some complexity about how the body is intertwined with the mind, and yes I mean to include all of that too. Your body is not merely a vessel to carry your brain around; your body is partially a manifestation of your mind and vice versa.)
At this particular point in your life, it seems and feels like you’ve been holding on to a lot. Childhood trauma and anxieties are still trapped in your body, in the forms of tense muscles and shallow breathing. We’re going to work through all of that. Together.
You were worriedly asking at some point – when exactly does a boy become a man? You worried that you weren’t quite sizing up. You weren’t quite enough, you thought. You were always making mistakes (and you will continue to make them!).
But here you are. Your’e about to live into a part of your life that many wonderful people were never able to. You’re an adult now. Maybe at some point we can spend some time geeking out about precisely where that transition happened. But you know that such an event probably doesn’t even exist. We’ve been oscillating back and forth across both states for a few years now. That’s part of why there was so much tension and frustration – because we were embodying two states at once, not quite comfortable with either. It’s like a sort of second adolescence. And there was no explicit ritual to guide you through it. But here you are.
You’re in charge. And you deserve to be. Own it, with confidence. You’ve earned it, and you will need to continue to earn it. You can and you will.
Inevitably, you’re going to feel bogged down. You’re going to feel tired, overwhelmed, lost, confused. All of that is completely normal. It’s a part of life. It’s what makes it interesting. It’s the challenge. What you need to know is that you have what it takes. In a sense, you always did. It was always inside you. You just need to remember. You just need to center yourself. Breathe deeply, remind yourself of who you are. You know what you’re made of. You know what you’re made for. You know what matters, and what doesn’t. There is an entire universe inside of you, swirling and raging. You are nobody and you are everybody. You are nothing and you are everything. You have a good head and a good heart. I truly believe this. So get out there into the trenches of everyday life. We need you.
With kindness and compassion, with a big, strong, beating heart, with love,