This post is inspired by Bryan Trottier’s “Letter to Myself” Although I’ve never met him, I had the privilege of serving with his son-in-law on a previous tour. His well-written letter got me thinking about my life and career so far, and what advice I’d want to give to my younger self.
You’re about to celebrate your tenth birthday while in the process of moving for the fifth time in your life. I wish I could tell you these relocations get easier as you grow older, but I can’t. All I can tell you is to enjoy the journey and all the friendships you’ll make along the way.
Later this year, you’ll want to quit the Boy Scouts. Fortunately, your mother convinces you to stick with it. Everything you later accomplish in life you will be able to trace back to the lessons you learned in Scouting. Also, you should listen to your mother a lot more. She’s incredibly smart.
In junior high, your father will help you with your homework. He will chide you for the sloppy way you write out the answers, always saying, “Neatness counts, son.” You will roll your eyes every time, but it turns out he’s absolutely right.
When you are fifteen, you’ll kiss a girl from Philadelphia, and then move halfway across the world a few days later. You should write more letters to her while you’re away. She’s going to be back in your life again, I promise.
Throughout your childhood, you constantly have the need to make your parents proud of you. I’ll let you in on a little secret: you will always have that need.
Here’s another: you’ve succeeded.
In college, certain professors will tell you that the great books of the past, especially those written by deceased white European men, aren’t worth reading. Don’t listen to them. Read as many of the classics as you possibly can.
But don’t go to so many concerts. They are rarely as much fun as you think they’ll be. Except for Radiohead at the Gorge. That one was incredible.
At the end of flight school, you won’t be assigned the aircraft you originally wanted. That’s all right, because you’ll move to an amazing part of the country, where you get to fly through the some of the most gorgeous landscape you’ve ever seen, and most importantly, you will work with people who are incredibly smart, funny, and courageous.
(Oh, and you should probably pay more attention to your Physics class in college, especially the lectures on electromagnetic energy.)
When you are twenty-five and on your first deployment, you’ll have a Commanding Officer who makes the job look easy and fun. Fifteen years later, you’ll find out that he wasn’t acting. And his example will influence almost every decision you make as a Skipper.
Every chance you get to talk to your grandparents, ask them to tell you a story: about when they were young; about their parents; about their children. All too soon, you’ll lose the opportunity.
2001 will somehow be both the best and the worst year of your life.
This near-constant anxiety that you feel will never go away, but you will learn to tame it, and it will serve you well, keeping you on your toes, helping you anticipate what needs to be done, and ensuring you show the attention to detail necessary to succeed in your chosen profession.
You’ll read a line from the Baghavad Gita that sticks with you: “Perform all acts as worship.” Try harder to follow that advice.
Often your job will put you into situations that you were never trained nor prepared for. Think for a second, and then take your best shot. Even when you miss, you’ll learn what you needed to.
You will eventually figure out the difference between being intelligent and being educated. Some of the smartest people you’ll know will be the former without being the latter.
Every romantic relationship you have between the ages of fifteen and twenty-six will fail. It’s a painful process, but it has to be that way so that you ultimately marry the woman who is perfect for you.
At some point, you’ll find yourself in Baghdad during the hottest summer you can possibly imagine. When the mortars and rockets start landing near you, try to act a little less scared.
Being a father will be ten times harder than you thought it would be. And a hundred times better.
At many points in your career, you’ll compare your occupation to those of your college classmates and wonder if chasing your childhood dream was worth the low pay, the limited perks, and all the time spent away from home. Eventually you will understand that they are doing what they’re meant to do, and you are doing the same. It’s a liberating thought.
When your children ask you to read just one more book before bedtime, read them the book.
Even at forty, you will still seek out your father for advice. And he will always know the right thing to say, even if it’s as simple as “follow your instincts, son.”
You have this vision of how your life will turn out. Keep that idea in your head, if only so you can someday realize how much better it actually did.