Letter to My High School Self

Dear Michael,

Can I call you Michael? Fuck it. I am going to. Even though I know how much you hated it. That hasn’t changed much.

15 years ago, you were just beginning the summer before your first year of high school. A new school with a few familiar faces and plenty of unfamiliar ones. Luckily, the familiar ones were some of your best friends at the time. That didn’t ease the anxiety or excitement surrounding the next step of your life.

You were never great in school so I know how scared you were of failing.

Then, of course another other concern and probably the biggest, will you succeed in baseball? After all, I know how badly you wanted to play at the high school level and beyond.

You always had friends. But as much as you wanted to be, you were never popular. I know you saw this as a chance to write a different story in that regard.

Another area you’re looking forward to is girls. You hadn’t kissed a girl let alone had sex. I am sure you’re thinking about the excitement of those firsts. The closest emotional connection you had to a girl was some chick drawing on the back of your arm in 7th grade. Otherwise, it usually went something like this…

Girl: Hey!

Me: *Forgets every word I know*

All those questions will be answered shortly. In four years, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. In the meantime, enjoy the ride as best as you can.

School

I know school is something you’re looking to get through. Do the bare minimum, get your Cs and get the fuck out. That was your goal. You didn’t care about scholarships. You didn’t care about TOPS.

I wish I could give you some sap story on why your high school education was so important. But, it wasn’t. You turn out just fine. You didn’t need the test scores to prove that. You just needed some fucking confidence.

I remember you sitting in the computer lab for a Home Economics project you were supposed to be working on. It had been three days and you still had no fucking idea what that project was. You were too scared to ask for fear of getting yelled at and embarrassed in front of the class. It ended with you getting embarrassed anyway and ridiculed for sitting around for a week doing nothing.

Don’t worry. You will get an opportunity to tell her off later when she grabbed you by your shirt for a stunt you pulled at football game. More on that later.

Part of your problem was the second one teacher mentioned a project or more work, you instantly felt overwhelmed and your mind started racing toward the other projects and homework. Instead of relaxing and paying attention to what was in front of you, you missed it.

A combination of laziness, poor work ethic, feeling of being overwhelmed and a lack of confidence hindered you in the classroom. Yet, you still had multiple teachers over the years believe in you. Some would even tell that to your parents. Some of those teachers, you will still keep in touch with. Believe them when they say you’re better than the work you are putting out. You are.

There are classes you will enjoy throughout your four years. In fact, one of them is where you will find a love for the reason I am writing this today…creative writing. The binder of the work you do for that class will still be in your old closet at good ole Bob and Erin’s house.

In the end, you cared more about your social life than maintaining a high GPA or the next thing I talk about. You were always rushing to the next thing.

One of the biggest examples of this is your graduation. Right before graduation, you will lose one of the most important and influential people on your life…your grandma.

April 30, 2009 is the day your grandma dies due to lung cancer. I promise you that you won’t regret a single second you spent in the last year of her life. You will remember it. The two of you get plenty of time together in her last year because she moves in with your parents. Luckily, your room is right next to hers. You would sit in there and talk for an 45 mins to an hour nearly every night. When she needed something, you would bring it. While you know the end is eventually coming, it doesn’t hurt any less. You will lean on friends to help you get through that. The toughest part of graduation is knowing she always told you that she wanted to see you walk across the stage. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get what we want. In the end, you know your grandma was one of the most selfless people you will ever meet. She would want you to live your life.

I don’t know if she would have agreed with your decision once you got back to school. But, you were in a lethargic state of mind. It was only a few days until your last day of school and you had a teacher who wanted you to make up roughly a week and a half’s (senior trip and her death) worth of work in two days. You said no. You wanted to focus on graduation and the parties that would follow. Stressing was not in the cards for you. The combination of the pain you will go through and the excitement of what is to come left you completely unmotivated.

All your teachers knew why you missed the time you did. All but one cut you a break. I know how stupid you thought it was. In fact, you’ll read about it on Facebook under your memories once per year. That teacher was just doing her job. But you refused the work. Then comes one of your favorite stories to remember some years later…

That teacher sends a note to the office that you had signed saying you refused to do your work. You get called into one of the administrator’s office. She scolds you for refusing to do work that will ultimately give you a D in the class. You laugh and say “I really don’t give a shit because I am done in two days anyway.” She ends up making you call home on speaker to fill your parents in that you are not doing the work even though you told mom already. For the record, mom wasn’t happy, but she left you to make that decision for yourself because you were graduating regardless.

Being a dick after the admin downplayed the death of your grandma, you called your mom and said “remember those assignments I refuse to do, yeah, I am just calling to let you know again as per request by __________ that I am not doing them.” Once you hung up, you just said “am I free to go back to class now?” You get back to class pissed and the teacher asks when you would like to turn them in? You laughed and said “yeahhhhh, I’m still not doing it.” You played games on the computer the next two days.

In a nutshell, you probably could have tried a little harder. You didn’t always need to take the easy way out. It probably would have better prepared you for college. But, you still turned out fine.

Baseball

As much as I wish I could say you gave it your all in baseball, you didn’t. You tried to take shortcuts just like in school once you realized you were behind the curve. Am I to pretend that politics weren’t a factor? No. I am also not pretending that you gave did the very best you could. You did until midway through your Freshman year when you and I both know you stopped giving a shit.

Your coaches preached how important it was to be able to hit. Yet, you were the only person on the freshman team without a single plate appearance. Meanwhile, there were starters striking out regularly. You saw the bullshit and you were right. You also gave up and you weren’t right in that regard.

It was history repeating itself from the previous school. When you stopped giving a shit, you became self-destructive.

When tryouts came around for summer ball, you missed the first day of tryouts because you chose staying over at a friend’s house instead. Not a wise decision on your part. When you showed up for day two, your coach told you that you should play recreational ball because you couldn’t be on the summer squad. He assured you that you would’ve played so he didn’t understand why you didn’t show up. While you still won’t believe that at 29, you will never know for sure.

You pulled a similar stunt for a preseason tournament in Denham Springs your sophomore year. Again, you were assured you would have played, but you still didn’t believe it.

A couple of weeks later, you found a way out of baseball when an announcer was needed for softball. It became something you looked forward to as opposed to baseball practice every day which was a drag for you.

Although there was no regret per se, you will wonder what could’ve been for a few years after. But one thing will remain, your love for sports remains in tact for many years after. You refuse to stop playing in some capacity even at the age I am writing this. Would that still be the case had you kept playing? Maybe. Maybe not. It is another unanswered question.

Social Life

Your social life was interesting in high school to say the least. As much as you wanted to be popular, you never were. You also learned a lot about yourself and about friendship thanks to the company you kept over the years.

I remember the feeling of embarrassment of walking around the cafeteria your first day because you didn’t have anyone to sit with. So, you didn’t eat. You found a place to sit and just hang outside the cafeteria. You were hoping no one was looking, although you felt like everyone was. Then, your worst nightmare…someone noticed. They were kind enough to invite you over and introduced you to some of their friends. For all intents and purposes, they were nerds. You thought to yourself “fuck, this seems like a worse social situation than the one I was in.” These people extended a hand in friendship and you thought you were above them. Might I remind you that you were scared to go fucking eat lunch for god sake. But, I digress.

Shortly into the school year, Katrina hit. That is a whole side story of going to school in Texas that we can talk about another time.

You come back to Destrehan and you see more familiar faces who were now in school with you. You sat with the same five guys your first semester. Four of which you went to school with in 1st – 4th grade. One of which is now the godfather of your daughter. Although you two lost touch once he went back to his original high school, you re-sparked that friendship after college.

In short, Freshman year was a lot of figuring out your place and scoping out the different groups of people and where you fit in.

By the tail end of Freshman year, social media became a big part of you coming out of your shell. You dove into the world of MySpace and AIM. You were never on time to current trends. You started talking to more girls. You started getting to know more people in your class. You started seeing where you fit in.

By sophomore year, you started feeling a little more confident in yourself venturing out to social events like dances, football games, etc. You started hosting your own social events. After football games and dances, it was a forgone conclusion that you and your friends would get twisted at your house.

One story I will always remember is you being the only person who wanted to paint up among your friends for a playoff game. You did. You played to the beat of your own drum that night. You eventually learn to do that more often. At the game decked out in paint, your school was about to seal their first and only playoff win of the season. Someone dared you to run to the other side and rip down a beat Destrehan sign. You, along with a buddy, did just that. Then you took the walk of shame back to your principal escorted by a police officer who tried to say you “vandalized.” You looked at him and thought, “I just ripped down a paper sign. I’ll give you the $2.75 it cost from the hot dog money I brought with me.” You knew not to mouth off because you didn’t want to go to jail. You were concerned about going back home and having a party to celebrate the win. You were scared. Luckily, it ended with cleaning the stadium Saturday morning. Your parents weren’t mad. They just laughed. You went on your merry way drinking in celebration of the playoff win.

The downside, it got you in trouble with your baseball coach. Another self destructive behavior.

Remember that Home Economics teacher? She grabbed you by your shirt entering the school that Monday and scolded you for ripping down the sign. If looks could kill, she would be dead. But you called her a bitch and told her don’t ever put another hand on you. She threatened you with in school suspension for your language and you just said “yeahhhhh, you put your hands on me. Pretty sure that isn’t allowed either” and walked away.

Back to the main point here…

Because of your playing host to nights of drinking, you began feeling used by a lot of people. You were kind enough to invite people to your house and took offense when you weren’t included in their plans. In short, not everyone views you in the same light you may view them. Stop being oversensitive. You’ll get along much better.

No worries, you learn that eventually.

The reason you learn that is because you had a different group of friends all four years of high school. It became easier to cut ties with people. Some of them stuck around for the long haul and became life long friends. One stood as the best man in your wedding and you stood in his as he married another close high school friend. That is a friendship that will never die.

Even though that friend didn’t actually know your first name for the first 6 months of the friendship. He knew you by the name that most did, Hodie. You will also hate that name eventually. I found out he didn’t know our name when we were hanging at the house one day and someone called him. He said “yeah I’m over here at Hodie’s house.” The person asked who and he said “Matt Hotard.” He got off the phone and I said “yeahhhh, my name is Mike not Matt.” He said “whoops” and we carried on with our video game. Best friends since. He’s a good one. You’ll spend many drunken nights together and kicking his ass Mario Party.

Another relationship that will never die is the person you promised to spend the rest of your life with.

By midway through sophomore year, you had some (very minimal) experience in the girl department. You had your first date, first kiss, first girlfriend and you even drunkenly made out with a girl on New Years. Talking to girls was not as foreign of a concept as it was prior to high school.

You had taken some shots at other girls who friend-zoned you quick, RIP. There was one who caught your eye via MySpace. She was on one of your best friend’s at the time Top Friends list (Facebook needs that feature, you’ll know more about that in a few years). You asked that friend who she was and you added her. You sent her a message explaining who you were. You got to talking which led to “talking” which led to a relationship and as they say, the rest is history. Now you are happily married to that girl with two beautiful children. You won high school for that alone.

Overall

For someone who was as insecure as you were about damn near everything, you figured it out through trial and error. To be honest, it is kind of amusing to look back and think about how insecure you used to be. That person is long gone.

You care more about educating yourself than you ever did while in school. While you were never the smartest in the class, it is tough for people to stand toe to toe with you now on many topics because of your thirst for overall knowledge. You’re no longer that person who questions your own intelligence. You’re no longer scared of failing at anything. You learned that failure is going to happen in every aspect of life.

Your experience with baseball taught you how to make tough decisions that will ultimately make you happier. You walked away from a career that you viewed as a dead end to being happy much like baseball. You made it your own.

As for friendships and relationships, this is where you thrive. You put yourself out there with no fear of what people will say. You are your own person to say the least. Because of that, you have gained many meaningful relationships in the process. For those that aren’t so meaningful, you tend to not worry about those like you will throughout high school.

In 15 years, you evolved into a person I am incredibly proud of. Because of that, you become a much less fragile and far more bulletproof person. 

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