I can only imagine that as you read this letter, you’ll wonder why or how this letter even arrived to you. For the sake of saving time, though, who cares, really? Just go with it. It is from me, twenty-one years into your future, to you – twenty-one years in my past — and meant to give you some insight into what your life will become if you don’t make some minor, yet meaningful changes. Don’t get me wrong – you’re not going to end up on the streets or anything like that. It’s not that dramatic, but in the next ten years, you’re going to face at a lot of questions. Questions about yourself and about the direction your life has taken. The biggest question of all will arrive when you are in your thirties: Where did I go wrong? Yes, you read that, correctly. So pay attention!
Right now, you’re in high school – and you’ve really got a good sense of self…you’re a good kid and you’re kind of just waiting to grow up and live out the life that you envision for yourself. You’ve got a lot of dreams and you envision a specific lifestyle as an adult: the “good” things in life, travel, writing, and movies, just to name a few. Nothing wrong with that. Keep dreaming. It’s good for the soul.
HOWEVER: (and listen good!) dreaming and hoping will only get you so far.
Those two screenplays that you’ve been writing…well, I hate to tell you this, but you’ll still be writing them when you’re thirty-seven. And, sadly, what you’ve already written is better that what you write, later. I know, I know… I’m so sorry to bring you this kind of news, but that’s kind of the point of this letter. I’ve gotta shake you up a little!
Here’s the deal: You have great vision and insight. What you don’t have, though, is the advice and the mentors that you need in order to truly execute the life you imagine for yourself. Slowly, all of this will catch up with you. You know what you want to do, but you really don’t know how to do it. At sixteen, at twenty, and at thirty, you’ll still be dreaming…IF, that is, you don’t make some changes.
You talk, a lot, about what you want to do, but you don’t spend a lot of time studying the craft, itself. You need to take writing and film classes, in school or during the summers. Period. I know that this is all going to sound foreign to you, but that’s the point: it’s imperative that you seek out people to help you. One day, you can help yourself (even help others), but right now, you’re just a teenager and you need someone to help you.
While you’re in high school and especially while you’re in college, learn to become a writer and go to film school. Fight the urge to study something “practical.” Believe me, if you don’t do it, you will only come full-circle and find that all you have done in life is waste time. Since you were a kid, you’ve known that you love three things: television, writing and movies. Follow your heart and don’t mistake dreaming for doing. They are two different words with two different roads.
Do me (and yourself) some huge favors:
* Write. A lot. Write every day. Take screenwriting classes.
* Read. A lot. I know you don’t love to read, but it’s imperative, as a writer, to learn the “voices” of other writers and to find your own “voice”, as well.
* Take the time during high school to intern with local production companies. I know this means absolutely nothing to you, right now, but at some point in the future, you will have to support yourself, financially. I don’t know how to break this to you, but if you wait to figure out all of this (writing and film) stuff out, you’ll only find that you can’t afford to take the time off of your “real” job. You’ll be stuck.
This last bit of advice will truly alter our lives. I mean, start looking at the big picture. Focus on what you want to do in life and start doing it. One thing will lead to another. So…make each thing meaningful to the story of our overall life.
In the grand scope of things, these are minor changes that, if done, will alter the course of our life. You’ll thank me for it. Heck, I’ll probably thank you for it, too, because by the time you are thirty-seven, I’ll be fifty-eight and I’d like to believe that your good habits become our successes throughout the time and space continuum.
And here’s the biggest piece of advice of all: Don’t ever take your eye off of the ball. There will be moments that may make the road longer, but if you stay focused, driven and stay in faith, it will make all of the difference.
Thirty-Seven year old “Angela”
Ps. I find it best to touch on something, unrelated to all of the above, but just as important. Soon, you will be discover (albeit SLOWLY) that yes, you’re gay. I won’t address this, right now, but I will tell you this: believe it or not, it’s going to be ok. As a matter of fact, it will be more than ok. I know that seems truly impossible, but just trust me. And, by the way, the one person that you fear will reject you? She won’t.