A Letter to High School Me

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

Neil Gaiman (1960 – )

Dear ’09 Chris,

It’s 2019 and the last ten years have changed our lives more than we can imagine. Like seriously. Almost nothing you think will happen actually happens. The fact that I’m even writing something down (that isn’t a song) without someone forcing me seems like a straight up miracle.

At first, I thought writing a letter to the old me would be stupid. But now, I feel like doing this can:

  • help me straighten out my thoughts
  • maybe give you some advice (if time travel ever becomes real)
  • help other people who read this too.

I know you feel capable and smart but there are so many things you need to learn.

Chris, I’m not going to pull my punches because I know what hurts you and gets your attention.

You really can’t fathom the depths of your ignorance. This lack of knowledge is the reason why your life gets thrown off course time and time again.

Yes, you will be forced to walk the beaten path. It will hurt and it will be hard. Try not to be scared and please, for the love of God, don’t frantically try to figure out how to prevent it. The lessons you’d need to learn to prevent all of that pain can only be learned by going through it. That being said, you don’t retire at 24. You are not a doctor. You went to a state college. You work for almost minimum wage with really bad hours. You do not know enough to play the games of life well. You will enter a world where you must compete with people much smarter than you who have been playing the same game for much longer than you have. So listen up.

You will go through challenges that are harder than what most people have experienced and you will not be understood. You will have a hard time articulating what happened to you for years but the bright side is you are tough enough to get through it! And even better, you will turn all of that pain and hurt into such a positive force in the world that you will gain new insights on what it means to be successful and fulfilled. Do not be afraid of anyone and trust your gut. That’s the only way to do it.

I know I’m being super general and to be honest, you probably don’t have the attention span to read all of this but if you got this far then I’ll give you some actionable advice and some spoilers.

Stop worrying about your family. Everything that you are worried about today will either not matter in 2019 or will keep happening so learn to make peace with it. Dad won’t stop drinking no matter how many ultimatums you give him, but Mom learns to how to stop making it a bigger problem than it is. I know that sounds super weird but Mom and Dad start to become less like enemies and more like other adults you are on this planet with.

You will learn about their flaws and why they act the way they do and through this understanding you will find a new level of compassion.

Mom gets better with respecting your time and controlling her emotions, and you need to forgive her sooner than later.

It’s tough out here Chris, and you need to learn that it’s hard for everyone. Everyone.

I know you’re worried about losing loved ones to death because, well it’s natural to fear death. Don’t worry. Mom, Dad, and Madelynne will make it. You even get a dog! His name is Aries and he’s an interesting pup for sure. You will love him to death, after you accidentally abuse him. Grandma passes away at the beginning of 2011, so enjoy those weekly visits at the SNF (you’ll learn my lingo later) because one day they’ll end and it will be the last real unity of the Balanza Clan. After she passes the family fragments, but the important ones will stay in touch. Sean’s mom passes away during our junior year. This hits us hard because it’s the first time we lose a parental figure in our lives and boy does that put things in perspective. A few years later, Robbie’s dad will pass away. Yeah, Mr. Stowers will leave us early man. That death hits harder than any other so far. Cherish the times he rambles on, be respectful (as you always have been), and remember him for the generous and kind man that he was. You won’t ever let him know how grateful you are for him and when you get the chance you will be too overwhelmed to tell him. Try not to let that bother you so much. I know it’s hard though, because it still bothers me now. Try to celebrate his life and have a big fucking party.

Start to tell people exactly how you feel.

I say “start to” because it’s going to take years before you begin to effectively communicate half of what you really mean. Practice early and always strive to be better at communication.

You need to toughen up. You will aim too high and berate yourself when you don’t reach these peaks but Chris, the sad truth was you never had what it took to get there in the first place. You have the ability to get what it takes, but currently you are ill equipped to handle the world.

Do things that you don’t want to do. Find a joy in struggling. It is okay to fail. It’s actually good to fail! The fool is the precursor to the hero, so when you fall get back up.

Don’t quit IB. Don’t quit track. Apply for appeals when college admissions comes around (especially for UCI). There were like 3 or 4 other key choices I made in high school that really messed me up going forward. You’ll know them when they appear because you’ll experience a lot of friction when trying to do it and everyone will tell you it’s a bad idea. I know you’ll take those as signs that you have to do it, but you’re wrong. It’s tough to figure out when that’s true, I know.

Pay attention to who your friends are. I know they’ve been with you for years and they will stay with you for years, but many of them will betray you. I wish you could see the signs now. As for the ones who don’t betray you…you end up wronging in terrible ways. Either way, you lose almost all of the people who surround you now, the ones who you call “family.” It’s a painful loss, but a necessary one.

Keep toxic people out of your life and keep your toxicity away from others.

Be yourself and focus on the the love and approval of a few people.

It’s not all bad though.

So many amazing things happen too!

The next 10 years will have some of the best memories of your life. You’ll start a band….well LDT will break up and it’ll just be you and Zac. You’ll travel and meet amazing people. You’ll have insane adventures! You will feel so undoubtably alive.

Keep the creative spirit alive in you.

I kept it pushed down for a few years, for reasons you’ll understand later, but I found that it was not worth it.

If you are not being creative, you are dying.
Understand that about us. It’s a nonnegotiable.

Believe it or not, you will actually meet girls who like you back. You’ll get your heartbroken a few times but you’ll be in a few relationships too. You’ll end up in 3 relationships in the next ten years. Do better in the first two. They won’t work out, but they deserved better than how I treated them. The third relationship will be one of the best things that has ever happened to you. When you’ll meet her, you’ll instantly understand what I’m saying. She completes us and makes us better dude. Like way better. I’m still dating her now and things are pretty good.

Take time to learn about how to act in relationships and what it takes to build a strong foundation.

There’s so much I still want to tell you, but know we learn to love the things about ourselves that we hate so dearly. The things we are scared to show people are the things we probably should. It’s cheesy, but it’s worked out for me most of the time. Pay attention in class. You’ll need all of this useless information more than other people will. Oh yeah, your driver’s license is one of the best investments you’ll make so make sure you get that.

Be bold. Trust yourself. Don’t worry so damn much. Find joys in the experiences and opportunities in front of you. Don’t quit on yourself. You have a lot to offer, but a lot to learn. Push yourself further than you want to go.

Maybe things could work out a little better for you.


Christopher S. Mukiibi, 2019