Letters to Self

16 year old me
Me on 1/5/14. And not that I have to explain anything to you people but I was playing the Virgin Mary for a children’s ministry service. It’s called fashion, look it up.

In an AP Language & Composition class, a sixteen year old sits huddled at a desk, green pen and lined paper in hand. That morning, a teacher who cares about more than report cards and curriculum drops off five-year old letters in the mailbox. It’s a project she has them do, her students, to engage in conversation with themselves five years in the future. She has them document their hopes and their fears, what’s happening in their life, and what music and media they’re into. On a cold January day in Seattle, I sit down on my couch with a mug of chai in one hand, and a letter dated 1/7/14 in the other.

CW: mass/school shooting mentioned & discussed

A shooting at my rival high school happened the month before (at the same time I was in my AP Lang class, actually) and I can feel the horror and grief in my words as I scan the lines. It’s crazy how much a person can get desensitized in five years. I almost wonder if there will ever be an end to the gun violence epidemic we have in this country. I know there are no easy answers, and I hope I would never give the impression there were, but what I do know, like we all, is that something has to change. In five years I’ve graduated high school and (almost) college, and yet the trauma of mass shootings in our country has only worsened. Although I’ll always be in school (academia life) I’m grateful to not be a high school student anymore (for many reasons). I’m grateful to not have the strain of PTSD my friends do. But my biggest take away from this letter is not only how much things change – but also how much things stay the same.

My sister and her husband were planning their wedding, and now they have a child about to be one. I was stage managing my first ever musical, completely unaware of how much that experience would change my life. Also in the mail, I received a letter from a theater I used to work for. I had a coworker pass away in a car accident a few years ago and donated to his legacy fund. The letter from the theater was explaining how it has been put to use over the last few years. Had I never stage managed my high school show, I never would have met Richard, and would be a worse human for it.

I listened to The Band Perry, Brandon Heath, Britt Nicole (Gold was the soundtrack to my junior year), Green River Ordinance (which made me extra nostalgic for some reason), Lana Del Rey (does she still put out music?) among others. My favorite movies were People Like Us, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Into the Wild, and Charlie St. Cloud (which I feel like paints a pretty good picture of who I was as a junior in high school). If you asked me now, I would say Tenth Avenue North, Kevin Abstract, Lauren Daigle, and Trevor Hall top my most-played. I love horror movies now and Secret Life of Walter Mitty turned out to be my favorite movie (so far). It’s shocking to me how much my tastes have changed and stayed the same. In the wrestle to find ourselves, it’s interesting to see what portions of our identity stay constant and how much they change. Considering I’m going into cross-cultural psychology with a developmental lens, I find it particularly fascinating to explore my own shift from adolescence to emerging adulthood. I’m trying to figure out how to document my shift from emerging adulthood to adulthood.

Which brings me to the dreaded “What do you want to be when you grow up” question. I wanted to be either “A clinical psycologist (I’ve learned how to spell my major, everyone!!), a writer, an actor, or a minister.” Somehow, I’ll end up none of those things (probably. I sort of hope I don’t get my PhD and then back out but, as Justin Beiber has taught us, never say never).

I hung out with my friends Phil and Tara a lot my junior year (I literally talked to Phil on the phone for an hour this week so… same, same), as well as a whole lot of people I don’t talk to anymore. I’ve actually thought about my friendships a lot over the years, particularly around my sister’s wedding (if you didn’t pay attention this letter was right before that event). My sister had the majority of her childhood friends as bridesmaids. I’ve been blessed with incredible friendships over the years, though I’ve noticed mine are more like tidal waves – drowning me, then receding. I don’t know that I mind that per say but I do question why that is. As I face graduating in mere weeks (sweet Lord, have mercy!!) I can’t help but wonder – will I see any of my friends again? We’ll scatter to different corners of the nation and, obviously, our relationships will change, but will we still be… us? Three of us had dinner together this week and randomly talked about it. I think the thing I’ve learned with my tidal waves of friendships is there really is no point in lamenting lost connections. Celebrating, both in the present, and retroactively, the light and love you shared with now strangers is kind of beautiful. I’m grateful for everyone’s who’s made me, and excited to see who makes me in the land of tomorrow.

The best line, past me literally saved for the last. “PS: don’t get a job in chemistry, your chem teacher sucks and it’ll charm his bracelet I’m sure”

First of all “Charm his bracelet” is the saying of 2019 that I guarantee I never said but thought would be witty and make 22 year old me laugh and think I was cool (I’m old, not senile – I remember you pretty well, bud, and no amount of iconic sayings is going to change how I feel about you). Second of all, chemistry is the worst and I think, after five years and all these changes, that’s a belief I can still feel good about holding.

Bryce’s debut collection can be purchased here. 25% of the profits go to organizations like RAINN, 1in6, and End The Backlog. He writes short stories for free here.

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