Archive for July, 2018

An Open Letter To My 16 Year Old Self

Posted in Uncategorized on July 5, 2018 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 hollows 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.  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.

 Speaking of that, assume you know little about the world.  With those who claim to know everything about life, God and living, politely disagree, then move away, keeping your mouth as closed as you can.  Quietly embrace Divine mystery.  It’s the road trip of your faith.  Take it with the top down.  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.  You can understand that!

 But don’t fail to recognize pure old meanness.  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 are one, run headlong into teenage joy.  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.

Gratitude looks good on everybody, kid.  When you’re tempted to worry, as teenage boys do, throw that lying worry out of yourself.  Try to fill your stout heart with gratitude instead.  Worry, truly, is a waste of your imagination. 

Go.  Live.  With both throttled down, live!  Live like you mean it. Have fun like they’re about to stop making it.

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


Our Greatest Regret, and How Not to Have it.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 2, 2018 by michaelcogdill
Some Cornell psychologists identified the biggest regret people have in life.
It’s not the one who got away, or who didn’t.
It’s not the un-bought Cadillac
The biggest regret has nothing to do with an un-acquired Rolex, un-worn while not hang gliding off a volcano wearing a loin cloth somewhere a million miles from Kansas.
The biggest regret goes to the heart of who we ought to be.
The ought-self, unfulfilled.
The writers found most people most regret not becoming the person they knew they could be, but did not. We tend to regret not fulfilling responsibilities. Knowing what’s good, but not fully doing it.
Goals and aspirations — the stuff of honors on walls and numbers on banks accounts — pale against the unfulfilled value of simply being good.
The psychologists tend to conclude we will all most regret not being as good as we possibly can.
Alexis de Tocqueville is said to have pronounced America great because America is good (There is considerable doubt about whether he actually said or wrote it, but let’s agree with the wisdom, French statesman or not). According to these researchers, we desire such greatness, and regret when we fall short of it. We know it when we see it, recognize it enough to aspire to it, and dislike when we don’t stretch to reach it.
I ought to be many things I am not. I ought to be a better friend, a warmer stranger, a more grateful son. I ought to give more credit, take more responsibility. I ought to love more in the face of the absence of love.
I ought to be more love and less man.
I regret not being thus.
But breath still comes. A bit more good is still possible. So maybe hearing of this regret of not being the ought-self is simple possibility turned inside out. Either way we wear it, we are all the better for it.  Prettier or more handsome within.  Less regretful, after all.