Oh look at you, you magnificent tool. I don’t even know where to start. I don’t honestly remember if you were drunk or not when this picture was taken, but I’m going to pretend that you were. It’ll make it easier for me to accept that I was ever you, and that I ever let anyone snap a picture of me looking like THAT.
20 years down the road and truth be told, I barely recognize you. God, look at all that hair. I can’t believe I ever had that much hair. Hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s gone, destroyed in a Spring Break inspired bleaching incident that is better off NOT being spoken of. Don’t worry, though. Eventually you’ll be able to grow a full amount of facial hair as opposed to that patchy mess you’re currently shaving off every two weeks. Helps cover up the double-chins you’re eventually going to end up with after deciding that going out for beers and wings with the boys is a whole hell of a lot more fun than hitting the gym. It was more fun, but unfortunately fun has consequences.
Oh man, are you ever going to learn about consequences. Right now, in this picture, you’re pretty much the happiest you’ve ever been. Freshman year was good to you. You moved onto campus, made some friends, and believe it or not actually joined a fraternity. Yes, there was one willing to take you. I’m still as stunned as you are. For the first time in your life, you finally feel like you’ve got it all figured out.
Except for the women thing. You’re not going to be figuring that one out anytime soon. I will give you one piece of advice; DON’T run down a hill and try to catch a football by kicking off a wall and spinning around like you’re a skinny, white Jackie Chan. Newsflash; you’re not. Not only will you not impress that girl from your dorm walking by, you’ll end up with a twisted ankle, a bruise on your forehead, and a group of your newly-minted fraternity brothers also trying to pick themselves up off the ground. Difference being that they have to do it because they’re laughing their a$$e$ off at you. Sweet baby Jesus, two years of karate in middle school DO NOT make you a ninja. Jerk.
Dear Lord. Yeah, I know. Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy for me to look back and judge. Well trust me, buddy, it’s NOT easy to look back. You have no idea how many times I’ve wished I could hop into a DeLorean, hit 88.8 miles per hour, and come back to smack you upside the head. Afterwards I would take you by the ear somewhere private and give you the talking-to of your life. So many things I could say.
I could tell you to stop playing so much and hit the books. I seem to remember you being under the impression that just because you were an honors student in high school, you were going to be able to coast through college. WRONG. You were able to pull that crap in high school. That was BEFORE you discovered the joys of Natty Light, Keystone, and all-night debauchery. You’re about to have a rude awakening, and I’m not talking about the hangovers you’re going to enjoy from drinking all that cheap beer. It’s going to take your sorry tail SIX YEARS to get out of school. No, you’re not a doctor. You’re eventually going to end up switching to a sociology major just because you’re acing all the classes and you’re tired of being in school. You will then end up in a series of jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with that degree. Bravo.
I could tell you to give up on the idea that you’re just going to go to some sorority mixer and meet the love of your life. You aren’t. What you’re going to end up doing is crushing on a number of girls who will plant you in the Friend Zone where you belong. Oh, you’ll eventually have a girlfriend or two, but they’ll be so amazingly wrong for you that instead of looking back on it and laughing, you’ll sob. Fun fact: every relationship is give and take. I know you’ve got this deal where you think no one is ever going to give you the time of day unless you run in to rescue them like a white knight, but all you’re really doing is getting taken advantage of. If they only need you around to save them, what’s going to keep them around when you’re done doing just that? I honestly don’t think anyone ever intended to lead you on, you did a pretty good job of building things up in your mind yourself. Still, there you’ll be; alone and feeling like you’ll be that way the rest of your life.
I could tell you not to move halfway across the country, by yourself, away from your entire support system, just to prove to yourself you can make it on your own. Um, that didn’t work out so well. In fact, it exploded in your face fantastically. Hate to break it to you, but you’re still way too soft to do that. You’ve never been further than 3 hours away from Mom, Dad, Bro, or any of your friends. You’ll still not have developed the self-sufficiency to be able to make a move like that work. Unfortunately you’re going to learn that the hard way when you come home two and a half years later with your tail between your legs. On the bright side, at least Mom won’t charge you rent when you have to move back in to the guest room. I would.
I could tell you that the promise you made to yourself to never, ever work with money is going to be completely broken, because again, you didn’t take school seriously. By the way, I can also tell you that working with money doesn’t automatically mean that you end up with vast amounts of it. Unless those bastards from Publisher’s Clearing House decide to finally live up to their promises, you can kiss the dream of a life of leisure goodbye.
Finally, I could tell you that you still have the worst day of your life ahead of you. That on that day your firstborn child, the baby you will love like you never loved anything before, will be diagnosed autistic. I could tell you about the absolute despair you’ll feel when your wife calls you from the pediatrician with the news, how you’ll hate yourself for not being at the appointment with her to hold her when she had to hear this from a stranger all by herself. I could tell you about the sleepless nights, the tantrums, the way strangers look at him when you’re out and about. I could tell you about the frustration, the fear, and the absolute rage at the unfairness of it all you’ll feel nearly everyday. I could tell you how you blame yourself. You’re the one who had the sensory disorder. If it was passed down, it most likely came from you.
Yeah, I could tell you all those things.
But I wouldn’t.
Here’s what I would tell you. The buddies you had senior year of high school, the ones who then went on with you to college? The friends you made this year, the ones from the dorm and your fraternity brothers? You’ll still be friends 20 years later. You’ll be in their weddings, be there for when they start having kids. Weeks, months, years will go by between the times you’ll get to see a good number of them, but it will be like no time passed when you finally get the chance to get together. Even the ones living in another country. You’re going to have the kind of friendships with these people you’ve always dreamed of.
I wouldn’t warn you against Texas. Disastrous as it was, you came away from the experience knowing yourself a whole hell of a lot better than you do now, and you’ll finally appreciate just how important to you that support system you’ve always taken for granted really is. You’ll even have a few marvelous people from the Lone Star state to add to it.
I would tell you not to worry about women. This problem is going to solve itself, but only at the point where you finally get comfortable with the idea that being single isn’t so bad. Then you’ll break your glasses, buy a new pair from a girl who has a smile brighter than any sunrise, take three months to work up the courage to go talk to her (by making up a story that your glasses need adjusting), ask her out for lunch, and get shot down only for her to turn around and agree to go out to dinner with you. You won’t find love, pal. Love will find you.
And I would tell you that love leads to the greatest gift you’re ever going to receive in this lifetime: two wondrous, beautiful, obstinate, hilarious, balls of fire that truly make every day an adventure. Oh God, you have NO idea what you’re in for. These two may shave years off your life, but they’ll make the ones you’ll be left with the best you’ll ever know. Oh, and the boy diagnosed autistic? He’s going to teach you what love really means. He’s going to give you more joy than you could ever imagine, all the while showing you that what could have been is nowhere near as important as what is.
That’s the whole point, really. You never know where you’re going to go, where life is going to take you. Still, you’re going to somehow miraculously end up exactly where you’ve always wanted to be, with lifetime friends, insanely awesome children, and an angel whose unquestioning love of you is going to leave you scratching your head trying to figure it out everyday (don’t try). You’re just going to get there by the most messed up, unexpected, obstructive route possible. Don’t look at me. You’re the one driving.
Well, I would tell you all this, but I don’t have that DeLorean, which is really disappointing because I would very much like to still smack you upside the head (honestly, when you’re on Spring Break and get sent across the street to get the hair dye just because you’re the most sober, only to come back with a box that has Farah Fawcett on it that looks like it had been on the shelf since 1974, just don’t). This means that the only people I can pass these lessons onto are my boys. Of course, Cray-Cray and Roundbottom are just like you, so much so already that I can see there’s going to have to be a lot of smacks upside the heads. They won’t believe a word I say. No, they’ll have to figure it out for themselves just like you did, and it’s going to hurt them, just like it did you. That’s okay, though, because trying to keep them from making the same mistakes you did isn’t really the point. Showing them that the mistakes they make won’t necessarily keep them from where they’re wanting to end up is the point. You eventually made it. They will, too. After all, they’ve got me and their mom. I may not be able to be there for you, but I’ll always be there for them.
So you see, kid, I would tell you that in the end, everything’s going to turn out okay. You’ve got the friends, the love, the kids, and everything else that really matters. Except for the hair. That one I’m never going to forgive you for.