My Amazing friend Ryan Omega put together a book called “Letters To My High School Self”. He requested that I contribute to it, and my initial reaction was that since I really didn’t attend High School (I had dropped out, had a child, was married, and working two or three jobs at a time during my “High School” years), that perhaps I wasn’t right for the project. He was nothing but supportive and told me that I should simply write a letter to myself at age 17 – at that particular point in my life. So I did. I expected that he wouldn’t like it, and that there would be kind words, and ultimately a dismissal of my letter and involvement from the project. I was wrong. He included it.
The book was released on November 29, 2014 and is wonderful, in my opinion, and can be found here on lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/ryan-omega/letters-to-my-high-school-self/paperback/product-21925392.html
Please… check it out.
Here is my letter:
Stop it. Seriously. Just stop it.
Stop distancing yourself form the world. Stop keeping people at arm’s length. Stop blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault. Stop beating yourself up for things you’ve done that have, due to your ignorance or lack of thought, hurt other people. Stop punishing yourself.
You deserve to be happy.
I mean it. It’s true. I know that you’ll agree with me. But we both know that’s only on the surface. Deep down you know that you sabotage everything in your life that will be good for you, that makes you feel good or worthwhile, or that could make others happier with you. I know this because I know you, and I also know that as much as you think you know you… you’re wrong.
Most of your life has been spent running, and I know that if you don’t stop it now you will still be running ten years from now.
You ran from your home because you saw your dad do it. You’ve turned on almost anyone who saw you as worthwhile, because you didn’t believe you were. You got married at fifteen and had a kid with a woman who didn’t even like, let alone respect you. She used you, like her mother had told her to, to get a baby and to make another guy jealous. You don’t know all the particulars yet, but you will.
Get your kid. Get a lawyer, and get him… save him.
You’re scared of her, and her mother, and the threats they’ve made. I know. You’re scared of the guys they sent to your family’s houses with guns, making threats. You’re going to have to face it head on eventually, and sooner is better than later… even if you don’t see that now.
You’ve let yourself get pushed down and accepted abuse for too long. You need to know that you do matter. I’m not saying that you are the end-all-be-all or anything… I’m simply telling you that you deserve better. You have value, more than what others can take from you or con out of you.
When you were held down, and had your introduction to sexual abuse. That wasn’t your fault. Stop blaming yourself. He was your family, and was trusted with you. It wasn’t the fault of the people who left you with him… stop lashing out. It wasn’t your fault either… stop punishing yourself. Get help, man. Seriously. I know it sounds awful, and difficult, and painful… but like I said before, it’s going to happen eventually. Face it. Do it. Stop living in pain.
You are only seventeen. You have a lot of life ahead of you. Don’t waste year after year burying pain, running from yourself, and destroying anything that makes your life better.
Address the men who abused you. Face the women who used you, and ultimately will damage your son. Stop punishing yourself and let go of it all.
Work toward positive ends. You’ll be back in college eventually… why not do it now? You dropped out halfway through your freshman year of high school, but you had good grades. You are not stupid. Use your brain. You are only hurting you be staying uneducated. You are keeping yourself low, and you do now – DO NOT – deserve it.
Professional help, education, self-examination (not destruction) these are the keys to not letting your life go down a road that you will forever try to undo… to fix… to take back. Do it now.
Stop. I mean it. I can’t be more blunt with you. I’ve given you the specifics you should need to know that I know you. Trust me when I tell you that I seriously know you… where you are now… who you are now… better than you. I know what you haven’t been able to accept. Stop hurting yourself and those around you, and take ownership of your future.
Life is going to keep going. Trust me when I tell you that, as hard as it may look to right now, it will be so much worse if you just let it happen to you. Take control.
Your writing? Your stories? Your ideas? Keep them. Shoot yourself in that direction and don’t give up. Don’t let anyone shake you from it. You’ll eventually understand that these are the things that will make you the happiest. Don’t let go of them… any of them.
You will see success, even if you don’t do what I’m telling you to do, but you could do so much more if you don’t waste so much time. The light at the end of the tunnel can be your so much sooner. Your words will travel around the world. Don’t laugh. I mean it.
There will be joy. I’ve had it. I only wish I’d known that I deserved it… that you deserved it sooner – that I’d known it where you are now. If you do what I’m telling you, it won’t make everything perfect… you will still have ups and downs… but it will make you happier and more fulfilled sooner.
I’ve seen what will happen if you don’t do what I’m telling you hear. I know the pain, the failure, the homeless times and divorce, the times you will lose everything you own, the depression, the muggings, the beating, the times you’ll spend locked up… and more painful things than these… that are waiting for you. You don’t want them.
I’m not saying you won’t come out the other side whole(ish), you will. You will survive. I’m telling you that you can make things so much better, not just for you but for the son you already have, not to mention the other kids you have coming (believe me the other two are awesome as well)… and not least of all, for yourself. Heed my words. Please.
Focus. Forgive. Love. Trust.
Stop being angry. Stop being self-destructive. Stop running. Stop blaming and stop shaming yourself. Please! I’m seriously begging you.
Stop it. Seriously. Just stop it.
-D. S. (03/03/2014 – 1 week before 37th birthday)
—Letter to myself (03/03/1995 – 1 week before my 18th birthday)—
Born and raised in the middle of the American Midwest, Dennis Sharpe has been a writer as long as he can remember. His mother has told many people about the fantasy and science fiction stories he’d write on scraps of paper, and staple together as his ‘books’, before he’d attended his first day of formal education.
He has spent many late nights at diners and dives, drinking coffee with a tattered notebook to put a voice to his feelings of himself and the world around him, and other worlds that can exist only in fiction. The voices in his head don’t ever stop talking to him, and so sooner or later he has to get out onto a page all that they’ve filled him up with.
Inspired by Neil Gaiman, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Miller, Chrissie Pappas, Charles Bukowski, Stephen King, Issac Asimov, and countless classic literary influences, Dennis continues with the ability to write what at a glance might seem absurd, but quickly begins to resonate with our own thoughts and emotions. He writes people we know, love we’ve known and lost (and found again), and places we’ve been in our lives and in our heads. Even his fictional characters and worlds carry enough of the grey areas we experience in day-to-day life, to let us find the truth in his words, no matter how fantastic.
These days he can be found still writing, drinking coffee with friends, or spending time with his children (the true joys of his life), in Western Kentucky.
My husband and I often talk about what we would do if we could go back and meet our younger selves. He has often said that he would counsel the younger version of himself to be braver — date that girl! Take that ride! — or to waste less time on trivial pursuits. I think that if I met a younger version of myself, I would respond much like you have here.
If I were to write a letter like yours, I would want to counsel that poor girl. Tell her it’s going to be all right in the end, but to wake up, because life is happening right now, whether you like it or not. I’d want to explain to her that she is worthy, she is enough. I would provide to her the love and guidance of a caring adult that was lacking in her life, and perhaps preemptively strike the loathsome behaviors that continue to complicate my life.
Thanks for sharing your letter.