Advice for Your Past Self

If you could go back ten years and tell yourself some advice, what would it be? I was recently asked that. My first thought was “Can I go back further?”. Before I address the further, let me address the first. If I go back ten years, what do I tell my 19 year old self?

Monty, the world in the next ten years is going to be rife with pain. You will hate others, as you hate yourself. You will get through it. Don’t wish that you won’t go through it. Instead, know that you will rise above the twisting quagmire, and that you will become a better person because of it. You won’t have it figured out in ten years. You won’t feel much better in ten years. You will, however, be in a better place, whether you choose to believe it or not. You are stronger than you know, and you’ve got this.

That’s great and all, but it feels empty. I know that my disorder takes on new life from 2006 to 2016. I went through three relationships; One that I thought was great, before the deception. The second was utter hell and one of the major reasons my concurrent depression manifested itself into a disease with so much stigma, it hurts. The third was the best relationship I’ve ever had, with no ill-will or hatred clinging to the albeit bittersweet memory of it.
In the past ten years I will have lived in three different places, including the apartment I live in now. One was an apartment that I spent my teenage years, and my early twenties in. The second was the house my mother and her six siblings grew up in, with my grandmother who had dwindling mental capacity, through the medium of vascular dementia. Now I live in a stable neighborhood, in a good place. Close to people I care very much about and to the place I grew up in, for some nostalgic comfort.
In the past ten years, I have learned about the utmost evil in people. I had a person who told me they loved me beat the absolute shit out of me. I got to be an innocent bystander to some of the greatest atrocities committed by my fellow man, with still no end in sight. In the current climate, we stand on the edge of a knife, as the world around us will cut us in half. It’s in the back of my mind always, but I don’t ever voice the concern.
In the past ten years, I will have met some of the greatest people in the world, through the medium of gaming. I would call many of these folks friends through and through. They’ve been there through the bad, and also with the good. I am indebted to these people.
But, the last ten years aren’t where the problems started. They’re just where they manifested in new ways.
Can I go back to 1992, when I was starting the first grade? Can I ignore my 6 year old self, and go to my first grade teacher, Mrs. Wells, and tell her to NOT put the child-me into the advanced math program, without first teaching me the frigging basics? I liked Mrs. Wells as a child. She was a nice Jewish lady who was kind to us. In hindsight, however, she was not a great teacher. I would spend the remainder of my education (1-12) absolutely behind in math, because I never learned the building blocks of basic addition and subtraction in the first grade. To this day, almost thirty years old, I can’t do basic math in my head.  Today is August 2, what will the number be in two and a half weeks?
Still August. No idea.
Can I go to 1998, where I start middle school, as a very angry sixth grader? My parents had just told us they would be getting divorced. I was furious. I was depressed. My family assumed this was just puberty, that the hormones were all outta whack. That I was too young to understand.
Maybe I was, but don’t dismiss my symptoms.
Can I go back to those days and sit down with myself and tell me to just do my homework? That the next few years are going to have their fair share of utter pain. How do I do that?
How do I tell myself that the crushes will be fleeting and will not be reciprocated?
How do I tell myself that while yes, homework is an arbitrary hoop to jump through, and education and hard work do not equal success, but the failure to invoke either is doom?
The bigger question is, should I go back to tell myself anything?
Will my sudden work ethic in sixth grade change who I am today, making this introspection worthless? Will I have met all the great people I know today?
It’s a paradox that even though I’d have the ability to make things better, I could potentially make them worse.
I am not without my faults. There are many things about me that I consider to be broken. I am eternally anxious, and need to fill that void with good experiences, which I fear, is driving people away. I am neurotic and incessantly buzzing.
But I am not without my merits. I am kind to a fault. I want nothing more than to make others (especially the ones whom I love) to be happy. If I can ease the day to day suffering of others, than I am at peace with my role. The late Robin Williams once said that the people who bring the most joy are the ones who are in the most pain. I can relate to that.
This helped. It’s not a fun read. It’s certainly a glimpse into my head, which is what it says in tiny purple letters at the top of the page.
I started to cry, like, full on sob writing this. I needed that. Boys are taught to not cry, no weakness. I say fuck that. Crying isn’t weakness. It helps. It was long overdue. And besides, showing weakness is to be human. We’re all vulnerable sometimes. Some folks need help on the other side of the mask, the wall, the shell. It’s human nature.
Hopefully, we can all be happy. One step at a time. Maybe that’s what I’d tell myself.
One step at a time.
Great, I’m a fortune cookie.

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