A Letter to a Child Lost in Shame
I have to wonder sometimes, and ask myself if I am an awful person. I have always sincerely disliked myself and I fear that I repeat myself again and again when I try to do harm to myself. Most of my existence is a quiet act of defiance. I defy those who have hurt me. It's not my fault that I have been hurt by people who shouldn't have hurt me.
If I could talk, now, to my sixteen year old self, I'd have a lot to say to him. I'd tell him that we're free now and that things had worked out well. He would be confused by the fact that I don't live in Japan and exist in some kind of windswept tower but I'd have to explain to him that life doesn't always work that way. I'd like to tell him that things are so much better than we could really have hoped and that we should be thankful for the life we've been given.
I'd have to let him know, sadly, that a lot of the things which plague him, and which he thinks will go away, won't. Our parents will remain, as they were, violent, and we will maybe never be totally secure as long as they are alive. The struggle to outlive them or have them outlive you will not alter.
You will be liked though. I could tell him that he would be appreciated by a lot of people. I could tell him.You will be liked and you will have a lot of stories to tell. You will be vindicated by your decision to read everything under the sun and you will never lose the desire to keep reading. I would tell my sixteen year old self that he should probably get into learning guitar but I could maybe let him come to it in his own time. I would have to let him know that he would be prone to having his heart broken but that he would also be prone to breaking hearts fairly frequently, so everything would end up roughly evening out. I could tell him that he would soon gain a best friend who would then be supplanted by another best friend and then another after that. I think he'd really like to know that, and be justifiably pleased to hear it.
I would be really glad to tell him that, no matter what, ten years down the line, he's done a really good job and that he should appreciate himself a lot. I would tell him, with great relief, that he has not become tied down by a baby or made any big errors that could ruin everything. I would imagine he would like that a lot, just as I do.
I could maybe speak to my sixteen year old self in a park while he is reading most of the works of Hunter S Thompson and tell him that the wider world is going to totally betray his generation and that the easy certainties that the previous prosperous generations had will all be gone. I'll try not to make the chaotic world he will one day live in sound too exciting. I think my sixteen year old self would be confused by the fact that I have any money in the bank when I could use that money to fly to China or buy a pinstriped suit for no reason with it. I think he'd try to understand but still be a bit disapproving. I think I, too, am a little disapproving, but I'd have to explain that we need some sense of safety. Money gives us a sense of safety and we're never going to stop needing that.
I would, importantly, tell him to stay strong and - here I would pause and look into my own younger eyes - it all gets so much better. I would tell him to listen to the advice Jack Kerouac gave him when he was sixteen.
"“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.”
I would be able to tell him, truthfully, that he will have climbed a lot of mountains and that all the great peaks are approaching and you'll clamber over each one. It will be tight and you'll get through a lot of things by the skin of your teeth but you will get through. I wouldn't want to ruin the story of how close things will get but I would know he'd find out soon enough and that he wouldn't really benefit from being forewarned.
I would be able to tell him, truthfully and sincerely, that he would do very well. I would be able to tell him that he's not going to stop being a little damaged but that he does a lot of good and no more harm than your average person does. I would have to tell him that eventually he would learn to live with himself and that he should be proud of what he has done. I would tell him that he has done so well and that I am so impressed by him. I would tell him that one day he would even learn to like himself.