Dear younger version of me,
Look at you in that picture-sixteen years old, thinking you were cool. Maybe you were, but it’s not like anyone ever told you. You’ve got that semi-prep thing working-the sweater, a tie that was very 80’s (squared off rather than triangular at the bottom), baggy pants. Seemingly so sure of yourself. Life had so many twists and curveballs to throw your way.
First of all…you knew you wanted to go to college-but at that time, you had no idea where you were headed. You were thinking long and hard about getting away from that small town-maybe going to North Carolina State, maybe to the University of Maryland (but it was way too big, in your mind), or maybe to a place like Howard University, the “Black Harvard.” You would even apply to some of those schools, but you knew that money was going to be an issue, no matter where you wanted to go. Fortune smiled on you when a teacher with connections got you to apply to Washington College, where you would be accepted and receive a full scholarship. I didn’t really know much about the college, even though it was practically in my back yard—and when I got there, I was very nervous. But as time went on, you learned to fit in, and you grew up quite a bit. Not quite the know it all you seemed to be in that picture up there.
You graduated on time, after doing all the “typical” college things, and with decent grades to boot. They could’ve been better, but I let some personal issues put me off the track for a bit. I managed to get back on course to do the work that I needed to do. Then after graduation, a six-month agonizing wait to find a job. You had to learn to be patient—it may have been the first time you didn’t get where you wanted to go in a fashion quick enough to suit you. But that job did come; a local government job in your hometown. You liked it enough to stick with it for fourteen years.
During that time, a relationship you began in college would grow into something meaningful, even after the both of you graduated-only to see it end in the strangest of circumstances. It stung you deeply when she told you that she never wanted to speak to you again in a letter. You still don’t know what happened or what went wrong. And you haven’t heard from her since.
You also managed to get appointed to the local school board, even though you didn’t go through the “accepted” confirmation process. A few prominent citizens in the county wrote letters to the governor of Maryland on your behalf, and you were appointed. The five years you spent there, you grew a thicker skin, after being called out in the newspapers as a puppet of powerful men, and you served well-but it soured you on a second term. You would not want any parts of a bruising confirmation process in which you would be reminded of how you got the position in the first place.
A few years later, you would be approached by a superior in your local government job with a suggestion that you look into getting a position with the county government. The suggestion was presented to you in a newspaper ad-yes the superior brought the want ad to you and suggested it during the working day. I was not pleased with this, and made it my mission to get that job; I figured if I wasn’t wanted where I was, maybe I should go somewhere I would be accepted. Turned out you wouldn’t get that job; but a better one with the same organization would open up a few weeks later, and you took it. While it looked like a bad thing, being “newspapered” actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Along the way, you met a woman and started a new relationship. This one turned into the one you thought you always wanted, and so you got married. The marriage started out well, but like many marriages, the parties drifted apart. And as the years went by, I began to realize that I was hanging on to something that only one of us wanted to be a part of. And as the relationship inevitably broke apart, you began to question everything you thought you knew: about yourself, about relationships, about everything. The days were hard, the nights were long. There was loneliness and uncertainty. You were nothing like you seemed all those years ago, standing there with your sunglasses, trying to radiate a cool, calm, collected aura.
Now, as you approach a milestone year, you are rebuilding your confidence. You are giving yourself hope. You are becoming a part of communities you never thought you would exist all those years ago. Things are getting better by the day, and though there may be setbacks, your faith and belief are getting you by. I wonder what you would think if you knew all this was going to occur…would you have gone where you went? Would you try to change? I think you would have taken the same path, but with better knowledge that you had gained through the years, the results might have been different…but I wouldn’t change a thing. The things I learned getting from that picture to here have made me who I am. You would be proud of your achievements, and of what you have been able to accomplish, but you would also know that the journey isn’t over. There’s so much more learning and growing you can still do.
Keep being a lifelong learner,