Dear Younger Self,

Happy Thanksgiving, kid!

Doug Gray mug

Doug Gray 

You know, we don’t talk nearly enough. I know you daydream about getting older and what things will be like, especially on those days when it seems getting older will never happen. Believe me, it will. I think about you a lot. Especially this time of year. And I’m always wondering if I did as well by you as I could.

Thanksgiving dinner is coming up, another year with you delegated to the little kid table in the kitchen. Stuck there with the stifling gas heater and all your little cousins, while the grown-ups yak it up around the big dining room table. Requiring you, when you want seconds, to stumble in there, plate in hand like Oliver Twist, waiting while they pass it around the big table and heap it with fresh helpings of turkey, ham, cornbread dressing, and giblet gravy. Teasing you about where you manage to put all that food and how big your feet are getting. I remember those days like they were yesterday, and all I can say is enjoy it, kid. Because even crammed in at the little kid table, Thanksgiving at the grandparents’ place is about as good as it gets.

Boy, the things I could tell you! It would blow your mind. But I won’t steal your fun. Everybody deserves their own shot at life. I will say this: buckle up, Buckaroo.

I could also throw out a couple of stock tips, even though right now you don’t know a stock from a stick. Yessir, one in particular that would have you enjoying early retirement from a hammock in Tahiti, sipping fresh pineapple juice and listening to ukulele music. I’m tempted, kid, I really am. But that wouldn’t be fair, would it?

But I will give you this. You’re going to get a ton of advice over the years, folks tossing it like rice at weddings. Everybody with a brain, or without, and a mouth to talk through, will be trying to tell you how to live. I’m not saying to ignore it all. Just pick and choose. Use your head. And your mistakes.

They’ll tell you stuff like you can never be too thin or too rich. Truth is, you can be both. (Spoiler alert: You personally will never have to worry about being either. Hey, if I wanted you to be too rich, I’d give you that little investment gem I’m holding back.) Everything in moderation, kid.

Here’s another one: sometimes it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. Whoa! Run from this one as fast as your long, gawky giraffe legs will carry you. Especially if you ever get the urge to “borrow” the family car and take off unannounced with your high school buddies for a night in Tijuana. And if you’re lucky enough to outrun the Tijuana Policia once, stop while you’re ahead.

Listen, I know you have the attention span of a jar of homemade pickles, and hate lectures, so I’ll throw you one more and shut up. It’s a big one, so pay attention. Pick your battles. Either that or stock up on football helmets and shin guards. If I had known at your age how disagreeable grown-ups could be, it would have saved a bunch of wear and tear. Coke or Pepsi, Whopper or Big Mac, Ultra Gentle Charmin or Ultra Strong. And that’s the small stuff. Wait until they square off around sports. And politics. You have no idea, kid. The best thing you can do is keep your eyes open, your mouth shut, and your opinions off Facebook. (Don’t even ask; you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.)

Maybe just one more thing. Speaking of grown-ups. Those folks over there in the dining room? Your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The ones talking too loudly and having way too much fun, drenched in Old Spice and White Shoulders. Love them like there’s no tomorrow. I mean that, kid. Oh, they’ll insert themselves in your young life like fleas on dogs, but it’s not because they enjoy jerking your chain. They really do care about you, even when you don’t care about yourself. And should you ever look for something to feel especially thankful for, look no further. You get only one set of them in your life. You can’t trade them like baseball cards or turn them in for extra change like coke bottles. They don’t come with a warranty. They just come with the intention of making you the best person you can be regardless of how hard you fight it.

This Thanksgiving, I want you to shake things up a little. When you carry your plate back to the dining room to grovel for dessert, get a nice, thick slice of that jam cake with caramel icing your grandmother fretted over for a week. And while you’re at it, hug her neck and tell her how much you enjoyed your dinner. And even though the “L” word makes you a little queasy, tell her you love her.

Hey, I’ll close for now. Back to my life. Our life. Happy Thanksgiving, kid. I miss you. I really do. Hang in there. You’ll be just fine.

Peace, love, and Rock ‘n Roll,

Your Older Self

P.S. By the way, on those stock things, just a little hint. Apple. Apple, Apple, Apple, Apple.

Doug Gray is a freelance writer and columnist from Fayetteville.