Dear 15-year-old me,
Hey Dan, it’s Dan, a few years older. If my memory is correct you’re in 8th grade; well you’re now 28 and writing this letter to yourself inside a tent, in a small Eastern Colorado town, but the boy I’m writing to should be in 8th grade. Buckle up buddy, you thought wrestling was hard? There is more to your story than wrestling and forget about expectations because they’re the root of your upcoming challenges; depression, angst, and anxiety fill some years ahead of you.
You are doing well believing in yourself, you and Riley have developed a confidence you’d be smart to hold on to. Remember when you and Riley and Rod joked about deliberately losing every match until districts, and then winning your way through state? You possessed a confidence in yourself that led to many wonderful things. You were terrified of girls, or more so thought they weren’t a priority because you had goals to accomplish on the mat and in the classroom, and you believed in order to succeed you had to narrow your focus. You were disciplined beyond measure, until it came to milk shakes from McDonalds where you’d pretend to go on a run but would actually get a milk shake and puke it back up while you walked around town. You always thought ice cream tasted better the second time.
It hurts my throat to think about the amount of times you allowed your stomach “disorder” to excuse yourself to puke up milkshakes and other foods in the name of wrestling. Your stomach problem was and is mostly caused by stress. You’re a good kid with the best of intentions. Sometimes those intentions turn into grief because you’re a people pleaser who doesn’t want to let anyone down. One day you’ll learn that it’s okay to care about people, but it does no good to lose yourself in other’s stories. Be an ear, love and listen, but don’t carry the weight of the world because you’re unable to save the world from pain. Pain is necessary to the degree that it helps us grow when open to its lessons. Remain open and don’t hold on to the negative thought patterns you obsess over. Be compassionate, starting with yourself.
I recommend adding meditation into your daily routine. In the future, meditation is going to help give you the tools to live your best life. It’s going to help you learn to regulate your emotions and be more compassionate. Boy are you a thinker, and that’s precisely where meditation helps you most. It’s helped you learn to let go of your thoughts. You are not your thoughts. You are the experiencer, experiencing.
When you get to Michigan State continue having fun on the wrestling mat. You’re successful now because wrestling is fun, you train hard and believe in yourself. There will be challenges in college and you can be a champion, but only if you keep your mind straight and you continue to believe in yourself like you do now. The mind is a powerful machine. It will either make you or break you. It depends on the side you’re standing on that determines your quality of being.
Don’t be afraid of girls or unknown experiences. They’re nervous like you! Try to remember they’re human and also unsure of how you feel about them. Girls can’t read your mind so cut them some slack, open your mouth and communicate. The only cooties they possess are the ones you project onto them. It’s rad you’re so focused at this time in your life, but never forget to be a kid. Life should be fun. I know you always desired being the best person you could be, and always dreamt of the perfect relationship, but the truth is your relationships are going to be exactly what you make them. Go out and date. Meet new people and experience a little more. It’s okay to take risks, just be smart about the way you’re taking them.
When all else fails trust your gut and have fun experiencing the journey you’re on! You are a good person, stop trying so hard to make things happen, simply act, trust, and allow life to manifest beautifully through you! You have a bright future! You possess a lot of love! Never hold on to the love you carry with you – give it freely. There will be a day you decide to up and travel, and it’s through the love you give that will paint the picture of your experience. By sharing your love with others you’re inviting others to share love back with you, and that’s what makes life worthy of existence.