What Direction Now? Life at the intersection…

Finale: Letter to Me at Fifteen


Dearest Andy,

I know you’re worried now about tomorrows, feeling like you’re going in blind, but keep in mind that hurry and rush won’t help your feet find the right path for you. For instance, at fifteen, they don’t tell you that what school you go to will matter much less in the end than what you learn there, the work you do, and what new ideas and material you begin to produce. What’s the use of a fancy piece of paper if it can’t add anything to you in the life you’re living, and if you can’t eventually add anything unique to improve the world you’re living in—be it pretty thoughtful words or cancer cures. Don’t sweat so much the SATs or ACTs or anything else that ends with T, and instead seize onto whatever gives you glee and ache in more or less equal measure, then go to work, work until you’re sure you’re perfect, then go further and work some more.

What I’m saying is, pour yourself out a bit—but don’t leave yourself too thin—into every thing that seems worthwhile (and a few that don’t) until you find that one thing that makes you float despite the anchor, that makes you smile as you’re sobbing. Take whatever jobs will pay the bills along the way, but make time to do what you love even if for now it just on lunch break. Don’t blindly stake yourself to any chains that aren’t worth carrying forever, don’t marry until you find a girl named Bean, and for the sake of all that is good, don’t dole out your heart like it’s so many pieces of Swiss cheese.

Please just breathe from time to time, try to enjoy the sun even though it burns—always love even though it burns—and when push inevitably comes to shove, whatever that means, just turn the other cheek as best you can, and simply serve your fellow man, even when it’s tough. I know these things always talk about how rough it’s going to be, but how it will all be worth it, and while that’s just as true now for me (and you), I know that’s not what you need to hear (or, I guess, have heard).

Actually, at 30, I’m nowhere near the right Andrew to be giving out advice. I don’t have the right to say I have anything finally figured out. But don’t doubt that someday we will…or we won’t, but though I can’t see the future either, I know that we don’t stop trying. Don’t stop crying just because someone says you shouldn’t do that. The world can use your tears to show that men can be more than brick walls; don’t lose the sense that something is beautifully wrong with the world, and don’t ever let that not break your heart.

I wish from the start I had the letter that I hope I will write to myself thirty years from now, but I don’t , just as you won’t have this one as you go through all of this on your own. That’s just what makes you into me, just as I am everyday becoming the best kind man that we will someday be.

We will never get over my general resentment for sentimentality, but I still need to say that I love you—for your flaws and all that you will get wrong in these next fifteen year, for your tears and fears and the sheer doubts that you live with every day, and especially for the way that you will burn at a slow simmer to turn all the shit—and there will be some, but not too much (sorry for the language, I know you don’t really curse so much yet!)—that comes your way into a song that guides my fingers over these keys and keeps me twirling words around my mind no matter where my body happens to be.

Speaking of which, two more things, you’re not dying when you have those kidney stones thirteen years from now, so just bite down and bear it (your Bean will be there, so it will all be okay in the end!); and stay away from soda as best you can—that stuff will eat away our insides.

I guess it’s about time to end this. Don’t forget the secret message hiding at the bottom.

And please please always always keep writing!
Guess I’ll see you in the mirror, when you’re a grown man…P.S. This Bean’s the one!

P.P.S. Give huge hugs to Grandpa, Grammy and Papa for me…and go to that party that Tony invites you to, even if you’re really tired.

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What Direction Now? Life at the intersection…

About Andrew.

Andrew Cartwright grew up in Indianapolis, IN, but has lived over the years in such places as Denver, CO; Fairfax, VA; and Rivne, Ukraine. He is a former nonfiction editor for both Indiana Review and phoebe; he has also worked for the intersectional feminist journal, So To Speak, and the national literary magazine, Electric Literature. His work has appeared in The Normal School Online, Copper Nickel, Esquire Ukraine, Literary Hub, and Word Riot.

For more information about me and links to other writing, visit my author page at cartwriter.com