Welcome back to Letters to Yesterday, a podcast of messages to the past. Here we read letters from our listeners to their past selves, sharing advice and guidance. Hopefully we’ll inspire each other. Thank you again to everyone who left us a review and everyone who’s listened so far.
Today’s letter comes from Catherine Lundoff. Catherine is an award-winning writer, editor and publisher from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her books include Silver Moon, Out of This World: Queer Speculative Fiction Stories and Unfinished Business: Tales of the Dark Fantastic. She is the editor of Scourge of the Seas of Time (and Space), as well as several other anthologies, and a wide array of fiction in multiple genres. In addition, she is also the publisher at Queen of Swords Press, a small press specializing in fiction from out of this world. www.catherinelundoff.net
Dear Me That Was:
I am looking at a picture of you on your senior field trip, the one where you went with your class to take yearbook pictures outside Lincoln Center. You’re trying to look tough and bored, but really you look tired and tense. You’re leaning on the guy that you’re seeing in secret because high school is complicated and yours is a bit more complicated than a lot of others, for its time. It’s a group picture and most of your classmates aren’t looking at the camera. Some are watching each other or something beyond the photographer that I can’t remember now or just plain staring off into space. Most look the way you do, tired, bored and unhappy.
I remember why you felt that way. You’re a scholarship student at a high school where you are genteelly poor but most of your classmates have families much better off than yours, you’re under lots of pressure to keep your grades up, you’ve got an alcoholic parent waiting for you at home, you’ve got a secret not-quite boyfriend with his own baggage and you’ve got an all weekend/every weekend job as a cashier at a local supermarket. And, of course, you’re the yearbook editor and you’re trying to maintain your status as 3rd or 4th (depending on the day) in line for being valedictorian because that’s what you were told colleges would look for. It is a lot. And I’d tell that it won’t always be like this, but that would be a lie and as a rule, I don’t lie to anyone, and certainly not to you.
What it will be is training and conditioning for the years to come. You will find things that you love and that you love doing and you will learn to juggle what needs to be done with what you really want to do. You will learn to compartmentalize, to tune out and focus. A lot of this will be amazingly useful. Some of it, on the other hand, will be bad for you and you’ll spend years figuring out the difference. But you’ll do it. And that’s when the adventures will begin, all of them, including things you never imagined would happen. Not the you in this picture, anyway.
Wait, that’s not true. The adventures start long before then, it’s just that you won’t always recognize them as such. You’re going to go off to college in a different state and create a whole new you, one that goes from hippy to New Wave in two semesters. You’ll find your people, start playing D&D and discover science fiction and fantasy. You’re going to do everything from joining the Society for Creative Anachronism to doing performance art in St. Louis. Why? Because it’s the 1980s and it’s part of you trying out things that your friends like to do to see if you like them too.
Did I mention that you’ll have friends? Lots of friends, although it will take a while to be able to pick out the ones worth keeping. And lovers. You feel like no one is ever going to really love you now, but it’s not true. It isn’t even true for you right now, me in this picture, but sometimes, it’s hard to recognize that. Oh, and by the way, some of that unresolved emotional turmoil? You’re bisexual or queer or whatever y