Good morning from the shallow end of middle age, kid.
Indulge me a moment and listen to an older, more experienced (though not wiser) version of yourself. I can’t spare you the heartache and pain you’re going to walk through, but I can prepare you for it. Give you a few little things to think about and maybe help you live better as things unravel.
Start writing for yourself. Now. Quit telling yourself “someday I will” and make someday now. You’ve got a knack for it and it will bless those around you if you’ll gather up your testicles and put yourself out there. Don’t let the drudgery of scientific writing be a wet blanket over the smoldering fires of your inner creativity. Those people don’t know everything. It turns out they don’t know much at all. And you’re better than that.
Love your wife. Not with emotion but with action. It’s a verb, Jason. Don’t take her for granted. Savor each moment. Take the initiative and fall in love with her all over again right now. Write her letters. Poetry. Open your heart again and let it spill out and fill her up. Be brave. Your marriage is going to fail, and I really don’t think any of this will save it. I do believe from the bottom of my heart that it will change you both for the better though. Love her. Love her. Love her. Show her that she is as beautiful as you have always thought she was and build her up. The sun will set on this, but you will have so many more good memories if you’ll make this change now.
I know you hate your doctoral program. Oh, you’re good at it but Jason, it isn’t good for you and you don’t have to do it. Take your experiences and apply them, but don’t beat yourself up for wanting out. It isn’t for everybody and you know it. You’re smarter than this and can do so much more, and it’s okay. Okay?
In a few years your daughter will be born half a world away. Though she will be the birth daughter of two young people not yet ready for it, you’ll know beyond a shadow of doubt that she is your daughter when you first see her picture. Build your strength and courage now. Be yourself. Because when you watch her personality develop and it mirrors your own you’ll find a side of life that you could have only guessed at. It’s going to be a hard process to get her home. Hold your wife through it. It will be worth it.
Quit being afraid of yourself. You know what darkness lies within you, but you also have light. And there is richness in both. You were created raw, gritty, but also soft and steady. Offer that gift to yourself and not just others. This may be your hardest lesson. Learn it now so I don’t have to wrestle with it in the night.
You don’t know it yet but you’re battling depression. It’s going to get far, far worse before it gets better. Learn to live with it now. Find healthy ways to work through things. Stop bottling it all up. Feel, feel, feel. When you feel yourself slipping, feel yourself dancing with darkness, get on your knees and pray. Tell your wife. Help her understand now, before other things complicate your illness. It won’t kill you, but it will come frighteningly close. You can do it. And you will. Plant the seeds of strength and health now.
Make friends and guard them fiercely. It’s easier at 27 and functional than at 37 and completely broken and stripped of most of what you held dear. Offer yourself up. Get your toes stepped on. Do life with people.
Hug more. Laugh more. Worry less. Never stop searching. Learn well that sometimes pain must be fully felt through and that’s not a bad thing. Eat well. Exercise more. You’re going to be okay.
(Written in response to the daily writing prompt via WriteYourselfAlive: Write a letter to yourself 10 years ago.)