Dear Teen Me from author Joe Schwartz (A SEASON WITHOUT RAIN)

Saturday, January 11, 2014/Friday, January 11, 1985

Dear Joe,

Happy New Year! How does it feel to be 15 years old? Probably not much different than 14 but then again the older you get the less impressive birthdays become. Pretty soon you’re going to finally get that bass guitar you’ve been wanting. Before you know it you’ll be in a band and the time you’ll spend playing and practicing to become better will be ridiculous, damn near incalculable. Good for you. It will distract you sometimes when you need it the most, but it is not the be all-end all you think it is. You will not get famous, not even close. It will cost you a ton of money, never get you laid, and eventually you will leave it bitter and disappointed as a failure.

Here’s a better plan; stick to acting. You’re much better at it than you think. Ask your mom to help find an actor’s group you can join. She’ll bitch like always but that is how she processes change. Ignore her. You liked earning a letter in dramatic interpretation and were even more proud when the jocks seemed to accept you for the achievement. The chances of getting a scholarship through acting are roughly 99.9% better for you than ever becoming the millionaire you dream about. Yeah, I know because I still secretly dream it, not being rich anymore, but being able to make a whole lot more money than I do now. You think a boatload of money will solve all your problems. Not yours, pal. You can’t buy love anymore than you can make a stranger, or a friend’s dad, into your father. He’s gone, and trust me, you will never see him again. That is a fact you have to accept (the sooner the better) but eventually, say in 25 years, you will have no choice.

I know you hate school, you feel overwhelmed and out of place from all the times you’ve had to move. Trust me, put your shoulder into it and start getting better grades. You will regret not going to college. Sure, they don’t teach you what you need to know they only teach you the answers to the questions they ask. The thing is those answers are actually quite helpful. Also, you haven’t ever gone to one school for more than one year in a row. You liked actually moving along with your friends from Junior High to High School. Imagine that feeling every year for four years. College for you will be hard and fun, and it will change your life. I promise.

Here’s the future if you really want it: I’m currently 43 years old, have had to file for bankruptcy. I have been addicted to both drugs and alcohol, spent my twenties hoping I would die and in my thirties damn near did it for myself, and had to sell my first house back to the bank because I couldn’t afford the mortgage.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, though. I have two sons. They are smart and beautiful. In about 8 years you’ll begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol only to discover they are just pointless no matter what the cool kids say. You’ll stumble into a bar called Johnny’s on Grand and meet the woman you’ll marry. Don’t worry, she’ll find you and you will be so instantly filled with love for this girl that you will serenade her at two in the morning in a restaurant filled with strangers eating waffles and not be the slightest bit embarrassed. You will fight for her without having to think about it and she will say ‘yes’ when you ask her to marry you delirious with joy.

Adult Joe!

Adult Joe!

My advice is keep the girl, you’ll need her more than you will ever know, and dump all the woe-is-me crap you carry around. Your biggest problem is that you are sad Joe, clinically depressed, which you may have kind of learned from all the pissed off poor people you grew up with. I’m telling you, go see a doctor and ask for Prozac. It will change your life. Don’t think of it as medicine, think of it as pot-in-a-pill.

Lastly, be kind to your self. You have been going around all your life like everything depends on you. Seriously, don’t worry about it. I’m not saying don’t care, but learn the serenity prayer now, and not fifteen years from now, and believe it every time you say it to yourself and occasionally when you whisper it to God through clenched teeth.

Oh, yeah, one more thing. Someday sit down and decide you should write a book. You’ll be amazed at just how good a writer you are and more perplexed by the stories you like to tell yourself.

From The Future,
Joe Schwartz


Joe Schwartz, November 2013

Joe Schwartz, November 2013

A St. Louis native, Joe Schwartz writes exclusively about the Gateway City. He prefers the style of fiction deemed transgressive fiction. His stories’ protagonists generally find a solution to their problems through either illicit or illegal means.

Joe personally prefers stories told through a criminal’s point-of-view – it is never the crime that fascinates him so much as the motivation to do it and the terrible, almost predictable outcomes to such actions. Just as he has an expectation of writing to be read, he believes that it is as important, if not more so, that you as a reader should have the expectation of being entertained as you read. Anything less is such a disappointment. Life is short. Stories are forever.

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