a message to myself, twenty years ago

There was a ‘meme’ running around a while back to the effect of ‘what 5 things would you say to your 16 year old self?’, and there is always a track in my mind working of varietals of time travel and sending-messages-through-time ideas, but by 16 I was already pretty deep into things… ten years is not far enough back, I think, since the most meaningful things I could tell myself then are very very specific and thus only useful in an instant and then lost forever… I mean, if the first thing I told me was to find a creative writing program or to major in art, that might not effect things right away, since by this time ten years ago I’d only barely started college, but if the second thing was to not cheat on Amanda… that would change the entire course of my life, and might interfere with whatever other things I might have said… or just prolonged a relationship that the universe didn’t want to continue, or… well, really there’s no way to know. anything too specific is like micromanaging something you can’t see, and by 16, anything vague is very nearly too late…

Anyway, it’s been getting longer and more refined, but I was working on a message to send myself twenty years ago, when I’m 6, before I started having emotional issues, before counseling and anxiety attacks and bullying and before criminal charges and before I ever got pulled out or kicked out of school. And the following message is what I’ve got right now, if I could give myself one message, knowing beyond a doubt that it was from myself, somehow, at age six, this is it:

“You like to learn, and some teachers are interested in teaching you, but most only want to teach you to obey, to conform, and you have to do what it takes to keep them happy in order to get what you want later, so learn to relax, take an IQ test, and whenever you are attacked, whether it is physically, mentally, or emotionally, whether it is by peers or by authority figures, try to remember that they are probably just trying to make themselves feel better by hurting you, so don’t give them the satisfaction; instead ensure that they have to take responsibility for their actions, just as you take responsibility for yours.”

The italicized phrase is italicized so I can mention it here, not to give it emphasis in the message. If I were to communicate with my 16 year old self, I could send this same message, except for the italicized portion, and it would likely have the best and most predictable positive effect on me from that point forward, more than anything more specific could. Heck, I could send just the part before the italicized portion and change the face of my college career. But I’d prefer to send the whole thing to myself at or about age six.

I believe that a lot of the social and educational problems I’ve encountered in my life, and more that stem from those, are a result of a basic misunderstanding of school and teachers; until right around the time I was kicked out of ASU in 1998, I really thought that the purpose of going to school/college was to learn, that the purpose of taking a class was to learn its subject matter, and that the purpose of the class and the teacher was to teach me that subject matter. Sadly, as I now know, learning, especially learning the subject matter of each class, if it occurs, tends to be a tangential side effect of meeting the course requirements set by the professors – at the college level, anyway – and not generally included in the purpose of the class in the professors’ minds. But to get what you want, and to get the side-effect of learning, you must play along.

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.