About Crazy #2: Letter to 22-year-old Me.
Well. Where to begin. Maybe the basics. You’re still alive. You didn’t hurt anyone. Yeah, your Dad will be furious for quite a while. Maybe forever. Darn.
It was indeed special to be so connected to the Universe. It was not so special to get arrested by the Tokyo Police. Sorry to sound patronizing (what is the word for future-self avuncular advice anyway?) but you should remember what it feels like to be in handcuffs after being taken to the pavement. Remember it good.
I’ve waited a little longer to send this letter than the last one. By now you’ve been out of the locked ward for a couple weeks. You’re please-just-take-me-in-my-sleep depressed. The ‘rents are wrestling with that sweet ambivalence of parenting: Anger + Relief. That’s their job, leave them to it and replace the anger with the time.
What’s that? Please don’t talk about the MEDS yet? OK, sorry. Music then. Just keep putting it on. Even when you are sure it will hurt your ears. Even when you know it will cost a day’s effort to pick a disc. Even when you would rather roll naked in broken glass. Just put it on.
They don’t know how to help. It’s 1991, remember. We’re twenty-five years away from #SickNotWeak and #imnotashamed. They want to help, but about all they know about what you’ve been through, they’ve learned from Jack Nicholson and the Silent Indian. You will be big again. (I know that is impossible to believe much less internalize right now. I really do.) But your friends love you. Let them try. They will give you things to read, they will say things that make you furious, they will love you. Let them.
Yep, you had some and they’ve had to change. I’m 46 now and I’m still not as good at this part of life as I’d like to be. Don’t beat yourself up that you were attached to your plans. And don’t beat yourself up about not being able to practice non-attachment about not being too attached, either. That’s a can of worms you can recurse about later.
Here’s where it gets rather tricky and I really need that word for avuncular future-self advice. Your goals are important. They aren’t who you are, but they are part of getting back to the home screen. What? What’s a home screen? Oh yeah, sorry. Um, they are part of the supposedly ineluctable modalities of the visible. What I’m trying to say, is goals change more slowly than plans, but if you listen very quietly they help you remember what you believe.
Right now you believe you’re only as good as your last race and exam grade and dual major and thesis award and hot smart girlfriend. I get that. That may also change. Here’s what’s so cool about your current situation: it’s a good thing, steering away from those beliefs. You probably never would have if you hadn’t gone off the rails.
So in summary, well done! Maybe try just a little more finesse next time; be aware that you are making a mess.
I’m so glad you asked. (Do your best to) look at them more like a cast on a broken leg that keeps you from running in the open fields. The cast WILL come off. Then, you’ll have to wear a brace. Then, with lots and lots of rehab, the brace will get smaller, lighter, more elastic, less Terminator 1. If you work really really hard, it’s not unreasonable to plan to be a T-1000 by the time you’re fifty. But for the good guys.
Kevin A. Hall is an Ivy League graduate of Brown University, and despite being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1989, he went on to become a world-champion Olympic sailor, as well as racing navigator for Emirates Team New Zealand in the 2007 America’s Cup match. A two-time testicular cancer survivor, Hall has spent a successful 25 years as a racing navigator, speed testing manager, and sailing performance and racing instruments expert. His memoir, Black Sails, White Rabbits; Cancer Was the Easy Part is Hall’s first book. He currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife and their three children. www.kevinahall.com
Photo by Sasha Kargaltsev