Letter to a Young Magazine Writer

January 20, 2014

Hi Will, hope you’re doing well and enjoying your time in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This is your future self calling. The guy half a decade down the road to one you’re destined to become.

I hope I’m not disturbing you. I know, what with life being pulled between classroom teaching, working on your dream role at the magazine and entertaining the girlfriend you live with that time is precious. One good thing I can tell you is that time is something you’ll soon grow to have an abundance of. That’s why, in fact, I’m able to sit down and write you now.

It’s not just time that you’ll find you have bundles of in your late 20’s though. You’ll also have more cash than you’d ever come to expect doing what you’re doing now. Not that money is important to you. I’m just saying your attitudes toward it will change as you get older, as you meet other people who help shape your mind and your desires. Try not to let them in as much if you can. Still practice being your own man.

As for the moments you’re experiencing now – that amazing sense of empowerment and the feeling you can do anything in this world if you put your mind to it? Don’t worry that won’t fade anytime soon. Despite your sensitivity to age and the fear of growing old unfulfilled. IT WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU.

It’s still even here with me, your future self, now. Even as I write this stuck in a bind and unsure of where to move next. I still have that faith. That knowing that everything will work out. That I will grow for the better as a result of these experiences. And remain grateful for the luxury of introspection. The narcissistic naval-gazing too.

So even though you’re not so lost right now, and that you have a clear picture about what you want to do, just remember that plans change as often as the wind. So you mustn’t beat yourself up for wanting or wishing to change direction at any time. But make sure that when you do you do it for you. And not some whimsical image that other people have or expect of you.

There will be expectation. But you will assume there’s a lot more than there is in reality. Try to focus away from that and maintain a clear head. You don’t have to do anything that takes you away from the path. And even if you do find yourself wandering off it, things will pull you back to it again and again. There is an inner desire in you to create and do certain things. That will never die. Just don’t suppress it and think it’s useless. Let go of that idea that you have to make money doing it. Do it anyway and hold on to that joy.

As for travel you’ll end up back in Vietnam several years from now. You’ll see that it hasn’t changed all that much. That the magazine you used to love writing for is still going and similar opportunities abound. Possibly even the job you want so bad now. The position of being an editor and spearheading your own idea of where a publication should be heading.

You’ll get that chance later by the way. And let’s just say all that tinkering you’re doing right now with WordPress, Photoshop and the like? Well it comes in useful. Very useful actually to everything that happens next. So remember that self-education is the only path. And that all those efforts lead somewhere. Even if they’re not totally apparent to you right now.

What I’m saying is feel comfortable in your exploration. Keep learning. Keep reading. Keep trying new stuff out. Never assume it’s a waste of time. It serves you well. Much better than the time you’re wasting worrying over what and how to learn. Let the momentum carry you. And just work on the things that interest you. Not the things you think you should be learning.

Don’t worry about the Vietnamese either. I know you tried a little. You’ll learn another language much more in-depth later on. You’ll even become a little known for it and make a little bank from it too. Perhaps even piggy back off that to make new things happen.

Forget about all that for now. Just remember to remain present. You’ll struggle with this a lot so it pays to start trying now. Maybe that means looking at things like yoga and meditation. Perhaps reading a few psychology books here and there.

Oh yes and then there’s the apartment in downtown Saigon and the British girlfriend you came here with. Put the effort in to maintain those things. Cherish them now while you have them.

People will come and go more than you think.

But the opportunity to meet new people never goes away.

Just remember that it’s about the effort you make and the value you bring to the world. It’s never the other way around. The world doesn’t owe you and it never ever will. I know you’ve got this kind of figured already but you might lose sight of it a little a little further down the line. Especially when you start to move rapidly from place to place.

Which, by the way, you inevitably will.

By the age of 28 you’ll only have one continent left to explore.

But the biggest exploration – and one that you’re probably too naive to recognise right now – is yourself.

So, to end on a constructive note, pursue that.

Before travel, before business, before all else — focus on that.

Focus on knowing yourself.

Because nobody will ever tell you who that is.

Not even the future yourself writing to you now.