To self, with hindsight: Wisdom via perspective

Have you ever wanted to write a letter to your younger self? Doubtless you’re more sensible than that. After all, who’s going to deliver it? There isn’t enough postage in the world to cover the physics.

Well, it’s raining and I have nothing better to do than write undeliverable letters. This goes out to my 18-year-old self about to get on that Greyhound to New York City, where I lived for a time before settling in England. With any luck, I won’t use it as a bookmark and forget to open it.

Dear Self:

Tiffin ain’t so bad! (When you get out of high school, you’re allowed to use the word “ain’t” with impunity, though it loses its lustre.) I know you’re eager to flee, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but before saying goodbye, appreciate what you’re saying goodbye to.

First of all, the town you’ve grown up in is the perfect size. It’s hard to believe, bored Self, but if you don’t trust Goldilocks, take it from someone who’s lived both cheek by jowl with 8 million strangers and in the middle of a meadow with ruminating neighbors offering conversation no more scintillating than “Baaaah!”: there is such a thing as just right.

If you want a crowd, all you need do is go to a game or a parade or a sale at Kroger; otherwise, there’s a decent amount of elbow room.

You’ll never again live in a place with such an ideal housing market, with a wide range of prices and habitations to choose from. Property taxes in New Jersey (where you’re eventually going to move, sorry it’s not as sexy as the city) are crazy, and the cost of housing in England — not to mention the abysmal state and “cosy” size of much of it — will have you throwing your hands up in despair.

You’ll even come to waste time on the internet looking at real estate listings back home, mooning over dreamily spacious and affordable houses. What’s the internet, you say? I forgot, it’s still early days for that when you are, don’t even bother googling “broadband” (or “google”).

An appreciation will also return for the streets you pedalled down all through childhood. Eager as you’ve been to get off that bicycle and into a car, soon to be traded for a subway train token, you’re going to be climbing back onto a bike in years to come, recognizing in hindsight what an ideal environment Tiffin is for a cyclist thanks to those wide, quiet streets. True, winters can be tricky, but where’s your sense of adventure?

Most of your family are here. You’ll be spending a pretty penny on airline tickets to see them in the years to come, and flying is going to become way less fun, believe me.

Now do me a favor and find a way to send this back to your even younger self. I’ve got a few things to say to him, too.

When you break your arm falling off the jungle gym in kindergarten at Noble Elementary, don’t just walk home! Have a classmate get the teacher, like a normal person. You’re decades away from even knowing what “stiff upper lip” means.

Don’t give your band teacher, Mr. Greenwald, such a hard time. Did you know he was in the Battle of the Bulge? He could probably kill you nine different ways with that baton if he wasn’t so patient. While you’re at it, refrain from rolling your eyes at his wife when she suggests you work to your potential in English class. You’ll find that being a slacker doesn’t tend to pay dividends in life.

In fact, take school a bit more seriously. What could it hurt? There’s torture worse than algebra, and it really does prepare you for the real world, or at least the world of reality television to come: I’ve never seen “The X Factor,” but it stands to reason a knowledge of quadratic equations comes in handy.

Pay more attention in French class so you won’t have to rely on Google Translate when you want to sound erudite.

That typing class will come in handy, trust me. Work on those typos. “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy log” isn’t poetic licence, it’s just wrong.

Do more circuits in Beeghly Library, perhaps speeding up each time. You won’t be running into any more round libraries.

This last one is very important: it’s not “Kroger’s”, it’s “Kroger”. I have no idea where you got that sticky “‘s” from. Then again, tu ne seras jamais heureux si tu cherches toujours la petite béte.

Belatedly,

Yours Truly

PS. There’s a lot more I could say, like for God’s sake buy stock in Apple, but that’ll do for now.

Scott Munn is a former Tiffin resident who has lived in England for 21 years.

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