Letter to My 18-Year-Old Self

Hi Diego, hope you’re doing well. I know it’s 1988 and you’re in college. Actually I know exactly how you’re doing, because I am you. If you are reading this, it means the universe just forked. I don’t remember reading it, so your timeline is no longer mine. Or maybe it is and my memory has been erased. It’s been a while, you know. I’m writing this in 2023. So do me a favor, let’s pretend we are the same person, ok?

I’m going to tell you a few things that might save you (might have saved me) a fair amount of unnecessary suffering. First off, things are going to be fine. In some respects, life is going to surpass your expectations. You will experience life in different cities and countries (hint, why do you think I’m writing this in English?). It will be a bumpy ride, of course. It will get very rough at times, and sometimes you won’t believe that things will ever get better. But they will.

Now, you think you’re so smart these days. Your brain is great at everything logical, your writing is much better and funnier than mine (enjoy it while it lasts). Also you are a handsome guy, no homo (both in the Latin and Greek senses). The problem is that you think everyone sucks, and very few people are worthy of your time. And it’s not that you’re wrong; humans in general do suck. But let me tell you, you suck as much as everyone else. And you suck in ways that will take you a long time to discover.

I know you don’t believe me. I’m writing to myself from the future to convey the message that I really sucked? Yes, you are very flawed in important ways. It’s not your fault, that’s just the lottery of being a human being. You don’t understand human nature very well. You think you do, but you really have no idea. It’s not that I understand that much more than you, but at least I have come to terms with how much I don’t know. The most important thing I want to tell you is this: you are very good at finding faults with people. You judge them quickly. If someone isn’t good at X or Y, it’s obvious to you. You fixate on that. I can’t tell you why you do this, I haven’t figured it out yet. But it does prevent you from enjoying many potential relationships.

If I could go back to being your age with what I know, I would try to be much more compassionate. Many (most?) people out there are aware of their worst flaws, and they don’t need to be reminded of them. Also, you constantly meet people that have attributes that you would enjoy. But you don’t give them a chance. Try this: when you have an opportunity to meet someone new, ask yourself “what is uniquely interesting about this person? What can I learn from them? Can I enjoy hanging out with them? I know they are flawed just like me. Are their flaws a deal-breaker, or can I set them aside and enjoy the good?” Trust me, you will be happier.

I know you feel very lonely a lot of the time. You find yourself listening to FM radio alone on a Saturday night, wondering if there are other people like you experiencing similar feelings and thoughts. You don’t know this, but you’re far from unique or alone. Unfortunately for you there is no “internet” yet. But in a few years you will be able to chat with people around the world 24/7 with your computer. It will get better.

Finally, let’s talk about women. I’ve read the funny stories you wrote, like the one about an infinite number of sexes in some sci-fi future. But I know you are really afraid of approaching women. You are very impatient, and you get anxious. You don’t want to say stupid things or act like a fool, so you end up doing nothing. Girls who like you give you hints that you don’t pick up at all, and they are very confused. You know what? They are as confused and afraid as you. Nobody knows anything, and we all pretend we do. The older you knows enough to be comfortable with this fact. Talk to them, say stupid things, let your inexperience show. It doesn’t matter. I know you hate to dress well, because it’s uncomfortable. But you’ll learn that sometimes in life that’s a price you have to pay. Keep working out, and let someone else help you out with your clothes and your hair. You will experience some awkwardness and heartbreak, but also you will have fewer regrets than I. I did pretty well in the love department, but later and at a significant cost. Maybe you can do better. Anyway, just make sure you don’t get anyone pregnant by accident. I would hate to see the timeline in which you did not [spoiler alert] move to Silicon Valley because you had to support a family at a young age.

A few more things: your brain will sometimes spend a ton of cycles making you suffer for no reason. You will get lost in the metaphysical horror of “why is there anything at all?” until one day you’ll realize that the question itself doesn’t make sense. Think of this: at the very least logic exists. If there is no logic, then anything is possible. Including something coming out of nothing. So when those thoughts make you dizzy at night, just remember that your brain is trying to apply logic where it doesn’t fit. There can’t be a “why” for everything, “why” is just a thing our brains make up. Leave it be.

Finally, a word about anxiety. Not everyone experiences or understands the types of anxieties that you do. Maybe anxiety is not even the right word. Sometimes your body will create very unpleasant sensations that seem to come out of nowhere, and you’ll believe that you can fix it with thoughts. You can’t. Some people will tell you to relax, to work out, to eat well, to live a healthy lifestyle, to think positive thoughts. And all of that will work sometimes, so do it. But sometimes it won’t. Sometimes you will need therapy and/or medication in addition to all that. And it’s fine. Other people have it much worse than you. What you have is a double-edge sword, a blessing and a curse, and I’ll stop with the cliches because I know how much you hate them. The point is that you have a ton of energy, and sometimes it will backfire. But sometimes it will lead you to obsess about constructive things, and you will accomplish a lot of awesomeness. But during the dark times, there isn’t that much you can do besides the above. I know patience is not your thing, so just endure and distract yourself if/when you can. Try to take the focus away from yourself by helping other people, it sometimes works. You will have prolonged periods of feeling great, punctuated by the occasional shitstorm that will catch you naked and holding a broken umbrella. Just close your eyes and don’t let the excrement of life get in them.

Anyway, you are a pretty lucky guy. I think that if we sat down together and analyzed 1000 random runs of our potential life, this one would be 95% percentile good. Hang in there and I’ll see you in 35 years. We won’t have flying cars, we won’t be vacationing in space. But we’ll have the most amazing pocket computers you can imagine. Air travel will be the same, but cars will be much safer and close to driving themselves. Enjoy the ride.

PS: when this thing called “Bitcoin” appears in 2010, buy 10000 of them and sell them in 2021 when they hit 50k a piece. Don’t tell anyone, you’ll thank me later.