Dear 18-year-old self

35-year-old dad pens a letter to himself at age 18

Dear Howie,

Howard Ludwig at 18

If my math is correct, it’s your first semester at college. You’re sweating out a philosophy course. And worried that flunking out will mean returning home and being handed a shovel for rest of your life.

I’m writing this letter from 17 years in the future. I don’t want to get too specific, but everything works out. You are happily married with two kids, a modest home and an aging minivan. And that fear of returning to the family landscaping business with your tail between your legs still drives you.

About now, you are also contemplating pledging a fraternity. You won’t regret it. Those anti-fraternity folks who claim, “they don’t need to pay for their friends” – they don’t know what they are talking about. Some of the guys you meet through the fraternity will be standing beside you in tuxedos on your wedding day.

You’ll make other lifelong friends in college too. And your high school buddies are still hanging around. In fact, those are some of the first guys you call with news that your children have been born.

Having kids completely changes your life. I know people say that all the time. But it particularly holds true for you. Just go with it. This is another one of those things you won’t regret.

You are probably curious about the mother of these looming children. I won’t tell you her name. This is largely because you learn important lessons from the women you attempt to woo along the way. As a clue, I’ll say that often it’s the people closest too you that are the most difficult to see.

Speaking of which, take a look in the mirror. That’s about as good as it gets pal. It’s not like you are grossly obese at age 35. In fact, you’re in decent shape for your age. But if you are holding out hope for a ripped stomach and buff arms, it’s simply not going to happen.

If memory serves, you’re scheduled to have shoulder surgery soon. The good news is that the surgery works. The bad news is that it works so well you forget you have bad shoulders and attempt downhill skiing. Unless you’d like to have your “good” shoulder dislocated, stay away from anything marked Black Diamond.

I’d like to give you some stock tips and Super Bowl scores too, but that seems like cheating. I will say that e-mail and the Internet aren’t just passing fads. And if you think the price of gas at $1.87 per gallon is exorbitant, just wait.

I almost forgot but congrats on writing the front-page story for the college newspaper on your first try. Never mind that nasty letter to the editor, most freshmen don’t land on page 1 out of the gate. You might be on to something there. Keep it up.

Overall, I’d like to tell you not to worry about the future, but I realize that’s not really an option considering your personality. So go ahead and worry, just take solace knowing that everything works out. You are happy and healthy at age 35.

Keep up the good work.


Howard A. Ludwig
November 2012

2 thoughts on “Dear 18-year-old self

  1. This is a really neat concept. I think this letter writing exercise could be a great one for men to do when they are feeling stuck in a rut, lost, or frustrated. Seems like a great perspective jolt and source of clarification. This is going on my “need to do this” list immediately.

    Having kids certainly does change life. My 18 year old self not to mention my late 20’s self was convinced that kids were not a good thing. I’m 37 now and couldn’t feel more differently. I have two kids that light my world in new ways every single day.

    Thanks for sharing!

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