Dear Past Self, circa 2002,
If you're reading this, you must've put all that free time and angst to good use, and figured out how to warp space-time from all those Time-Life books you loved to read. This must mean that I, too, know how to bend space-time, unless I managed to forget all about that in the intervening years. This wouldn't surprise me at all, actually. The more you and I learn, the more absent-minded we seem to become.
Either way, I miss you.
Do you remember how you'd lay awake nights and wish there were some way for you to get in touch with me, so I could lay out the next couple of years of life for you? You'd dream of how I could pretend to be your big brother and give you all sorts of big-brotherly advice, and reassure you that life will turn out just fine. Well, I hate to break it to you, little brother, but it's not that simple.
It's 2010. I'm 23 years old, soon to be 24. You are in 2002, and you're 15, going on 16. The problems you face now are still my problems, because I am you and you are me, and while you'll work out some of these issues, there will still be others that can't be pushed aside so easily, because they're innate to you. It takes more than will to overcome that kind of problem.
Women, for instance. You're still getting over the first woman you ever loved. On the one hand, it's taught you hitherto unfathomed depths of angst and self-loathing, which is always good, because you'll wind up learning how to draw, write poems, run long distances, eat vegetarian, do well in school, cut your hair, dress better, take regular baths and the whole bit --- all to get her to notice you. You'll even wind up learning fluent German, just to impress her. This is a magical time in your life, strangely enough, and I'd give anything to be back there to go through it again.
But, for all your efforts at self-improvement, it won't work.
She doesn't even remember you. Remember her, and speak well of her always, because she won't be around forever. In August, you're going to receive the worst possible news you could ever imagine. Because you and I are prone to agonizing over uncertainties, I'll lay it to you straight: you'll go to class one morning, and while you're thumbing through your notebook, the teacher will come up to the front of the class and let everyone know that she killed herself a week before.
This is going to seriously fuck you up, so let the pain flow freely and d-o n-o-t hold it all in and pretend like everything's okay. You cannot possibly survive this on your own. Better to let it out now, than to break down later. And you will, trust me.
And she still won't remember you.
But get this: you'll meet a girl when you turn 21, and you two will wind up getting engaged. Please don't do that. Break up with her when she goes off to Sweden (yes, Sweden, how romantic!), and keep those happy memories, because after November of 2007, it's gonna suck bad for a while. Better to fight battles you can win, than lose, even graciously. She's gonna hate you for the things you say in the aftermath.
But don't worry about it.
Shortly after the break-up, you'll meet another. You and her will dart around the periphery of each other's lives, talking and then falling out of contact for months on end. Your lives will cross and split apart at intervals, but you'll always remember her and she'll remember you.
Before you read any further, get on Kazaa and download Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne'. Listen to it on repeat. Memorize the lyrics and sing them to yourself when no one's around. This, little brother, is how it feels to be me every time she comes around. Then download 'Stranger Song'. Learn this song up and down. Make up your own verses to it. This, little brother, is how it feels every time we hug each other goodbye. And she knows it, and everyone sees it.
In case you were wondering, I can't tell you how it'll end, because I don't know, and frankly, don't worry too much about it these days. You will never be with her, but in a way, you will be, because even though you'll hang out with her at open mic nights and gardening events, and wind up finishing your thesis program with her, you'll eventually figure out that it's worth more to be friends than to be lovers.
Lovers will come to you, if you just lay back and let things happen as they will. You are not a shameful larva of a human being; you are me.
That's about all I have time to say, but I promise to write more in the future, little brother.
You, seven years from now