Letter to my 17-Year Old Self


Hope you are doing awesome! You have been on my mind a lot lately as the stories of the possible college choice to your enlisting in the Army reserves. I woke up this morning thinking about how proud of you I am. Not because of your devilishly good looks, but because of your compassion. I am reading a book by the Dalai Lama called Beyond Religion and he talks about how when babies are born they have compassion and throughout their lives well meaning parents, teachers, uncles, unintentionally beat that loving kindness right out of them. We have a society that values conformity and you are no conformist. You have never done what others thought was important, you followed your instincts and you instinctively knew that the kids being left out should be included, the defenseless need defending and everyone needs a friend.

You know, whenever I am talking about you, bragging really, I always start my description of you by telling the person how compassionate, loving and empathetic of a young man you are. I always say that you are all heart. What I mean by that is from the moment you were born, you always knew right from wrong, that was innate in you. No one taught you that. That was the uniqueness of you and one of your many, but most powerful contributions to the world so far.

I guess the reason I am writing this now as opposed to any other day is because, as you embark on the next journey into the Military and/or going away to college, you are not going to meet too many people like you. They will not have the inner guidance you have (or they will have had it beaten out of them), they will not have the compassion for the weaker among us that you have and they will tell you that you are wrong for caring. You are not wrong, but instead of fighting them, understand that those people deserve your compassion too. They don’t trust themselves, they are insecure and they are lashing out because no one ever told them it was okay to care. They very well may need the most compassion of anyone.

The great thing about this life is that your expectations prepave the results you will see. Your father is a great example of that. His ability to know exactly what he wants, guarantees that he will get it. That focus, without any fear or doubt is what makes him who he is. So, if you focus on the things that matter to you, the types of people you want to have in your life, you will have people that will match those thoughts. So focus on people that will uplift, empower, tutor, expand and nourish compassion and loving kindness and those are the people you will attract in your life. Even in the Military, those people exist.

In the Army, you are not really going to feel like you fit in. They are going to put you through drills, push you to the brink of your physical limits, which are good to know, but they are also going to talk and act like barbarians, many are not going to be as smart as you and they certainly will do whatever they can to squash compassion. Do what they tell you, go through the motions, take the best parts out of the training but never, ever let your inner guidance not be the loudest voice in your head. Find their ranting amusing, they will be good stories one day, but understand that they need your compassion as well. They were never comfortable being themselves and they came to this place mostly out of fear, or some sense of duty.

The reason I say that is because I felt that way. I didn’t have words to articulate the feelings I had, but I felt like, wow, they just don’t get it. I fell into line, trusted that the adults in my life, that the military knew what was best for me and I lost my way, I stopped listening to myself. I always came back to who I was, but I took long detours meandering down paths, some good, some bad, some really bad, but none that really matched what I felt like inside.

Now, much later in life, I am unlearning all of the rules I was taught. I am getting back to a place where I trust my inner guidance where I have youthful trust and love of all people. A feeling that I know, that no matter what people believe or do, it’s all going to be alright. Right now, I have more amazing friends and a life that is expanding beyond my wildest expectations. Unlike your father, I never really had that single minded focus, I wanted to try everything, go everywhere, meet everyone, and I have. The only thing that has changed is that now I only expect to meet amazing people, do amazing things and dream bigger than I could have ever imagined, and those things are now coming into my life every day.

Sometimes, I wish there was someone that told me all of this stuff when I was 17, but then I wouldn’t be here to tell you it now, so I like this version better. Just know that you are PERFECT the way you are, and that magnificent voice in your head, that overwhelming feeling that you have for kindness, that inner light that you have, is something that you should nurture and expand upon.

In the words of Forrest Gump, “That is all I have to say about that.”

Love you more than you could know, and prouder than I could ever express.


- Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is a New York based screenwriter, humanitarian, music lover and positive energy junkie. He believes in the power of thought, the oneness of universe and impact moments. He works with various charities in both the US and Haiti, helping wherever he feels like he can make the most difference.

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