Hi. My name is Justin. I am 17 years old. The first thing I’m going to do is write a list of all the important things in my life.
1.) My friends. Getting along with people is the most important thing in my life. I don’t want to be a loser. I also don’t want them to feel alone. It’s critical we stick together.
2.) Football. I have dreams of my high school team winning a state championship. I have no idea how unlikely this is. I also have no idea how little this will matter later in my life if it happens.
3.) My vehicle. It’s what gives me wings. My entire life, I’ve felt surrounded by this little town. But in my 1987 Chevrolet S-10, I can go anywhere. I am relieved to be behind the wheel.
4.) The girl I love. She’ll never return the feelings I have for her, but they’ll last a long time nonetheless. She exposes a romantic side of me I never knew existed.
5.) Everything I’m not supposed to do. I cannot resist this stuff. When I’m told I shouldn’t do something, I’m compelled to at least give it a try. Why not?
Hi. My name is Justin. I am 28 years old. The first thing I’m going to do is write a list of all the important things in my life.
1.) Kalista. She is my daughter and the love of my life. If I were to combine all of the things I’ve loved before her, the magnitude to which I’ve done so would not compare.
2.) My parents. Without them, I would be nothing.
3.) God. Without him, I would be nothing and have nothing. I don’t understand him. I wish he’d hurry up and send the Buffalo Bills to the Super Bowl.
4.) My friends. They are difficult to keep these days. I sincerely cherish those I have and wish I did more to show it.
5.) Everything I hope to do someday. Write a book. Teach. Get married. With the help of these first four things, I have a chance. They are inspiring, encouraging and directive.
Imagine these two persons – they are truly separate individuals – meeting.
“It’s not a big deal if everyone likes you,” the 28-year-old would say to his 17-year-old counterpart. “If everyone likes you, you’re probably not being honest.”
The 28-year-old has learned it’s ridiculous to go through life trying to please everyone. The 17-year-old can’t believe it – how does a person make friends that way?
“Quality over quantity,” the 28-year-old replies. “Those who love you understand you. They comprehend your shortcomings. They don’t expect you to be wonderful all of the time.”
Fine, the teenager says. But how does one go through life without a girl to love?
“You’d be surprised how quickly life can change,” responds the nearly-30-year-old. “Besides. I have a girl to love. She’s my daughter – and the love she needs is something you’re not ready to comprehend.
“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
The 28-year-old continues: “It will feel like a day or two after high school when you stop caring about these things: football, sweethearts, your car. They all drift away as fast as you’re accepted into college. After you graduate, the real love starts – when your life truly begins. Thankfully, you’ll recognize your parents and God as the resources they have been all along. Finally. And you’ll wonder why you didn’t look to them for guidance from the start.”
The 17-year-old just rolls his eyes.
“I will never be like you,” he says, and goes off to find something he’s not supposed to do.
In the end, it’s beautiful – this way we learn from our past. Our mistakes often guide our future; I often wonder if everyone makes mistakes and on occasion feel bad for those who don’t. But of all a person can learn, is there a lesson more effective and more humbling than that which reminds us the learning never ends? I was amazed two years ago how much more I knew than a did two years before. Still, I today perceive that person of two years ago as a rookie – a guy who had a lot to learn.
My mother and father still learn today. They allow it to happen. I wish for their patience at such an age; I hope for God’s grace to let me see such a number at all.
And I hope, by that time and if it comes, my daughter is happy – and she has learned a thing or two from her father’s 17-year-old version of himself.
Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. Thank you, God. Thank you all for dealing with this. Thank you for helping that 17-year-old become 28.