Letter to Myself

(25 May - 22 July 1991) after Robert Burns

Your shy and boyish face has disappeared from the mirror but you are still asking questions that don’t have answers. You ask if people ever learn, and can they grow without hardening, without pretending to be wise, without asking questions. You ask why the people in the lobby of the bus depot don’t rely on anything other than their luck. Is a homeless person like a soul without a body? What is it like to get enough love? And what are you to me? You are curious and stubborn; you want to explain everything. You embarrass your older friends with impolite questions, but you refuse to be polite. Instead, you say nothing. You close yourself inside your room and defend yourself with your ideals, listening to Beatles records and reading, painting, writing. You pride yourself in brutal honesty to counteract your shyness. To you, politeness is a tactic of the mind police, the adult careers of those who hated you in school because you did your lessons. But did you study your vocabulary because you loved to learn or because you felt continually the keen blade of embarrassment? You are still afraid of what people think, but you know it’s stupid to be afraid. You are still reaching for approval, glowing with your bashful charm only when you have it, and you never get enough of it, talking excitedly and trying to avoid regretting it later, or writing in your journal later the things you should have said. You want to play the piano without learning the scales. Your dream of virtuosity is like your dream of flying, but you dream in metaphors, so I won’t call you impractical. Gradually, you are making a way to fly above the heads of scoffers. But you will not find a way to love without being loved. You fall for one girl after another who is looking for a father and not a life of striving. You offer only effort and faith, no finesse, no protection from the world. You won’t tell the lies they want to hear. I express my love by trusting you; I’ll never tell you to grow up. I want you to learn in your own ways, even by making mistakes. Without your being who you are, I would be like a childless father, or a runaway, looking for the home I left too long ago.