We have heard a lot about people writing letters to their younger selves. In this same talk in 2012, I read the letter that Michael J. Fox had written to himself. Not to be out-foxed, I thought I’d give it a try, so here goes.
You are 13 years old, and you are starting to find yourself as an individual. You had a decent run on your first 12 years of life, and you have great things ahead of you.
The next 5 years will do a lot to define the man who you will grow up to be. You will experience much success, and some failure, in the classroom and in athletics. Your stubbornness will turn out to be an asset, as you will find that persistence will outweigh natural abilities of the body and mind – something that will greatly help you in your adult life. The friends you had from your youth, and ones you make in high school, will continue to be your friends for the rest of your life and support you in your endeavors. Listen carefully to everything your teachers and coaches tell you and others, for their words carry wisdom and a wealth of lessons in life ahead of you.
You will fall in love in college and marry a wonderful woman the year after you graduate. Fast forward 12 years, and you will be down on love and out of a marriage, but you find, after a while, that you’re OK with things because your persistence for life kicks in and you further define yourself as an individual. You will find comfort, at times, in solitude, and realize that it is totally OK to see movies or dine out by yourself – this will help you later in your career as you hop around the country from one Home Depot store to the next.
But, do not despair, because you will soon meet a beautiful young woman, a single mom with 3 boys, who will fill the void of parenthood you had never experienced until then, and who will love the living heck out of you. And then, the amazing birth of your own son happens, which will truly change your life. You will hear a lot of people say they don’t want their children to ever grow up, but you will cherish each day in amazement of the accomplishments of all of the children in your house, and you will be looking forward to tomorrow to see what it has in store for each of them.
You will make more friends than you can count in your home town of Fort Thomas, KY, and living in the Bluegrass State will make you feel back home in Virginia because of the rolling hills and the genuine kindness that people show you every single day.
You will become a partner in a successful design firm, but two years later, an unthinkable thing happens – you are handed a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease after some problems with your speech, handwriting, and other fine motor skills.
The Parkinson’s Disease will take a toll on you, physically and emotionally, but you will prevail with your persistence and optimistic attitude. Daily struggles with buttons, opening milk jugs, or simply speaking fail in comparison to hardships of so many others, and yet you will constantly carry them with you, if nothing else, as a reminder of the person you are evolving into. You will refuse to idly sit by and deteriorate, finding yourself pushing through each day, regardless of what you, or others in your life, have planned.
And your wife, whom you can honestly say you love more after 14 years of marriage than you loved on day-one, will provide you with so much love and support of everything in your life. She will endure your outbursts of frustration from trying to communicate the thoughts that will get stuck in your head, to failed attempts at addressing an envelope. She will put up with these and so much more, with patience, grace and understanding that make you so grateful that she is in your life.
You will be 52 years old when you write this, and you are hopeful for another 52 years, although you do not expect the second half to be overly graceful on your ageing. You will get through those days as you have the first 52, through your conviction, your faith in a higher purpose, and your optimistic attitude.
I love you,
Your older self.
That letter to me was easier to write that I thought it would be. Upon reflection, I’m really glad I wrote that letter, because it has been a long time since I felt comfort in the kid I was at age 13. Being the youngest child of three, I remember always looking for attention and acceptance growing up, which often caused me to act out or cut up in class, leading to quite a few disciplinary actions … not the kind of attention I was looking for. If I could turn back the clock, I’d give my 13-year old self a hug, and tell me that no matter how gloomy things may seem to get, everything will be alright. Why? … because Optimism Always Prevails.
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