A Letter To My Eighteen Year Old Self

Dear Nathan,

I hope that you have enjoyed the letters that I have sent you on occasion over your childhood [1]. This will be the last such letter, not because I do not mind writing to you, but rather because the next transition in life is one I have not reached yet, and so until I reach that point I have nothing else to share with you in terms of insight into your future growth and development. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch, and as I have no particular insight to share with you in regards to the goals you now possess in terms of your education, profession, and personal goals towards marriage and a family. Indeed, I can tell you that your goals in education will, at least from my vantage point, excel your current expectations, but that the results of that will not be everything you have hoped. In light of that I have some news to share that may not be entirely pleasant, and I hope you will forgive me for writing what will likely not be all that enjoyable to read. I suppose in life one such as myself gets in too much of a habit of writing what needs to be said without paying sufficient attention to what other people are willing or able to read or hear. As you have already committed yourself to becoming a writer, a goal I wholeheartedly support and share, it is important not only to consider your own needs as a writer or speaker but also to consider the needs and abilities of the audience you are addressing. This attention ought not to determine whether you speak or write, but ought to at least encourage you to find matters that can serve as a bridge rather than as a wall to your audience. The point of any creative effort is to engage with other people, after all, not merely to offend them. You are not a contemporary artist, after all, whose goal is to shock and offend, after all, as easy as those goals are to achieve.

About your upcoming education I have quite a bit to say, so I hope you will not be bothered if I write about it at some length. The first matter that needs to be discussed is one of economics. For reasons that are fairly plain and obvious, I am concerned about the long-term costs of the course of education that you are about to undertake [2]. I know that there is a belief that is widely propagated that college will pay for itself; it doesn’t. You in particular will have a rash of very bad timing, in that California, the place where you are going to live for college, will have a prolonged budget crisis that prevents it from hiring civil engineers, and that later on there will be a massive recession that stops construction for years. Your choice of a major is therefore an unfortunate one because the lack of interest in infrastructure improvements means that you will not be working at the wages you expect, and your education will be a drain on your standard of living rather than an improvement of it. Yet at the same time I do not know what other advice to give. Your passions are, in general, not the sort of ones that provide the stable and straightforward economic security you want, and are dependent on external factors beyond your control. The sorts of professions that best suit you, moreover, are ones that have experienced a large degree of education inflation, requiring degrees even if they do not pay wages that will repay the cost of acquiring those degrees. And so I do not know what to tell you; you are not someone who can live well based on your sales ability, and the sorts of jobs that you are best suited for require education, even if their wages are not particularly great. The best I can tell you is to buckle down and hold on and keep your loans as low as possible, and hope that someday you will find an opportunity, whether in writing or in your profession, that will make it payoff. I am still waiting for that day myself, I must confess, so I will give you no illusions on how fast that will happen.

There is yet another matter relating to your education that I wish to discuss. I know that you are tenacious and that your instincts are to gut things out to the end, but I would like you to consider your own well-being. There is enough that you are interested in that you do not have to settle for immense difficulty, and it would be good if you are at least somewhat sensitive of the effect of your striving on your emotional state. The purpose of education is to make your own life better and give you the skills and approach and basic knowledge you need to make the world better as well. It is important never to forget that education should serve you as well. Be kind to yourself, and do not put yourself in unnecessary difficulties. This is a problem I struggle with as well, so I do not speak only as someone who wishes to give you advice, as there are enough of such people around anyway, but as someone who knows the difficulties that result when one is kinder to others than to oneself, and where one’s lack of care for oneself can make it harder to serve others well. My encouragement to you is therefore to think strategically, and also to seek unusual niches for yourself in ways that will help both you and others. I know it is capable of you to think this way, or I would not ask it of you, but given the difficulties of this world and finding a place within it, it is all the more important that you use your God-given intellect, and resourcefulness, to live a better life than would otherwise be possible. Life is hard enough without making it more difficult on yourself, and knowing when to be stubborn and when not to be will aid you a great deal in having a better adulthood.

There are other matters of importance to discuss as well. You are currently in the process of counseling for baptism, and I support that decision and am glad you have decided very early on to commit your life to obeying God as best as possible and to having His help and encouragement and presence in your life. There are some implications of that choice, though, that I would like you to consider, including some of them you may not realize. For one, the fact that you are able to seriously make such a commitment so young is something that ought to give you encouragement, since there are people who will think that you are the sort of person who tends to be afraid of commitment. As much as it might appear that way to others, it is not the case, although when it comes to certain kinds of commitments you are understandably cautious, not least in the light of your own family experience and the fact that you will know people who marry twice before you marry once. I hope you will have some sort of empathy towards them, seeing as such people easier find out people are attracted and also have far less concern about intimacy than you do. I don’t know what advice to give you when it comes to marriage and courtship; it’s not an area where I feel particularly skilled myself. All I can say is that you should practice your empathy, develop your skills at communication, and be patient with the other people you are dealing with and remember that many of them will be as awkward as you are. Understanding that will make you a lot more kind to others, and a lot less likely to take offense when they do things that you will not understand, or when they do not understand what you do, because a lot of people are confused and struggle in these areas. It is an aspect of learning how to live more godly in a world, and be more understanding of others.

Aside from that, much of the advice I would give to you is the sort of advice that you hardly need because you will do it already fairly automatically. I need not tell you to try to live a productive life, or serve others, or focus on personal improvement, or keep aware of what is going on in the world, because all of those things come about as naturally as breathing. There are only a few areas where I would recommend that you study in areas that do not come automatically to you. One of those is psychology. I know you studied Psychology as one of your HL classes, and congratulations on your success in getting your IB diploma and in scoring well above necessary on your IB and AP exams, but it is an area that is worth examining a bit more. As your experiences with people trained in the field will often be less than exemplary, and your issues in this area somewhat serious and life-altering, it would be worthwhile for you to have at least as best an ability to engage in personal study and reflection and self-improvement even despite the fact that you might not find the encouragement you want easily in these matters. In matters of great importance where external help is hard to find, internal efforts are necessary. You will have many friends who have interests in these fields because of their own life experiences over the next fifteen years or so, so it would be worthwhile to encourage them along their own efforts, because even if they would want nothing to do with the complexities of your own mind, the fact that they wish to turn their own life experiences into helping others in these matters is something that is wonderful to encourage.

I hope you understand why this is the last letter that I will write to you, at least as I see it at present. You are about to enter college, and I can encourage you to go to class, and make friends, and enjoy the spirit of fellowship you will have with your brethren in your local congregation, and encourage you in your efforts both to understand and to obey God’s ways as best as possible. I can tell you what your work life will be like, and how the greater world is, but I would not wish to terrify you, as those things can be pretty scary to deal with, and there is really no point in knowing about such natters ahead of time when there is nothing that you can do about them. And besides, what you know already will be sufficient for you to be a good guesser about such trends. For example, in your diary in about a couple of years you will give a title to your journal that will end up happening in the world around you, but it would give you no comfort to know what would be involved in that. At any rate, as far as world events go, it is no use knowing what will happen ahead of time if there is no one to listen to you and no way to avoid it. Likewise, I cannot give you much advice in how to deal with work or women, at least because I do not consider myself the most successful in either such realms, and it is those realms in life that will give you the most trouble over the next few years. So, the best I can do is remind you to be kind with yourself and to those around you, and that you are not alone, for not only am I with you, but God is with you, and so are a lot of other people who you do not even know yet, but will in time.

Your friend, as always,

Nathan Bennett Albright

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/a-letter-to-my-five-year-old-self/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/a-letter-to-my-ten-year-old-self/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2016/05/21/a-letter-to-my-fourteen-year-old-self/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/the-miseducation-of-nathan-albright/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/book-review-is-college-worth-it/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to A Letter To My Eighteen Year Old Self

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