Dear 18 year old Sam,
This is a letter I've thought about writing for a while, and now I'm awake with at 1:30 am in a foreign country with some insomnia. It's as good as a time as any.
What have I been up to since I saw you last? It's been a while, so there's a lot to say. Of course, you'll do it all of it as well, but it will be nice to give you a highlight real. Let you know what you have to look forward to, because if I remember correctly you're going through some rough times.
Do you even think you're going through a rough patch? From some of your journal entries you wrote, it seems that you are having a tough time dealing with Steph. And more importantly to me, you're about 5 years away from being diagnosed with adult ADHD. As it turns out, these things are connected. In the next couple of years you might see that you're not the only person your age that is dealing with the end of relationship badly, but from what I remember, your case comes from a combination of not knowing what that relationship was and having a huge obsession with her. The latter is due to ADHD, apparently. It will make sense in 5 years, but for now all I can say is that you have trouble with hyperfocus, something where you can focus too much on something and it causes you to lose focus on some finer details. It's really hard for me to explain in a few short sentences, and you'll have a therapist that can do it so much better in 5 years. It's something to look forward to.
On the one hand, I'm excited for you. In the next 5 years you'll gain most of you're wildest stories. You'll go to college for a year and half, you'll live in a tent for 3 months, and during these points you will see and do some crazy and wild things. Now, some of it comes from a place of being young and wild, some of it comes from not knowing better, but most of it will come from drugs. I'm writing to you and not my 20 year old self because you're still at a transitional place where you're trying to figure things out, if I'm remembering correctly right now in July you're probably still doing haying. So even in this year, you'll work at the chocolate factory for 2 weeks before getting fired, you'll work at the Pepsi plant for a few months before deciding to go to college because you don't like the Pepsi plant, shit will hit the fan with Steph a couple weeks after you turn 19, and then there's a whole crazy experience when you're 19. The 20 year old version of us is kind of a mess, I don't think he'll listen to me because he still thinks that he "just likes having fun" and it's not a problem. He's not happy with himself, between you and me.
In 5 years, you're going to hit a huge new milestone. There's the therapy, like I mentioned before, but what is more important I feel is that for 3 year you were able to come up with a plan, set a goal, and stick with it and it pays off in a huge way. You get to go to New Zealand! That is a two month period jammed with a ton of new, exciting things to do. Hitchhiking, farming, seeing a new culture and at the same time seeing America through new eyes. Again, how does one begin to talk about 2 months worth of experience in just a few words? You'll see it. The bigger take away is a feeling of accomplishment. You've worked hard with a goal in mind for 3 years, the idea that you'll build 3 years of experience and that will give you the experience to go anywhere you want. And it was something you didn't think you would be able to do, because of the small failures and aforementioned drug problem. And this feeling is something you build on. You'll get a small research job for 5 years in the mushroom field and while there begin to try and learn Russian. Which brings me to now. I just skipped over a lot of things, like all the small success you had. You get to be on an album cover for a very small cd release, you get into a music video. At work there's a lot of small things that are great. You get an office, you get your name on a small research piece, you help build and design a brochure, you do get to help with some breeding and you pay off all your debt which gives you more freedom to do things. There's failure in that time too, like you get into an accident and lose your car which forces you to take on a lot of debt and struggle. You'll live in a low cost apartment in a rough neighborhood and deal with a rotating cast of roommates, some of who are cool but others that are batshit insane. It's the nature of the place.There's a lot of frustration in trying to get out and meet and date women, but really everyone finds it hard. In your case, it's money, the place you're living and still learning all of it. I think it evens itself out, the success and failure, or at least you finally gain the maturity to see it that way.
I can sit here and talk about all the lessons learned like maturity, or responsibility, or what not, but a small truth is that I write this in an apartment in Moscow after 5 weeks of studying and to a degree partying. It's a part of being able to be free of responsibility for the first time in 5 years. I wouldn't out it in the same category as what we go through in our college years. There was a darker undertone to that that comes out more fully 21 to 23, where this is more of a celebration. For example, for the first time in 29 years, I haven't chewed on my fingers for 2 months. I've never seen my fingers look this smooth! And I'm writing to you because I want to put things in perspective. I want to start thinking about the goals I have over the next few years, how they line up with what I wanted in the past, and what I have to look forward to. I think the thing is, we are both looking forward and wondering what's next, but I get the added benefit of having 11 years of really cool adventures and experiences to look back on. You do have some fun things to think about from your time in school, but you want a life of adventure after the feeling of being in school. It's the reason why you've been planning a cross country trip in your mind for a while now. By the way that trip happens, but it doesn't happen the way you plan. That doesn't mean it's a failure though, but I don't think that's something we realize until much later. It's so easy to go into things with a certain expectation of how it will turn out, but it's what we take away from the whole experience is what ends up being important.
Wow, that's a wall of text. To wrap things up a little: so when you're 22 you come with a 10 plan, and the end of that plan is to start your own business. The mushroom farm ended up being longer than I expected, but now I want to begin to move forward with it. I feel like I have the experience, and being in Moscow gives me some opportunity. Oh boy, and the next 3 years will be a rollercoaster. Here's something funny too. For the last few years, I set goals in my professional life, because it was easy to set and reach. I'm feeling like setting some goals in my love life is something I can actually do now. I remember you spent the last few years setting goals like "By next year I'll get girlfriend" or "I'm going to lose my virginity!" You, my friend, strike me as being a little unsure of yourself. So it goes. Everybody around is unsure of themselves, and it only gets slightly better in 11 years, honestly. Hot damn though, I need to come with those actual goals though. Next time I write, I'll send them your way.