Five things I want to tell my younger self
There is an awesome project being featured in various venues around the world by the Maine photography artist Trent Bell. Mr. Bell primarily known as an architectural photographer artist had a friend who was sentenced to 36 years in prison. It got Mr. Bell to thinking about what if anything long time prisoners might write to their younger selves. The result is one of the more moving and complicated portrait projects ever done. Mr. Bell went to the Maine State Prison in Warren, Maine and photographed 12 long time prisoners and he asked them to write letters to their younger selves. The results of the work can be found at this link and believe me it is well worth viewing.
To better read the letters you might like to look at an NPR site located at:
Each portrait is superimposed on full length letter written by the men to their younger selves. The letters themselves address their younger selves and tell them the most obvious things. Stay in school, get a job etc. Still there is surprising insight and terrible regret in their writing.
This started me to thinking, what would I write to the 17 year old me on the day I was released from the hospital with diabetes? Yes things are different but not much really. These men are in prison, I was faced with an uncertain life with a chronic disease. Today I live with regret, today they live with regret. Today I look forward, and in a way these men look forward. There are also big differences. I can change my course, these men not so much. I can still accomplish more things, these men are stuck in regret. So here goes, here are the five things I would tell 17 year old rick on the day he was released from the hospital.
Number 5. Things will get better. No don’t kid yourself there is not a 5 year, 10 year or 20 year cure, but the diabetes you know today will not be the disease you will know at age 30, 40, 50 or 60. So take heart, life is worth living if for no other reason to see the incredible changes. You will truly not believe them so they are worth hanging on for. Get ready for the incredible, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Number 4. Yes you will be able to get married and have a family. I know that seems unreal today and I know the idea of a family seems outrageously ridiculous yet it will happen and you will even enjoy grandchildren. Today people you know will live longer, healthier and fuller lives than you can imagine. So will you. Do not despair.
Number 3. Education and career are more than possible, you will have them. True you are not as bright as you hope and you will make countless mistakes, but you will love college and you will have a better career than you can imagine. Smile and learn to enjoy your success. Your fondest dreams of making your city better will happen and you will be part of it. You will find a passion for education you do not have at this moment and let me tell you one really big secret someday you will be called Dr. Yeah I know that is crazy, but it will happen?
Now also know none of this will be easy. You will have to fight for every bit of everything you achieve. You will fail be frustrated, upset, angry and many times you will think your best is not good enough. Here is the simple truth the only person who can stop you is you. Never, Never, Never give up.
Number 2. Rick relax. Relaxing is not what you think of first when you think of your life, but relax. I promise there is time and if you do not take it easy sometimes you will miss it. Do not miss it please. Instead work to do more for others. No one ever says wow I needed more things; I think people instead say I wish I had helped more. Help more rick, love yourself but also love others. Rick if you slow down you can accomplish more than you ever think you can. But you have to slow down otherwise you will accomplish less. Take time, love yourself and love others.
Number 1. Rick this is the biggest thing you need to know so pay attention. You will face worse things than diabetes. Wow, how is that possible? Well your body is not done with you yet. There is other stuff that will happen that will be worse than diabetes. I know that sounds crazy? Well it is true. But here is the thing despite it being worse, it will still give you plenty of time to experience life, have a family see your children graduate from college, see them have children and yes you will still be looking for ways to keep your mind sharp. So let’s not ignore diabetes, but let’s not obsesses. Instead let’s take care of what you can today and deal with the other stuff when it shows up.
Those are the five things I want to tell 17 year old Rick. Would he listen? Probably not, 17 year old Rick is one stubborn guy. Should he listen? Yes of course he should. There is one thing about Rick that probably makes all of this a moot point. You see he is one stubborn fellow. That is what makes Rick, Rick.
You have got to admire being stubborn after all being stubborn is what lets Rick accomplish item number 2 and get through item number 1. I wonder how many prisoners that Mr. Bell interviewed could say the same? As Mr. Bell discovered it is a thin line that separates outcomes..