Let me be perfectly frank: I didn’t pick this topic on my own and I never would have. My editor came up with it. He liked the idea of my writing something that dug deeper into my life. I’m not exactly sure why that is since I’m a professional writer, not a UFC grappler. I’m not even one of those haunted, drunken writers like Edgar Allan Poe who’s trying to disgorge the horror in his soul onto the printed page before it bursts out of his chest like the creature from Alien. So, there aren’t going to be any emails that say, “After you kill the hobo, bury him in the woods instead of under the pile of leaves in the front yard.”
Worse yet, the idea of changing things that have already happened in my life is scary. When everything is going great, the natural tendency is to keep doing the same thing. On the other hand, my failures are what have spurred me to work harder and reach for more. If I went back in time and fixed those issues so that it was all smooth sailing, I might be a poorer male version of Paris Hilton — and who the hell wants that? Then there’s the frightening possibility that I could make some small change to my timeline that would have major ramifications today à la The Butterfly Effect. Come to think of it, that’s the one to really fear…
1) Dear 15-year-old John:
I’m writing you from the future to let you know that you’re going to have some people try to bully you. It’s not going to be your fault. You don’t start trouble with anyone or cause problems; you just try very hard to avoid conflict and bullies can smell that the way a shark smells blood.
There’s a solution to this: It’s called hitting the bullies in the mouth. You’ll use that tactic effectively as you get older, but it would save you a lot of worry and stress if you embraced it earlier. Getting in fights isn’t so bad. In fact, I did Southern Longfist Kung-Fu in college, and you know what I learned? I can take and deliver a punch that would knock a mule down. Not only that, it’s a lot of fun to hit another human being as hard as you can. There are not a lot of times when it’s moral to do that, but when you’re being bullied in high school, it’s perfectly fine. Avoid trouble if you can, but if someone insists on starting a fight, oblige him. Win or lose, you get to keep your self-respect and the more fights you get in, the better you’ll be at it.
I got this response back:
Dear future John:
Thank you for the great advice. I fight all the time now! At school, on the street corner, at Juvenile Hall — it’s great! Of course, after a hobo mouthed off to me last night, I did go a little overboard and beat him to death. But no worries, I buried him under a pile of leaves in the front yard, so no one will ever find him!