Today you are thirty. It’s been some year, hasn’t it? You published your first book. Started working by your own schedule. You deepened connections with people from your past and made new friends who’ve changed you in no small ways. Your mother mailed you a package this week. Inside was a copy of your birth certificate and a photo album made from pictures she has of you. Flipping through it, you remember few of the events, and even the ones you do remember seem unreal – from another person’s life. The album stops when you are twenty-one. Send her more pictures.
You did more traveling by yourself this year than ever before. When you moved here, you told yourself, If there’s one place I have to be, it’s New York. This year you started telling yourself: There’s not one place I have to be.
You have more traveling ahead, but remember your main reasons for going. Not to escape or cross things off lists but to learn to be more open, more okay with uncertainty. To feel to your core how big the world is, and how narrow your own empire. Remember that no matter where you go, you’re always there with your own thoughts and feelings – with yourself. This is your true home and its landscape is vast and much uncharted. You can travel there at any time, and the flights aren’t nearly as expensive.
Exercise regularly; you get moody if you don’t. You can never have too much health, compassion, attention. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Some of the best things you’ve done you’ve started for dumb reasons. Just don’t keep doing them for those same dumb reasons. You’re a different person from moment to moment. Remember that other people are, too. Sit up straight. Breathe.
Ducks on the lake.
You’re good at telling yourself stories. Oh boy, are you good at that. Stories about things that haven’t happened yet. Stories about other people. About yourself. Stories sometimes threaded from an atom-thick strand of reality. It’s why you’re a writer. But you also know, from being a writer, that the fictions you let go are as important as the ones you keep. And that roil in your chest from time to time is the roil of those false stories tumbling down. Embrace heartbreak; the moment before you rebuild the house of cards is the rare moment you glimpse the capital-T Truth. To distract yourself from sadness is to distract yourself from life.
If you must hold on to stories, hold on to the ones that are like the whiffle bird, which flies in decreasing concentric circles, until it disappears up its own anus.
Give yourself away. Let go of ideas and metaphors and turns of phrase you’ve been saving for the right book or moment or person. Their source is abundant and grows more so with movement.
Sometimes giving yourself away means saying No. Sometimes it means not saying anything. You alone know the difference.
Above all, remember that the present is a present – a gift. It is a prism held up to the light, scattering the singular white beam of the past into the infinitely spectral future. It is the only thing that is solid, tangible.
And even then, it’s just glass.
Yours always, Jack