Editor's Letter: Advice from the older you

If you were to compose a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you say?

If only we knew then what we know now.… As the letters in The last word show, some hard-won wisdom emerged when prominent people were asked to write letters to their 16-year-old selves. Stephen King would have skipped recreational drugs and the 10 years of misery he brought on himself and his family. Alice Cooper would have thrown over his trashy girlfriends. My own trajectory may not have been as spectacular as theirs, but here’s what I’d write to the 16-year-old me.

Dear Bob: There are things worth worrying about, but rest assured they are not the things that disturb your dreams now. You will put on weight, grow facial hair, figure out a stick shift, and learn to navigate the upper frets of the guitar. The limited vistas of suburbia and high school won’t hold you forever. You will blessed with good luck, and your triple-digit lottery number for the draft will be early proof of it. Just as you imagined, you will do your real growing up in New York City, where you’ll find great friends and the love of your life. Would you like some advice from the older you? Turn the volume down to 10 and the SPF up to 30. Be patient with yourself and those who cross your path. Cherish your friends and family; you will miss them soon enough. Don’t feel too bad if you never seem to understand the girl in your life. There are mysteries that will never be solved. Most of all, never lose your curiosity. It will guide you to a career and a calling and bring you into the company of others who are wildly curious about the world and how it works. Believe me, there is no better place to be.

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