Monday, April 18, 2011

Jane in Orem

dear jane,

hey kiddo. {dad always called me kiddo. and i'm fond of the term.} it's me, just a ways down the road. a little older, a few more wrinkles, and a heck of a lot wiser. since twenty-five years ago, the great www. has been invented and has connected you to the most inspiring, beautiful world. you currently dwell in such a pond of happiness, that your mind just oozes with gratitude. besides that, you're well-traveled and your perspective on life has matured. you are the core of a beautiful family, a family that you spent your entire childhood dreaming of. but, before you reach these moments... there are a few things we need to re-visit...
the most important thing i want emphasize to my younger self-
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
~Shakespeare

and then, a few other things - i'll use a list, because, i love making lists.
1} do not perm your hair. do not perm your hair every three months for about six years.
2} do not wear make-up in fifth grade, wait till later. {i don't know why your mother allows you to do these things. i'm still baffled by this.}
3} do not start tanning in tanning beds when you're like 12! down the road, you will do so much traveling to exotic places, a tan will be a bonus. you do not need to look tan for boys to like you, now. or, to be noticed. you can be white & beautiful.
4} do not spend so much time, thinking about boys. or doing things to get noticed by boys. better yourself - nurture your love of the arts so you can fill your time with quality talents, enjoy the passion that you have for creating. against your own thoughts, your dad will support you in being artistic... you don't have to study business, math, etc. to please him. your bond with your dad is fiercely strong but quiet, allow it to be what you need. fill your time with these things, instead of boys. you do not need a boyfriend to feel secure. don't fall in love, live your life a little first, you don't need boys so young - not at 12, 14, 16.
mark twain said,
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

... as a young adult, you will join forces with the most amazing man, he dotes on you endlessly and loves you for all you are. you are a powerful team, he's truly god-sent. and you will explore, discover. it will be unreal - so, don't use your teenage years looking for love.
5} do keep dreaming. your entire childhood you are aware of your desires to dream, and this little seed in your soul that feels like you can conquer the world - nourish it - you were born a confident, positive force. noticing good before bad is just normal to you... you won't realize this till you're about sixteen. at this point, when you start to share your dreams out loud, your mom may start to shut you down. she's not a dreamer. she's very practical, and lacks the kind of confidence you have. this can only mean one thing, you will clash. don't let your flame diminish - in reality, you don't. but there will be challenging days. and delays. life will get better, sooner rather than later.
6} between the ages of 8-18, you may not even understand this word to it's fullest captivity, but stop coveting. be happy with what you have. even if it seems like very little. it's enough. yes, there are years where your family doesn't have a car, or tv, or the latest nintendo... or, what you covet the most - family. your parents and the situation you are in can. not. change. so, love those around you for how it is. life is going to give you so much beyond your wildest imaginations later, especially in the realm of family. realize now that the simplest things in life bring happiness, your soul will be happy. with this being said, find adults you can trust, who are honest - they are there, it just might take some searching for them.
7} with these first six, embrace everything about you. to thine own self be true. find the courage in your soul to express how you feel, speak up, about everything - your weaknesses, your personal struggles with religion, and let those around you know how you feel. do not feel small or insignificant because of the storms you've weathered at such a young age. embrace it all, and you will grow. you are a very emotional creature, channel those emotions to help you grow. use those emotions towards your creativity.
after these seven things, be yourself. i promise, you will be happy. the happiest you have ever been. you will be loved, so completely. you have so much potential, you just need to discover it a little sooner.
one day, you will have four children, and you will celebrate their individuality. in fact, you will over-encourage them to be authentic. making sure that they don't perm their hair, don't wear make-up in fifth grade, don't go tanning too young, or go seeking the attention of boys to help them feel secure. you will saturate them with your love, and you will fight for their passions, and what makes them happy. it will make your heart feel like it beats on the outside of your body, the love is so strong.
and, when you reach here, 2011, you'll have a new perspective of your parents. there will still be sorrows, but you will have a better understanding. and, 2011 rocks.
to thine own self be true.
xo,
Jane

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jayd in Austin

Hey, dude. It’s me. Well, actually, you. Just 25 years in the future. I know that sounds entirely creepy, but it’s true. You see, in the future (and this is one of the few things in the future that is truly mind-blowing) there’s this thing called a blog and you’ve (I’ve?) been asked to write something for it. Picture a fanzine but accessible through a computer and available to almost everyone in the world. It’s insane and you won’t be able to remember how you lived without it.

So, yeah, this is you in the future. Knowing how your brain works, right now you are (a) wondering what has become of you and (b) completely questioning the credibility of this. So, let’s just tackle those questions upfront. First off, the future is a bizarre place where you are shaving regularly (well, still only a couple of times per week to be perfectly honest) and having sex (and, even when that is only a couple of times per week, you aren’t complaining in the least). Yes, you actually marry. Yes, you actually have kids. And (shockingly, to be honest), yes, you actually like your job. The future is actually awesome. Look forward to it, but don’t rush it. The ride to get there is plenty awesome as well. Secondly, let’s address that credibility issue. Here you go – 25 years on, you would still take a bullet in defense of “Psychocandy” being the greatest album ever. Oh, yes. Now, I know what you are thinking – “I’m an old man clinging to the past! Argh!”. Don’t worry there are 25 great years of music ahead of you and you are still on top of it. But, there’s still just something about “Psychocandy” that nothing else has been able to trump.

So, I’m rambling a bit (dad’s pet peeve about your writing style to this day; don’t change it man, just keep rockin’ the overdose of commas and parentheticals; it’s how your brain works). Let’s get to the point here – it’s time for some advice. Yeah, I know that sounds all old and stodgy, but, dude, trust me, this is still you. The energy and drive are still there (I’m actually writing this on 3-hours of sleep in an airport heading to a big corporate presentation today harnessing immense game face; lack of energy never becomes a problem). Now, on with the old-guy-to-young-guy stuff. Cool?

1 – Follow the Prophet. Yes, there it is in the #1 slot. There were a lot of different things that I could say here (“live the Gospel”, “obey the commandments”, etc), but “follow the Prophet” is ultimately all you need to know. If there is nothing else you remember from this (and I’m sure you are 84% tuned out already), just remember: follow the prophet. Why? Well, here’s how it breaks down: If there is truly a living Prophet on the earth, sent from God, then that’s kind of a big deal, right? Yeah, completely. It’s a huge deal. So, attach yourself to that huge deal. Listen to what he has to say and follow it. Don’t sweat whether you understand everything or not yet, just follow it. If it’s from God, then who are you to overanalyze it, right? Totally. Focus more on making it happen than on understanding everything in full detail. The prophet will point you to everything else of worth – read the Book of Mormon, live clean, start a family, get a solid education, man up and be a provider, don’t be a deadbeat dad, etc. If it’s important for you to know, than trust me, you’ll hear it from him. So, we got this one? Follow the prophet. Trust me, you’ll never regret it.

(Reminder: Everything that follows below is far less important than what we just went through. So, should you ever get confused, just remember to follow the prophet).

2 – Be humble. Yes, it’s fun to act arrogant to push people’s buttons. It’s an easy one and I’m not sure you’ll ever get over the temptation. But, seriously, while you may jokingly act like that guy, don’t ever be that guy. Just don’t do it. Stay self-aware. The world is a big place and you are not the sun in the universe, so don’t ever think/exude that. Cool? OK. Seriously, be confident, be strong, be bold, etc, but don’t ever be arrogant. If you don’t know the difference yet, figure it out (hint: constant and complete gratitude is a secret ingredient here).

3 – Be mature. Let me make this super easy: Take serious things seriously. Notice, I didn’t say “don’t have fun”. I didn’t say “be serious”. I simply said “be mature”. Notice serious moments and respect them. This is huge.

4 – Be kind. This one is simple – just be cool to everybody. Done. If you are humble and mature, this will come naturally.

5 – Read like mad. I don’t necessarily care what you read as long as it’s clean and at least somewhat engaging to your brain cells. Just read. A lot. And read different things. A lot of your experience and understanding in life will come through reading. You simply can’t personally experience all there is to experience, so at least read about it. This will be a huge asset to you in connecting with other people.

6 – Travel. If you had any idea how much I’ve been able to travel, you’d be really tripped out. Look forward it. Embrace it. But, don’t ever carry a “the way we do things in my part of the world is superior” vibe (reminder: be humble). Keep your mind and eyes open. The world is a huge and beautiful place. Dude, I’m jealous of the places you are going to go. Be grateful for all of it.

7 – “Never lose that feeling”. Dude, nobody will ever know you like you know yourself. That may sound like a curse, but honestly it’s pretty awesome. Don’t do anything to disturb the natural vibe/signal/energy that you have (hint: following the prophet will keep your signal alive). Be grateful for some of the internal blessings that God and your family have passed down to you.

8 – Listen to the Spirit. I’m going to close on this because this is the only piece of advice that could possibly topple “follow the prophet” for the #1 slot (and it’s definitely advice that the prophet will give you repeatedly; follow it). Keep your mind and hands clean. This world has some ugliness and you are smart enough to recognize it. Avoid it at all costs. Be perfectly honest and able to look any person alive straight in the eyes and know that you are good. That’s a very powerful feeling (hint: this is the secret ingredient for confidence). Live by the Spirit. To quote one of your future Bishops: “Once you feel the Spirit, you never want to lose that”.

So, in conclusion, just know this – it may be 25 years in the future (and you may be sitting in an airport pre-dawn in a business suit as you write this), but you are still 100% you. Your face is more wrinkled, your hair is less plentiful (and less pigmented), your waistline is less trimmed-out, and your responsibilities are far heavier, but your joys are far exquisite. It’s a great time and you will love it. Live clean and get there.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Nat in Boston

Dear Nat—
Quit thinking you must have short hair because you have a long face. You will not look like a horse with long hair, I promise. Also. Wear shorts. You live in Arizona and it’s hot. You do not have unsightly legs, you’re just being ridiculous and clich├ęd with your needless body image issues.


So. Now that the trivial matters are out of the way.



Your dad always said he pitied those who never got past talking about the glory days of high school—because life is supposed to get better after high school. And I can promise you that it does. You were in a hurry to get out, and that was the right choice. Ten years after you graduate, you’re in a life more fabulous than you ever fathomed possible or thought you deserved.


Nat. To make a very long story short—you’re a rock star. You always have been, you simply let insecurity and fear own too much of your heart and your interactions with others. Quit that soon, because you’ll lose years of your life driving people away until you figure out how to both treat and communicate with them in the spirit of sensitivity and respect. You’re not a nasty person, but let’s be honest—sometimes you’re not a real joy to be around either. Never substitute being clever for being kind. Keep plugging away at self-improvement, you’ll get there. Once you turn the corner and figure out how to love yourself, the number of incredible people in your life will improve exponentially. With years of practice, you’ll transform yourself into a truly sensitive, thoughtful, loyal friend. This will become one of your defining characteristics and people respect this about you
.
You’ll learn resiliency as you encounter professional, social, romantic, and spiritual setbacks. You’ll learn to find the silver lining. Don’t focus so much on what’s wrong all the time; find the right and chase after it. In good news, there isn’t true regret, tragedy, or heartbreak looming on the horizon—just the continual heat felt from being in the refiner’s fire. Nat—it’s nothing you can’t handle, so don’t be so afraid. There’s no need to fear life; embrace it.


You’ll learn to love yourself by being completely alone. And alone doesn’t mean lonely dear girl—there’s a key difference. Alone means far from home, able to navigate life with a competence beyond your years. Instead of constantly checking your phone waiting for it to ring, you’ll gleefully check the increasing balance of your savings account and feel like you’ve really made it in the world. You’ll travel… a lot. Yes, because you want to, but also because you can. You learn to make things happen instead of waiting for them to happen to you.


The only true life regret you have at 28 is that you didn’t figure these things out earlier on. But it’s okay; you’d be a different person today if you’d figured it out sooner. And truth be told, you wouldn’t trade the today version of you for a different one. (You worked hard to smooth out all those rough edges!)



And that’s not just a silver lining, but a platinum one.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

KC in COS

Dear 24,

Here's a tip, selfishness is the worst quality in a partner. Figure that out now and ten years from now you won't have to go for a 90 minute run on Christmas because some jerk picked that day to let you know he was getting married.

And yes, it's exactly who you think it is. Shut it down today. There are going to be dozens of good men in your life in the next decade and I'm afraid you might miss something great because you are too stubborn to give up on this "project."

You are major league my dear, quit messing around in the minors.

-34

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ryan in CO

Dear me,

Listen pal, time is of the essence here so make sure you pay attention. Next month, right after your thirteenth birthday, that super cute girl Heather is going to ask to talk to you after church. She will tell you that she wrote you a letter but was too afraid to mail it. She will walk you to that secluded alley behind the parsonage. She will then stand in silence, playing with her slap bracelets. Listen to me. She wants you to kiss her. You need to kiss her. I know you will be distracted because you are playing spies with your friend Jason and you were not supposed to leave your post in the foyer. You will feel fidgety and keep checking your watch. Trust me, this is more important. No foreign enemies will invade through the front doors of the church. You will never become a spy. Ever. You will, however, continue to want to kiss girls. Kiss her. It'll change your life. Even if you don't kiss her, at the very least stop pretending like their is a phone hidden in your shoe. No one will ever buy that.
Love,
Ryan

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Brooke in SLC

Dear You-
You have a flair for the dramatic. You are fiercely loyal. You are the most self-deprecating person I know (and that's not a compliment). You are emotional. You love vocabulary and music and art and puns and showtunes. Nerd. You are overly-sensitive. You are obsessed with movies a bit too much. You're very opinionated. You heart naps. There's always a song in your head. You love many people and many people love you. Some people just don't like you. You live to distinguish yourself. You work hard, but should work harder. You play hard, but should play harder. You know what you want. You're driven, stubborn, gregarious, and blunt. A little too blunt. You have big dreams. You are restless and anxious. You love to laugh. A lot. You sometimes hate yourself. You have loved much and lost. You have hurt others and have been hurt by others. Your heart has been broken. Your wrist has been broken. You adore your family. You love the Lord.

And you know what? It's ok. All of it. It's just ok. Learn to embrace who you are. It's the hardest lesson for you for some reason and it's so cliche. So cliche. Who cares. Just be ok with you. You. All of you. It's ok.
-Me

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ulysses

Hey, Ulysses.

It’s me. Well, you actually, just older. Maybe a little wiser.

You’re 16 now, right? I want to lay a few things out that are about to going to happen to you. I’ll share with you a lot of what I went through and what I think about it now. I can’t spare you all the pain and sadness. I won’t lie. It was rough and pretty ugly. But, I do hope to save you from some of the avoidable things that made things worse.

Grab a diet coke. I know you like those.

You won’t find this out for another year, but Mom is sick. She has breast cancer. Believe me, I know how close you are. I know she’s your best friend. I know she’s the one who is the glue in the family. I know you get so much of your drive and passion and stubbornness from her.

She’ll be in and out of hospitals a lot. Chemo. Tests. Other stuff.

Mom and Dad won’t really tell you what is happening, so I’d encourage you to help them talk about it. Ask them to be honest. You’re mature enough to understand and, believe me, you’ll later appreciate the extra time you spend talking.

You’ll see Mom get more tired. More fragile. Be gentle with her and be helpful around the house. Don’t wait to be asked to do some of the little things. As it turns out, knowing how to iron and do you own laundry is actually useful. Shockingly, she won’t miss a minute of anything you do. She’ll bundle up for soccer games. She wouldn’t miss a concert for the world. You’ll do a saxophone solo your junior year that will move her to tears.

A little aside....It’s actually one hell of a performance you’ll give. You’ll turn other heads and will end up being invited to tour Europe with a band. You’ll play in London. Cut a record at Abbey Studio. Jam in the Tube. Through it all, you’ll actually learn how to play for real! Your senior year, you’ll earn best performance at the state music contest and the instructor will invite you to work with the guy from the college. You know the one. The best jazz saxophonist in Chicago. I ignored the invitation. I want to make sure you don’t. Music has always been important to you. I know how deeply it moves you. Don’t pass this up. Don’t be shy. Meet the guy. You never know.

Back to the story.

In your senior year, you’re going to be offered music and soccer scholarships. Unfortunately, the soccer opportunities are out of state. Mom is going to say something like this, “No matter what happens, I want you to go to school where you want. I want you to pursue your passion and be great.”. It is at this very moment that I’m sure you’ll realize, like I did, that something really bad is going on. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck finding out about this earlier than I did. But, this was the first time I knew Mom was really sick.

I stayed. I chose the local college. No, it wasn’t as good and I gave up both music and soccer so that I could be available for our younger brother and sister. But, I think this was the right decision. It has been rough at times, but I know they appreciated you being there.

You’re going to be called at work and told to get to the hospital as fast as you can. This is the last time you’ll see her. I know you’re hurt and I know you’re afraid to lose her, but be sweet. And not just to her but to Dad as well. Talk to your brother and sister and tell them it will be okay. I forgot to do that.

I won’t lie. The aftermath is horrible. Dad doesn’t have a clue about how to handle this and he’ll initially try to overcompensate.

Don’t beat him up over this one. But, talk to the guy. I know you’re no great conversationalist (neither is he, right?) and small talk is hard for you, but try to put yourself in his shoes. You lost your Mom but he lost his wife. He loved her too and since she was the glue in the family, he doesn’t know how or what to do.

Empathize. Ask if he’s okay. Take him to lunch.

I didn’t do any of this and I regret it. You'll find out that life is about connecting. And right now, you're really disconnected. Take the time and take the initiative to reconnect with him now.

Cause guess what?

He’s going to remarry next year.

And if you don’t step up to help rebuild the family too, you’re going to really, REALLY regret it. This may take maturity beyond your years and you may not see it coming. But, unless you take an active role in being part of the solution, your family will never, ever be the same. If you take anything away from this letter, let it be this. Take the time to heal.

As it turns out, she has three kids, too. Don’t get the wrong impression. She’s actually very nice and, generally, her kids are too. But, left to his own devices, Dad is going to rebuild his life as soon as possible. I think I understand why he did this. I still don’t agree with it. It wasn’t good for us, but it must have been something he had to do for him. I get that, I guess. And even though you’re just down the road, technically, you’re “away at school” and you’ll quickly find yourself left out. Of everything.

It took a long, long time for me to come to grips with all this. I think I could have avoided the worst of it had I only asked him to take more time to help us all heal. You’re going to be fine, one way or the other. You’re going to be a good husband and a good father. You’re going to be really good at what you do. I’d offer some hints like “my top 5 things to do”, but you know what? I’m only going to give you one...

“...the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle.”

You’ll appreciate the irony of that quote some day.
Good luck,

Ulysses