Dear middle school me,
Let me spare you the suspense and come right out with it: fifteen years from now, you turn out to be pretty damn boring. Plain. Vanilla. Milquetoast. (But at least you know the definition of milquetoast now.) You're the type of guy to walk into the barbershop, not say a word the entire time, and leave with your usual crew cut. The kind of person whose pizza topping of choice is extra cheese. Hey, don't blame me. It's just the way things go. #sorrynotsorry (Oh, right. Hashtags are a thing now. Don't get too attached to Myspace.)
Here's what I know so far.
Your Elmer Fudd speech impediment never quite goes away, but you do get better at masking it. You embrace alternatives to saying the letter r. For example: "Rascally rabbit" becomes "bad bunny." And "road rage" becomes "Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe the Second Amendment isn't such a bad thing." That way, when you do slip up, instead of strangers thinking you emigrated from the unforgiving jungle of Boston, Massachusetts to the West Coast, they'll just think your parents pulled the wrong Jenga block and sent the weight of their secondhand accents toppling down on you.
Your college debt never quite disappears either. Spoiler alert: You double major in Communications and Creative Writing. Then you spend the next five years communicating to people why you can't creatively write a check that will exonerate you from your student loans. And anytime you vent about this to a coworker, they'll inevitably want to talk about their failing marriage or hapless kids in return. God, other people can be so self-important.
Hey, do you remember the one dream you've had since you were ten of publishing a book? Well, guess what!? It hasn't happened yet. That's right. Twenty-eight years and nothing to show for it except a handful of short stories (which would be great if anyone, anywhere went out and bought those) and a room full of rejection letters. You collect rejections like other people collect stamps and comic books and misdemeanors—consistently, sometimes even vainly, covetously.
Thing is: Life is tough, like opening a bottle of beer with your teeth, and then opening all your friends' bottles because now they know you can do that. That's why I'm telling you this. I want you to be prepared for all the things you cannot yet see.
But don't think your life will be all bad, because it won't.
You do move out of your parent's house eventually. And what a glorious month that is before you move right back in—a month filled with skunk-scented strangers who come and go from your apartment like tourists, and more Pabst Blue Ribbon in the fridge than food, and friends who commit the cardinal sin of signing the lease so you don't have to. #sorrynotsorry
You're not exactly the heartbreaker or dream maker or love taker that Pat Benatar sings about, but your first kiss does come, and no one can take that from you. Sure, it's a little later in life than you'd like. Sure, it happens in an elevator with no other witnesses to corroborate it. Sure, you had breakfast burrito breath and his lips were chapped and none of that mattered anyway, because both your tongues were further South than the Confederacy and—
Oh, right. And you can stop praying every night for God to fix you.
No, it doesn't just magically go away like chickenpox, or Blockbuster, or the family Golden Retriever that your parents said ran off to the farm when you came home from fourth grade one winter. (Buddy going to a farm in winter, when you've lived in the city your whole life? Really? God, you were gullible.)
It's here to stay, and so are you.
And it's true. By the time you're twenty-eight, you still won't have a book published. But you'll get into the habit of writing short stories every week and entering contests and ripping your hair out each time a deadline rolls around. And yet, you'll make friends. You'll have fun. And you might even find out that you're decent at it. (You still won't get anybody to buy them, though).
I hope you don't dread any of this. In fact, you should look forward to it all. Because you'll learn from it.
When you finally find your voice in the barbershop, sitting there in the chair with the black cape strangling you, and choose to get a mohawk instead of a crew cut, you'll learn just how misshapen your head is and never deviate again. #sorryquitesorry
When you gather the courage to order a pizza with anchovies and end up jamming seven of the eight slices down the garbage disposal while your microwave ramen is cooking, you'll learn that maybe extra cheese is a gouda-nuff topping for you. (You'll feel particularly clever for that pun, too.)
When you complain to a coworker about your problems and then they complain about theirs, you'll learn that you can't trust people not to make everything all about them.
Very soon, someone very close to you will claim that the meaning of life is a number between 41 and 43. Don't listen to them. That's not true.
Life is all about self-discovery. Even now, writing this, you'll discover something about yourself that you never knew. But I won't tell you what it is—I don't want to spoil the surprise.
Instead, how about we just agree to do this again in another fifteen years? My treat. I'm sure we'll have a lot to talk about then.
Because your parents are sick and tired of having you home all the time, eating all their food, so maybe it's time you tried moving out again.
Because a first kiss is nice, but a boyfriend would be even better. (Or at least a first kiss from someone, somewhere that doesn't take place in a cramped three-by-four-foot elevator.)
Because you still have to finish your book. You're only halfway done; there are plenty of pages left to go. So keep writing.
This is not the end of your story.