I’ve often wished I could tell my younger self it will be OK. I grew up in a small town of 2,000 people in a county of about 12,000. My high school was 525 kids and my graduating class was 168.

I knew everyone and everyone knew me. If not personally, at least by name or reputation. Or both. I was a big kid and a freak to boot. The rumors that circulated about me were hilarious.

This open letter to a younger you hit home with me.

An Open Letter to My 15-Year-Old Self Just Before the Start of High School

Get a shitty job. Work in a grocery store, steering shrink-wrapped pallets of cola through cramped warehouses. Spend hours daintily arranging shelves that you will later see customers destroy in minutes. This will pay for your food court lunches and headphones, and also impress on you the nihilistic reality of most of the work out there. Get a good, long, nasty look at how impersonal and irrelevant your role on this earth can be if you’re not careful. Get your face right into it, right into the filthy shelves and bins of expired yogurt and the empty eyes of your manager and make a vow that whatever you do with your life you will always be moving away from all of that.

In High School I worked as:
– A desk clerk in a rec center
– A lifeguard
– A bagger at a Food Lion
– In my father’s print shop doing bindery work

All of these jobs taught me I needed to go to college, get a degree and learn to do something more interesting and valuable.

I still partly regret going to college. I don’t have loan debt hanging over my head. But I feel like I was a different person after college. And not a better person than when I started.

It got me a BS in Communications. Which may not have opened doors. It hasn’t closed any on HR checklists.

Get over any desire to be normal. The desire to be normal is its own perversion. Some people do achieve the appearance of normalness, which means they have successfully hidden or beaten down everything about them that is interesting or memorable in the hopes that they become impervious to criticism. Go the other way. The great joke here is that nobody has ever been normal.

There’s a reason I colored my tennis shoes with sharpies in high school. There’s a reason I worked on a literary magazine and hosted open mic nights. I knew there was no hope for me.

I was 6’5″ 250 lbs. The football coach salivated at my dimensions. But I have the aggression of a kitten and didn’t want to be a human tackling dummy.

I did almost play football once. As a kick and punter. Until I had to choose between soccer and football.

I was popular and cool in high school for about two days.

Then I chose soccer and left the football team behind. Same thing happened when I had a choice to quiet the basketball team and attend my very last open mic night as the Literary Magazine’s editor. Or ride the bench in a meaningless game for a coach that never much liked me.

I quit the team.

Be your own person. You’re much more interesting as you than you trying to be something you think someone else wants you to be.