Archive for December, 2011

An Open Letter To My 16 Year Old Self

Posted in Uncategorized on December 14, 2011 by michaelcogdill

This year brought us a great book, Dear Me, A Letter to My 16 Year Old Self — one of the least resistible titles I’ve ever seen.  The letters carry enthralling wisdom and some names you’ll recognize.  They’re funny, aching, addictive in their comfort. In an uncommonly beautiful way they cry out about the common realities we all share in being human.  They remind us we all walk much the same wilderness at that age, young and uncertain, and they’re bound to pull you back into the hallows of your 16 year old heart.  They have a way of causing the best of that young heart to beat within you again.

So, of course, I couldn’t resist.

Here’s my own letter to my 16 year old self, waving in all readers.  Feel free to tell me if your world and mine, at 16, shared some of the same emotional linens.

Dear Michael,


Stop worrying about the elephant haunting every room of your house.  The drinking your father does is his problem to fix, not yours.  Stop trying to talk him out of it.  Let him live with it.  If he chooses, he’ll die with it.  He is not your problem to solve.  Just move apart from him.  Forgive him, and don’t underestimate him.  He doesn’t have to live this way.  He won’t, always.

Those girls are beautiful.  Lovely, inside and out.  Have fun, but don’t settle up yet.  Love will look and feel different on you in a few years.  Be a gentleman.  A truly gentle man.   Take in the joys of a 16 year old heart.  You’ll have one for way too short a time.  You’ll long to have its full thumping madness back inside you someday.

People are underestimating you.  They’re trying to get you to underestimate yourself.  Don’t bend to their will.  Refuse to live down to them.  Celebrate the great teachers in your life.  Don’t let the bad ones get you down.  They can’t see what you’ll become.  You’ll shock devil dust off their hides.

Nothing is more embarrassing than ignorance.  Do your school work.  Yeah, the dull high school work, do it!!  Your college A’s will come easier if you do.  Do some foolery prevention.  Work toward cum laude now!

Speaking of that, assume you know little about the world.  With those who claim to know everything about life, God and living, politely disagree that they do, then move away from them.  Don’t give them permission to put you down.   And keep your own pedantic mouth closed as often as you can.  You’ll have fewer regrets that way. 

Quietly embrace Divine mystery.  It’s the road trip of your faith.  Take your faith trip with the top down, make it a joy.  Along its road, do things for people who need you to help them.  Love people. Listen to them.  Hear them. The face of young faith looks best with the wind of love in it.  You’re not dumb, no matter who says so.  You can understand that!

But don’t be quite so naive.   Recognize pure old meanness when it grins at you.  The people who haze and bully you — forgive them, but move apart from them.  Go from them, now, knowing their malice won’t matter for long.  It’ll disappear into your grown-up days.  Don’t get beaten down into believing what they say about you, or do to you. 

Boy — and you still are one — run headlong into teenage fun.  You drive too fast, play too hard, think and feel too little.  But that’s what 16 year old American boys do.  Be careful, but not to excess.

 Finally — well, almost — adore your friends out loud.  Love them with a loudness that rattles the windows.  Tell them out loud you love them, with your chin up, looking them in the eye.  Love them and your mighty well-meaning family.  Celebrate and adore your mentors.  Some of them won’t live as long as you want, or need.  Hug them, for what feels too long, while they’re here.  They are God’s men and women for your day.  They are doorways to your success.  To your legacy.

Gratitude looks good on everybody, kid.  Wear it, with some freshly laundered humility.  When you’re tempted to worry, as teenage boys do, throw that lying worry off yourself.  Cloak your stout heart in being thankful instead.  Worry, truly, is a waste of your imagination. 

Go.  Live.  With both throttled down, live, wide open!  Live the living daylights out of your life.  Live like you mean it. Have fun like they’re about to stop making it.  Do all this, but watch for that Tomfoolery.  Fun as he is, he can get you killed.  He nearly will.

Now, smile, out loud.

God loves you, boy.  Try to join God in that endeavor,