Letter To My 15 Year Old Self On My 30th Birthday…

My dear Jeremy,

As I’ve been circling around this milestone of my 30th birthday, I’ve been thinking about you often. You know how, even though you’re having doubts about God right now, you still feel like he’s watching over you and judging what you’re doing? It’s funny to say, but now you’ve actually taken over that role for me, in a good way. Perhaps more than anyone else, I feel like you’re accompanying me, observing me, forming opinions about how well I’m living the revolutionary values that you are just now developing. I guess to say it concisely, I feel a unique responsibility to you, and to honor the path that you put me on.

15 years later, I can still feel the surge of energy that you’re now unlocking as you’re exploring spirituality and politics. The decisive break you’ve made from your middle school years, your bullying and the shame around being yourself, still reverberates today. You still inspire me with your hope and your curiosity, and I still feel moments where the world is opening up. A lot has happened, so many things that we didn’t expect–but not actually the things the adults are warning you about!–but I am still here, Jeremy. Though I have faltered, and I have changed, I haven’t grown up in the way we were so scared of…and I certainly haven’t sold out.

Some quick, fun little updates:

Right about now you must be reading that book about the Tiananmen Square movement, right? You’re imagining all of the committees that the students are forming, you’re wondering if you’ll ever be in a committee of your own, or a coop, or a collective. The answer is yes to all three, to the point that now committees feel almost nightmarish in how they seem to spin off into more and more committees! Revolutionary movement work is real, there really are thousands of other people doing it (and the numbers have grown so much since 1996!), and it actually doesn’t feel so precious and exotic anymore. It’s kind of just life now, believe it or not.

I’m still straight-edge! Never smoked, never drank, never tried drugs, and I still don’t plan to. Now, I don’t actually use the term publicly anymore, just because it turns out that a lot of self-proclaimed straight-edge people are real jerks and they don’t have any other political views at all. But I still love my clear thoughts. But something worth noting is that most of the friends you are worried about now actually turned out okay, so some of the judgement and fear was a little harsh.

I do cuss now, though. Leave it to working in a high school to make me start using bad words! I didn’t use them at all until I was already twenty-something, but the reason I started was actually so that I could connect more with high school students that I was working with. Okay, so this is selling out a bit, and I can own up to that. But swearing in front of youth can sometimes be the quickest way to build trust and get to real stuff. AND it’s important to say that I never say any harsh words that are truly hurtful or offensive, like the b-word, n-word, homophobic words, etc.

The acne’s gonna clear up, but the next years are going to be way too rough. I actually often have a beard now! But the posture’s still bad.

You’re right about adults. All the things you suspect about their own confusions, contradictions, and lies are pretty much true. I have seen nothing about getting older that actually automatically makes us adults wiser. Sure, having more experiences and actively learning from them is a real thing, and I do think there are probably a ton of lessons that I’d personally like to teach you. But their attitude of authority is mostly an act, and their warnings about what you need to do correctly, about how to have the best future, are mostly them just passing off what they think they’re supposed to say. Believe me, each night they go home scared and insecure about all the things they’re doing wrong just like you do.

Still no book published. Still can’t speak Mandarin (but I’m studying), but I am fluent in Spanish, my yo-yoing is still great, and I still can ride the unicycle!

I’m married! That’s right, I can’t believe that one either. As I think you are suspecting, love has been harder to find and to feel than it first looked, and our own love story is really something special. I still agree with you about all your critiques of marriage, but this is one area where selling out to immigration law seemed to be important. But yeah, it’s true that love shifts and changes, and maybe there will be some day that this love and this married arrangement doesn’t make sense anymore. But you know there is also the beauty of growing old together with someone, and with a community, and of building a story there. I think this does require a commitment that you express out loud to the people who need to hear it, otherwise, when the things get really hard, insecurity takes over and people can leave for lack of confidence in the future. There is something powerful in a promise that you make year after year and keep…but of course happiness and passion do need to be a priority in there, right?

I still try hard to be friendly and playful. I’m finally rediscovering that lizard smile. I’d lost it for a bit, because there have been some rough times. But overall I think you would like me. And I actually hold myself to that exact standard a lot!

And as many other things I have that I want to update you about, that’s really the point of this letter. I wanted to take just a moment to look inside myself and recognize you. I want to see you with as clear of eyes and memories as possible, and I want to thank you for what you’re doing right now. Thank you so much for the questions you are asking. Thank you for the ways you’re trying to break out of your shell. Thank you for your creativity. Thank you for distrusting the adult line. Thank you for the reading, as hard as it is to make sense of–you’ll actually get quite good at the intellectual work–and thank you for the creative writing. Thank you, especially for feeling so deeply, for your sensitivity and for not letting all the middle school masculinity brutalize it out of you. I needed all of those choices to get here, and I’m really proud of where we’ve gone.

It’s slow and hard, but we are building a revolutionary community. It’s slower than we had wanted, but it’s happening. With poetry and music still woven throughout this life, I feel like I am carrying forward all of the biggest elements of what we had dreamed about. A new society is possible, a better world is possible…and that’s actually the slogan of a movement of hundreds of thousands of people, not just me on the computer alone! It’s so much bigger than we thought it was!

Like Tim will soon tell you, the real world is hard and it will try to crush a little butterfly like us…but these wings are still fluttering. Bruised, for sure, but still fluttering.

I still feel you in there, Jeremy, and I hope that I have been accountable to you in the ways that most matter. I hope that you are proud of me. Because I’m really proud of how you got here.

With just so much love!


Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi