Dear 10-year old self,
As you grow and learn about the world, you’ll come to see that there are things you care about: people, pets, places, possessions, problems, and so on. You’ll become wildly excited about these things when you think about them. It will be hard to concentrate in class when you’re going to play with your favorite cousin the next day. It will drive you nuts if someone puts your shirts away in the wrong order. You’ll become infuriated if a friend dismisses climate change as unimportant.
And there will, of course, be things you won’t care too much about, like the weather. Or your next-door neighbor Larry. Or that pair of socks. Now, some things may seem important, like a typhoon in the Philippines or your uncle Mack’s 57th birthday party, but you won’t find yourself doing anything or feeling particularly strongly about these things. And that’s okay. There are a lot of things out there to care about and you can’t go caring about everything all the time.
By now, you’ve probably read Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. Do you remember the ending? “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, its not.” This is so true and don’t you ever forget it. But as you get older, you’ll see that not everybody cares about the same things. Over and over again, I know you’ll become disheartened when people you care about, your family and friends, just don’t care about snails, or environmental justice, or your shirt rotation. After all, these things mean the world to you! You’ll take it as a personal insult. You’ll shout at them, argue, lecture, send them snapchats of snails, and persuade them that they are doing it wrong! You’ll even quote Dr. Seuss. But it won’t have any effect.
But here is what you need to understand. Just because they don’t care about the same things as you, it does not mean that they don’t care about you. That is the hardest lesson. And you’ll have to learn it over and over again. In the meanwhile, try not to get carried away in your passionate rants and hurt someone you love. Try not to wall yourself of from those who support you. If they care about you, they’ll respect you and the things you care about.
No. Matter. What. Never stop caring. Dr. Seuss did not say, “unless someone like you convinces everyone else to care a whole awful lot…” It is not your job to change people. It is your job to care. They say that the opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s apathy. And that is where you never want to find yourself. It is a gift to care. And you can spread that gift by caring as hard as you can.
Take a deep breath, little guy, it is a long road ahead. Respect the things other people care about and be open and listen to them. Respect the people that don’t care about what you care about. Don’t shout at them; share instead. But never, ever, ever… never stop caring.
Your older self
P.S. Don’t stay afterschool for volleyball in 2006. It won’t be any fun.
P.P.S. Make sure you are well versed in Harry Potter before you get to college just in case you meet a lovely girl that is a huge Potterhead.
P.P.P.S. You are going to become more and more lactose intolerant as you get older so enjoy milk and ice cream as long as you can. Especially ice cream.
featured image photo credit: Evan Kuras