Dear Younger Self

Yes, it happened this week. Sing it with me, this is 40…

As I was running today I had a few thoughts about turning 40. It began like this:

Dear 22-38 year-old self: I will run your lazy butt into the ground. Name the time and place. Sincerely, 40-year-old self.

Then my thoughts turned more serious. I mean, as long as I’m writing to said younger self, I might drop some wisdom in addition to taunting.

So here are some thoughts for me of yesteryear. Feel free to read over his/my shoulder.

  • Ok, I said I would run your butt into the ground, and I will, but in the mean time, it really wouldn’t kill you to start running.
  • No, seriously. You see, you have more energy than most people. And it comes out as nervous energy and anxiety sometimes. Do yourself a favor, run some of it off. It will help you channel your energies better.
  • Good job starting to use product in your hair when you were 30. But go ahead and start when you’re younger–you’ll stop resenting your curls before they start falling out.
  • You will come to realize that your personality is a double-edged sword: you have a strong impulse to be against things, especially things and people in power. But you also have a strong impulse to jump to the cause of the powerless. You’re at your best when you’re using those energies to work on behalf of other people.
  • You’re going to have a dog or two. When you do, you’ll learn this: they learn much faster through positive reinforcement of good behavior than through disciplining bad behavior. There’s a life lesson here: to mentor younger people, to establish healthy relationships, to parent your children, focus on praising and encouraging. (See previous point–this sometimes does not come naturally to you.
  • At some point along the line you learned that giving yourself to family and friends was more important than giving yourself to work. I don’t know where that came from, but never let it go.
  • I hate to tell you this, but 40 year old you hasn’t yet entered into that thing you thought God called you to do when you were 17. You should start loosening the tight connection you’ve built up between your sense of self, your understanding of God, and your idea of what God has called you to do for your job.
  • Most of the time that people think you’re a jerk it’s because of how you’re acting out of your insecurities. Try to cultivate the thought that maybe when other people seem to you to be jerks that they, too, are radiating insecurity rather than animosity. You won’t always be right, but you might make some really interesting friends.
  • For the love of all that’s good and holy, please start listening to the Mountain Goats!
  • Keep faithfully praying about your life, but don’t allow your desire to have God’s direction paralyze you. Often the best we can do is wisely think through the data and go for what looks good. I think we missed a couple of good opportunities because we were waiting for a sign.
  • Never allow your theology to become so important to you that it costs you friendships. Beware of any theology that has this effect on you or the people around you.
  • Living in accordance with those idealistic patterns of yours is going to cost you. Keep doing it, though–it’s better to pay the price for being true than to reap the rewards of surrendered integrity or embrace of the malaise.
  • If you didn’t catch the Walker Percy allusion in that previous point, go out, right now, and buy all of his novels. Start reading.
  • You are going to have deeply engrained into your head that the story of Jesus, and hence the story of discipleship, is about suffering and death leading to resurrection. You’re going to need this. If God is not a God who gives life to the dead then we’re hosed. The old songs might tell you to cling to the cross, but when you do, remember that it’s only something anyone has the strength to do because God’s great “I don’t think so” of resurrection life refuses to let the cross have the last word.
  • As old as 40 might seem to you, or as much as it’s maligned as being the moment of the mid-life crisis onslaught, once you get here you’ll see that things are really just getting started. You are still at the front end of your work, things are building toward an exciting future, you have an awesome, beautiful family. Which reminds me of one last thing.
  • There is no such thing as “arriving,” only various new beginnings and places from which to keep moving forward. You will not “arrive” with a degree or a job, in a career, or in a relationship or even in a theology. Life is always in motion, people are always changing. You are always changing–hopefully developing for the better. So don’t look for moments of arrival, but instead keep faithfully doing the thing into which you’ve entered at any given moment.

There are so many more things to say to you, but if I did I suppose that the whole world itself would not be able to hold the electrons that would contain them.

I will look forward to welcoming you when you arrive–or better, when you pass through this moment onto the next leg of your journey.

Galatians 6:11 forever.


Image courtesy of Ian Kahn, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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11 thoughts on “Dear Younger Self

  1. This is wonderful! Happy birthday! Here’s to celebrating you and your impact on the Kingdom! I personally am very glad you were born.

  2. Hmm, let’s see. As I contemplate responding here I see that my last response was on May 13th to the ‘Wind at your back’ blog and apparently that had nothing to do with running but rather encouraging others so I don’t want to miss the point of this blog. I did see U2 in San Jose recently, but they didn’t sing ’40’ and Edge stayed off the edge, so your point must not be about them. Umm, I know July 4th is coming up and John Hancock signed his name in great big letters so maybe that’s it? Nah, I doubt it. Oh well, thanks for the musings; guess I need to read up on my Walker Percy (before I do I better figure out who that is…) Happy Bday man! As we say in racing, “Keep it shiny side up!”

  3. I’m a few years behind you, Daniel, and I resonate with almost every one of those. (Sorry…still haven’t started listening to the Mountain Goats yet. But that’s another story.)

    Hope you had a great birthday, man!

  4. Great post. Loved it. And, if I’ve never read anything by Walker Percy, where do you suggest I begin?

  5. Well said, my present 38 year old self needed to hear that. Especially the running!
    The nervous energy being curbed my it is totally right.

    However, the hard one is the theology over friendship.
    Someone spoke a word into me when I was 19 and told me that I would always do what was right even if it cost me friendships.
    I was dumb enough then to think that it was a blessing and not a negative observation of my personality.
    I need to slap some sense in 19 year old me!

    Thanks for the post!

  6. I was scrolling back through your blog and saw this post. Happy 40th. Being 47, I can say, ah, you’re still a kid. :-) And keep up the running and biking. Fwiw, I’m a runner, and I set my lifetime PR’s for several distances at age 45 (but granted, I never was an athlete in my younger years so I didn’t have high marks to break). There’s a great quote in Chris McDougal’s book, _Born to Run_ about running and aging: “We don’t stop running because we get old… we get old because we stop running”… and what makes the quote more remarkable is that it was said by Jack Kirk who completed the tough rugged Dipsea trail race in the Bay area a remarkable 67 years in a row… the last being at age 95 in 2002. :-)

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