I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you work in a cubicle. I know you’re stomping your hand painted sneaker and wrinkling your soon-to-be pierced nose and screaming “no! not me! I won’t become of those soulless drones! I’m not going to work for the man!” If it makes you feel any better, 26 year old you thinks it’s lame, too. Don’t get your favorite polka dot thrift store dress in a bunch. You end up alright, and sometimes your clothes even match.
Your office is the same building you used to take pictures of back when it was just and abandoned warehouse across the street from your favorite coffee shop, where you’d sit for hours pretending you were cool, and they tore down the building where you’ll get your nose pierced in another year. There’s symbolism in there somewhere, but I don’t know what it is.
You don’t move out west and convene with rocks and spirits. You just go to college and move back home. You’ll learn one more chord on the guitar. Life gets complicated. Really complicated. Complicated in ways you cannot yet comprehend, and ways in which I still cannot. You fill your journals with pages and pages about how much you want to leave, and how much you hate this city. You’ll realize it’s not a problem with the city, it’s a problem with you. And you’ll later realize it’s not much of a problem at all. Raleigh gets cool, anyway, but you’ll always miss the mountains you called home for almost five years. You’ll think you’re missing out on the college experience because you spend every waking moment of your life in the newspaper office – and your campus doesn’t even have columns. You’re not. These people, this passion, this time, is incredible. You won’t get it then because you’ve consumed three pots of coffee, but things are pretty great. You’ll plead guilty to check fraud, and as you’re getting served your papers at 6am, they won’t believe you when you swear it was an accident. You still haven’t learned to sail a boat or how to work that 35 mm camera that makes the great clicking sound, but your dad will buy you a typewriter. You’ll write a grocery list out on it once. Your friends will throw you 15 birthday parties in a row, to make up for ones you never had.
You’ll finally get to see Paris, and you’ll spend your brief time there, a rainy few days in April, trying so hard to love the city in person the way you’ve loved it on paper. You won’t. You’ll go to Spain and still not see any Gaudi. You’ll make a promise to yourself to go back. You’ll remember your favorite Spanish teacher, a man you haven’t met yet, and wish you’d paid more attention when he tried to help you read Cervantes and Marquez in original Spanish. You’ll hear his voice, passionate about art and literature and music, trying to explain magical realism in Spanish and heavily accented English. In another two years, he’ll be gone, and you’ll miss him terribly, but you will never understand magical realism. You’ll love it anyway, and you’ll cry in an art museum by yourself when you finally see Guernica in person. You’ll make frequent trips to New York on a whim, just because it’s Tuesday. You’ll call your sister on St. Patrick’s day on a New Orleans street corner when you’re 20 and full of cheap beer, and as you’re shouting over the noise, you’ll realize you never want to call one place home for too long.
But mostly, you’ll go to work, and you’ll come home. You’ll live in the kind of house you always dreamed about – with high ceilings and big windows and colorful walls. It will be frequently full of life and music. You’ll forget how to flip an omelet and never master pancakes, and you’ll spend almost every Sunday at the same diner with the same people ordering the same thing. Somewhere between nomad and homebody, you’ll move and be quiet, each when the time is right. You’ll be restless and comfortable equally, and sometimes at the same time. You’ll learn to like comics, you’ll buy a stationwagon and drive it as fast as it will go down the newly opened highway at sunset. You’ll recognize how silly it is at the time, but love it anyway. When your parents tell you you’re being a crazy person, listen to them. You are. They’re right about a lot of things, and you need to take it down a notch.
No one has told you this yet, because you’re desperately awkward (sorry, that’s not a phase), but you’re really amazing. Currently, you’re spending your weekends rapelling into caves, learning how to fly a plane, helping to build a habitat for rescued tigers, and rafting class V rapids. Those mornings you come to school smelling like cigarettes from the shows boys in punk bands snuck you into underage? That’s stupid and reckless. Cut that shit out. That doesn’t make you look as cool as you think it does. Neither do those awful corduroy pants that you own in every color.
That girl you met in 9th grade Spanish class will get married in 9 years. You’ll stand next to her as she does, and when you see each other throughout the reception you’ll say things like “What the hell? Is this what it’s like to be 25?” You know the gold van of your friend’s that you had stupid misdaventures in, wishing you were old enough even go to a rated R movie? You’ll drive it to her bachelorette party. You’ll all still be friends, and from time to time, you’ll realize we all became the people we wished we were then - but now, I’m trying to be more like you - wild, stupid, and full of hope (but with better shoes).
“So, for this picture, we’ll pretend we’re 16 and seeing this moment.”