I couldn’t sleep, so I wrote a letter. When I was younger I always wondered what the future was going to be like- and when I got to that point how I’d feel. I’m at a point where the first big chapter is coming to a close, and a newer one is beginning but I couldn’t do it without this little (long) letter.
I dont’ apologize for the length because I meant every last word- I just hope you had a plan for your 17 year old self like i did some time ago and understand where I’m coming from with this one…
To my 17 year old self:
If you only knew how everything is going to turn out 10 years from this week, you would never believe me.
Here you are, about to embark on your future journey into adulthood, yearning to break free from your small hometown that you feel just isn’t enough for you star gazing self. Only one week to go and you are about to graduate from high school, which is something that you have been ready to do since you stepped foot into the last chapter of early education in 99’.
Granted you want to go to school for interior design, you know for a fact that your parents aren’t able to fit the bill for any scholarships to head to design school and your grades just weren’t up to par for a full ride. This is something that you are going to have to come to terms with, and take baby steps on the way to your dreams. Trust me the apartment you have 10 years from now will give off tiny hints of that interior design bug, and I’m almost positive 20 years from now you’ll be sitting pretty in a Manhattan penthouse you earned with all the custom designed furniture your little heart desires.
Listen, 17 year old self, I need you to know something that you’ve known for some time but have fought off with all your heart.
Music- is going to set you free in more ways than one. 10 years from now you’re still going to have your piano in your room even though you HATE practicing for hours on end. Even though you’re maturing, you will still hear the music the same way you did when you were 8, because you have a talent that God gave you to understand it in a complex way that some don’t. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Your first 2 years of college are going to be pretty easy mostly because you have to prove your parents wrong, by doing the right thing and getting those grades to graduate in 2 years.
Your first job, you’re going to be making $3.00 an hour as a waitress at a Mexican restaurant and learn that being a service to people is something that takes a lot of work and patience. In that job, you’ll learn that sometimes you put in more work than what you get paid for- you’ll fight with your boss about miscalculating your hours and giving you a short check.
Don’t worry because not too long after that, you’ll get a job as a clerk at the store right up the road, with decent hours and a better check. It’ll all work out so, just be easy.
As for your year long relationship? You guys will break up in about a month- because he feels that you need to have your independence considering you just graduated. I know this hurts but it wont be for long because you two have an undeniable bond that wont be broken for another 9 ½ years.
17 year old self, I need you to show up a little earlier on the last day of school, and when you do go straight to that bench where Joe used to sit and take 5 pictures with him- not just one. I need you to tell him again how much you’re going to miss seeing him at school, and that you can’t wait to see him win an Olympic medal for wrestling one day- then hear him laugh it off. That is your little brother, and he is one of your biggest fans who would always tell you he feels that you’re going to do big things.
When you see him the following weekend at that house party on Essex wearing that black hoodie, I need you to hug him just a little bit longer and make him laugh as much as possible so you’ll never forget what its like to see his eyes light up when he does. You’re going to lose him in an accident that will change your life, and rob you of running into him again 10 years from now. Although his life escaped, love comes back 10 fold and you will know he is watching over you, because that’s what little brothers do. That week is going to be so hard for you to let him go, and your going to feel like you can’t get through it- but your best friend comes back around and you’ll get through it together. You are not alone-
Your last semester of college is going to be the hardest, because your advisor was a dumbass and forgot to tell you about a few credits you were lacking which means you will have to do double classes while maintaining 2 jobs, and a relationship. Don’t worry, you’ll get through it and graduate with a 3.75 GPA and straight A’s on that last report card. CELEBRATE.
The dean of the college is going to show up to your graduation party because you made that much of an impression on her, your professors too- and they will all tell you about how much more work you have to do in your future and encourage you to reach for the stars.
17 year old self, in 2 years you’ll go to Europe for the whole month of June of 04- it’ll be the scariest thing you’ve ever done, and I need you to stop being a little asshole to your parents about having to be away from your boyfriend for a month. He’ll be there when you get back and what you are about to go see for the first time is going to change your LIFE. You’ll walk the cobblestone streets of Florence Italy, touch some of Michelangelo’s work, eat real Italian food, drink your first beer legally- walk through your first castle, dance like your life depends on it, and you’re not going to want to leave. I know your worried but I promise you, you won’t regret going. You’ll realize that there is so much more to the world than Arizona and your life is going to change.
When you get back you’ll be ready to fly the coop, mom and dad aren’t going to like the way you do it either mostly because your moving in with your high school sweetheart. Dad won’t talk to you for 3 months and your more than likely going to feel like your dead, which really sucks. The first time you go back home to visit, mom is going to be somewhat happy you’re there but dad? He’s going to ask why you came home to visit because you aren’t really welcome there. He’s hurt, and there’s nothing you can do to fix it but keep going with what you decided to do, which was move out with your boyfriend to go to school in Mesa.
I know this is scary, but this will pass and you’ll be fine.
In three and a half years, your life is going to take a turn, and you’re going to make a decision to go at life alone. This is probably the most selfish thing you have done to date but it’s the right thing to do. There’s going to be a ton of miscommunication and hurtful things said between you and him, but you both know that there is still some growing up to do in the mean time.
There’s going to be a point where you come home from work and there won’t be anything in the apartment but your bed, and your clothes, some food, and one last love letter. You’re going to be mad and think you made a mistake, but staying with him without being in love would have been even more selfish.
As always, you will come through it but before you do you’ll sit on the empty floor of that apartment and tell yourself you’ll never depend on a man to ever fill your place with necessities, or depend on anyone to ever take care of you- and you will stick to it for the next 6 years. You’ll have to quit school eventually and go to work full time in order to support yourself, and let me tell you leaving audio engineering school is going to be the biggest mistake you will make. As one door closes, another one opens- you catch yourself clinging to the radio as your only source of music still in your life when you have time for it. At one point you’ll send a message through myspace to the mid day chick you hear every day on the radio inquiring about an internship and she’ll email you back. After a few exchanges, she invites you out to a club downtown in which you’ll plan to go with a couple of your friends but they’ll bail on you last minute.
Go. You don’t need your friends to know that you want a shot to be in the industry, because this is the closest thing you’ll get to being close to music again considering you quit school to work full time.
The next 6 months are a huge learning experience for you, you’ll meet one of the most amazing friends you’ll have in the years to come, and she will be there for you 10 years from now. There will be one bump in the road with her but don’t worry it’ll pass fast.
Don’t be so quick to trust everyone, because you are a very different young lady. You’re not cut from the same cloth as the other interns and that’s ok! It’s always going to be hard to read people because they can’t read you but don’t take it personally its just the way you’ve always been. Don’t change how good you are to people, even though the seasoned vets in the game don’t buy that you really are a good person. Just be careful who you share that with because some aren’t worthy of your loyalty. You’ll learn how to regulate it as you get older.
Ooh this is important. In the February of your internship, go up to Friday Night Flavas and sit in on the dedication show for Dilla. You’re going to find yourself in there, and fall in love with music all over again. You’ll get to know 2 guys that will be the brothers have been wanting your whole life, and they will never do you wrong.
One of them is a poet that really needs to be a rapper but he’ll never admit it but is amazingly protective, and the other one is a phenomenal photographer with the biggest heart that will be there for you throughout your career. Keep them close to your heart and always answer the phone when they call regardless of what time of the day it is.
For the next 5 years, you’ll have 1 serious relationship that won’t work out because you’re still too busy growing and changing, and want a career more than anything. You’re high school sweetheart will still be in the picture, but only as a friend because you’ve both tried working it out to no avail. You love your job, he loves the old you that only comes out in hints and when you’re both in your hometown at the same time. The job isn’t easy, you will meet a lot of people and think that your time is “now” on more than one occasion but it’s not. You’re going to get hurt, backstabbed, and talked about- but let me tell you about all of the beautiful things that will happen.
You’ll take a day trip to New York one summer and fall in love with the city. You will go to concerts, and be in the mix backstage. In New York you’ll watch Nas perform with Damien Marley and feel like you’re on cloud nine. You’ll watch Busta Rhymes perform with Tribe-Lauryn Hill will look you right in your eyes while you rap Doo Wop as you’re in the press pit for Rock the Bells.
Your first time on the radio will be at 8 am on a Saturday- after you worked from 1-4 am, and it will be one of the best feelings you’ve ever had. You’ll get a job playing underground hip-hop on the radio and meet so many humble and hungry emcees along the way. One in particular will strike a chord with you because he’s a dreamer, and you are connected to his music for some reason more than others- keep believing in him, he is a good person and will continue to be a positive force in your life. There will be countless nights where you’ll say “This is really my life, I am so lucky” more than not. You’ll find your sense of humor as you get older, especially in this business because you have to stay positive. You HAVE to stay positive!!
Keep the utmost respect for everyone coming up around you because you never know when they’ll be in a position of power, plus being true to yourself is the greatest thing you’ve possessed since you were a kid. Network, respect those who show you love and who have paved the way for you. Drop the ones that disrespect you immediately, they’re just dead weight and were in your life for a season. Don’t invest more time in anyone else than they invest in you. There are times when you’ll apologize for your actions, and other times where you wont. That’s life, and it happens but you have to keep moving. Don’t get emotionally involved with your parallels because it’s not healthy, and sometimes they won’t look out for you the same way. In other words trust your instincts and intuition- it’s going to be the most amazing guide for the next ten years. Don’t ever take someone else’s opinion as your own on a person; because you might be formulating a wrong idea on someone you know nothing about. Find out for yourself who someone is, good or bad.
Again though, through all of this don’t ever lose sight of how good of a person you are. It’s a beautiful thing to posses, to have a big heart, be patient with some that don’t see it right away but know that your integrity is not worth the job. Don’t sell your s takeoul for the quick rise, and don’t take any shortcuts. Protect yourself and be proud of what you work for in the years to come because some will try to dumb it down, and take it away from you. You carry with you the determination for success without hurting anyone along the way or by being dishonest, which will be the right path- and the only way. You will make it.
I know your dying to know how your current relationship pans out 10 years from now, so you might want to have a seat for this next one. Here’s the kicker, that best friend who was there for you all these years will meet the love of his life. You’re eventually going to have to pick up the phone and tell him that you have to let him go in order to reach your full potential. It will be the scariest thing to do because he’s the only person that’s known you your whole life, but it will be ok. He will understand and you’ll feel renewed all over again. Your 17 year old self could never see yourself parting from him but he’s taken care of and that’s all that’s important. Be happy for him, because he’s happy for you-and you owe it to each other to give well wishes and blessings on your journey in the opposite direction.
I can’t give you much more detail other than you haven’t met Alicia Keys yet- which will be on your bucket list of people to interview. You’ll eventually see Jay-z at a party in NY and will freeze up like a polar bear’s toenails. Just let that one go you weren’t ready to talk to your favorite rapper yet. You will become a master of your craft though- and journalism will always be a part of your life in which you’ll never stop looking for amazing stories within people. The world heard you on the radio for 3 days, your name was associated with that publication you buy monthly, you do what you love every week-and you are still a work in progress. You have a hint of your dream job, and will get everything you deserve in due time.
Dear 17-year-old self, this is your 27 year old self and I’m here to tell you, you did everything you said you were going to do in 10 years and THEN some.
For now, enjoy your high school graduation and don’t wear the heels because they keep getting stuck in the grass. Tell Olvera to not walk fast and take in the moment, let bobby know that the cd is going skip and ruin our senior song- thank your mom and dad after graduation is done, and get to work.
I’ll check back in, in another 10 years to let you know what your 37 year old self has accomplished, how amazing the love of your life is ( and handsome), how the wedding was, what your kid is like, what color you got that Porsche in, and how many square feet your condo in Manhattan is-because it sure as hell is going to be amazing if your 17 year old self has anything to do with it…. I promise.