Lately, you can hardly turn on morning TV without seeing someone from Oprah Winfrey to Colin Powell to Miss America reading “A Letter to My Younger Self.” It’s the latest media fad, a self-congratulatory exercise no doubt designed to garner higher network ratings. If it’s not Oprah or Colin, it’s Tom Brady or Tyler Perry or Chrissy Teigen or some other obnoxiously rich, supernaturally attractive or disgustingly successful celebrity smoochin’ on themselves …and bragging about their own accomplishments on the sneak. It’s a little narcissistic if you ask me.
Interestingly enough, never is one of these self-letter-writers someone who’s fallen off a Mount Everest of grace and good-will. It’s never someone whose hurled themselves headlong into the bottom-less abyss of public condemnation like ‘a Bill Cosby’ or ‘a Pete Rose’. Never is it someone biding their time on Death Row or even someone who’s just done a ‘perp’ walk telling their younger self where things went horribly cock-eyed. And never is one of these self-letter readers an ordinary, below-the-radar, just-plain-folks person. Never!
Mulling all of this over, naturally I think about us, Young Will. I’ve pondered whether I should write you such a letter from the future, telling you ‘what’s up’ and ‘what’s what.’At first, I am conflicted about the thing, as any sane person would be. Logically, it seems pointless to write “A Letter to My Younger Self.” Neither me nor the Post Office has a time machine to actually deliver said letter to you and besides, from what I remember, Young Will, you’re forgetful as hell. (It drives our Mom crazy.) Just like all those jackets, hats, umbrellas, pencils and damn near everything else you managed to misplace, you’d probably only find way to lose the damn thing. Then you’d only be ‘bumfuzzled’ and confused about what to do about anything which is pretty much what happened anyway.
Nevertheless, since it’s you, Younger Will, and since you never know what Google, Apple or Elon Musk is going to come up with next — and since the next thing COULD be one of those time machines (you never know with Elon) — I figure ‘what the hell,’ I’ll drop you a line. I’ll tell you about the ‘real deal’, about what’s going to happen and the stuff your young ass had damn well better watch out for.
Who better to give you advice than me, I say… because some of the folks doling out free advice in your future are just ridiculous. Hell, some of them ought to be in jail for malpractice. Take the Prada wearing, Jimmy Choo shod TV Advice-giving So-And-So who’s always chirping about the best way to have peace of mind. According to her, you can achieve nirvana by having saved six months’ salary for a rainy day. The way she goes on and on about it, six month’s savings is the fucking Holy Grail, the panacea for every problem and ailment in life from unemployment to prostate enlargement to identity theft to toe nail fungus.
The truth, my boy, is that from here –from where I sit — there are only three things that even remotely look like a magic elixir for every problem known to mankind. One is the 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse. Another is the 3-D printer and the last is the Pilates chair ( that one can buy for six easy payments of $19.95 ) that is advertised on late night TV infomercials.
A higher truth is the six months savings meme is an especially cruel con because there will peace in the Middle East long before the average guy will be able to save two nickels, let alone six months’ salary. The shelf life of the average paycheck is about twenty minutes these days, Young Self. Always has been. No doubt some banking lobby started that ridiculous six months savings idea so they could simultaneously put people on a hamster savings wheel as well as make those same ‘hamster-people’ feel guilty about spending their own hard earned cash.
Before we get down to cases, note this place –-i.e. the future — is really different. It’s not a dystopian world, like in Mad Max, but it is certainly different from your ‘planet.’
For one thing we have a black POTUS! No shit, Young Will! Future Will is not kidding about this. You’d think this was a mark of progress for our people since it shows (finally!) you really can, young black Will, grow up to be President. Of course, I don’t know why you’d ever want to be President since it turns out that half the population of the country turns on the new POTUS immediately after Inauguration. This includes a bunch of mofos, who swear they voted for him. It also has become the latest fad (especially among Republicans) to blame the current POTUS for the Lincoln Assassination, El Nino, Peyton Manning’s inconsistent play and everything else that has ever gone awry in America since before the black POTUS was even born.
Since your time, young self, the Beatles have broken up, Elvis has left the landscape and man has walked on the Moon — although Elon Musk has pretty much replaced NASA. None of that flying car stuff they predicted in the Weekly Reader or on The Jetsons ever came true. No one has yet cured the common cold, not even those people who make Vick’s Vapo-Rub and Bruce Jenner, the guy who once won the Olympic Decathlon, is wearing dresses and now answering to the name Caitlyn!
Maybe the most mind boggling development is this: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Willie Nelson are still alive. Who’d a ‘thunk ‘it?! I’m beginning to think people who smoke weed everyday must know something a lot of the people who died young never figured out. Of course, Betty White, Henry Kissinger and Sister Mary Katherine, your Fifth Grade nun, are also still living. All of them must be 157 years old by now which makes one wonder what the hell they were smoking back where you are now.
Anyway, here’s my key advice to you …the essential things you need to know.
- If you think something is a good or fun idea — do it right away. Better do it now because whatever it is, it’s going to cost A LOT more to do in the future. Take that 35 cents a gallon gas that Mom buys. It is ten times more expensive by the time you get here.
- Don’t be bashful about inventing and promoting something that seems utterly ridiculous. People have gotten fabulously wealthy by inventing and marketing The Pet Rock, the Mood Ring and — get this — bottled tap water!
- Don’t get too comfortable with anything you think you know. One of the most infuriating and mind-bending phenomena is that almost every piece of knowledge that you now take for granted, will at one time or another, be turned on its head by scientists, the government or Martha Stewart. For example, everybody’s pissed off because we all thought Pluto was the cutest of the nine planets, but now there’s only eight of ’em. Eight! Also the government has reversed itself about the desirability of E-Z credit loans, diet soda, vitamin supplements and relations with Cuba.
- Forget that Boy Scout stuff you’re so involved with such as camping out and learning to start fires by rubbing two sticks together. You’ll be better served in the future by learning how to find free WI-FI and the dead spots for WI-FI in your house. (No, WI-FI is not a breakfast cereal, but trust me, it is the essence of life in my world.)
- You must finish your education — for two reasons. First, if you’re well educated you can pick up hot chicks by being able to help them with their trigonometry homework. Second, you’ve only got so many more years to basically goof off before everyone (i.e. Mom) expects you to grow up and be a ‘responsible’ adult which really means moving out of Mom’s house so she can start partying in her old age. It’s also only fair warning to tell you the main thing you get with your education is massive and eternal student loan debt. When the aforementioned Mick Jagger sings ‘I Can’t Get No Satisfaction’, it’s really a paen to his student loan balance at the London School of Economics.
- For god sakes Young Will, when the time comes, DO NOT choose Eight-Track Stereo Tapes, the Betamax format, New Coke or Barry Goldwater. You haven’t heard of these things yet, but you will and when the shouting is all over each one of these things turns out to be massive failure and pretty damn worthless.
- You being a black kid, Don’t Fuck With The Cops. Too many of them shoot first and don’t ask questions at all. If you see the serious blue lights in the rearview mirror, pullover, put your hands up, be relentlessly cooperative, and make a note of the guy’s badge number. All of your countless aunts will go down and picket the police department later. Nobody can put a police official in their place like ANY and all of your countless aunts …but it won’t do any good if you’re dead. Enough said!
- Eat up and eat well while you still can. By the time you get here nothing that tastes good will be good for you. Nothing. The sad list includes steak, pork chops, bar-be-que, seafood, gluten, high fructose-corn syrup, trans-fats, sugar or airline food in general. (It also turns out that bacon is no good for you either, but most of us have put our foot down about never eating pig strips.)
- To answer the question that I KNOW is burning in your ‘Young Will’ soul: “YES”, you will get laid —eventually– but not for an embarrassingly long time and at an age that is almost indecent given the post-Pill, liberal era you will soon live in.
- While we’re on the subject of indecency, there is very little you can hide anymore. Hell, there’s hardly even any brown paper bags or plain brown wrappers in the timein which I live so that you can hide even a liquor bottle or mail order sex toys. Better get used to NO PRIVACY. This is not just because of goddamn hackers, but also because this mofo called ‘Big Brother’ and the NSA. It’s also because of Google which basically knows everything often including what you’re thinking before YOU even think it.
- Mainly, there’s all kind of stuff waiting to trip you up: high prices, red tape, disease, pestilence, manufacturer’s recalls, terrorists, hackers, social media trolls, Internet hoaxers, pop-up ads on the world-wide web and the Republican Party. Hackers are the worst of these because it turns out that everything from computers to phones to televisions to airplanes to trees can be hacked much easier than anybody ever thought.
- In a nutshell,Young Will: It gets worse!
I hope this all helps. It represents the ultimate case of “If I knew then what I know now.” Lastly, one of the best things you could do is to go and make friends with Young Billy Gates and Young Oprah. See you when you get here. Can’t wait to pop a few beers with you. Bring money (or bit coins). The tab will be on you.
All my best (you’re going to need it),