My own lil’ time machine


A friend of mine recently gave me a unique, one-of-a-kind gift. You can’t find one of these in an Apple store or on Amazon. You can’t even travel across the globe to a quaint little shop in some faraway country to pick up a gift like this.

My friend gave me a mini time machine that allows me to go back to an earlier time in my life. Think H.G Wells Time Machine, Doc Brown’s Delorean from Back to the Future,  the time traveling TARDIS from the Dr. Who TV show, or if you must, the hot tub from the Hot Tub Time Machine from more recent fame.

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My friend had been cleaning up her basement and found some old letters that I had written her over the years and she had boxed up. When she came across them in her cleaning purge, she sent them back to me. My letters are from a time before email or texting and are filled with stories about getting my first job, meeting my wife, the birth of my kids, their growth into teenagers, and general small talk of the day.

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As I pick-up each new letter, I feel like I’m pulled from the current day and taken mysteriously back ten, fifteen, and twenty years ago to when I wrote and sent each letter or card. I wrote one of the letters from my parent’s kitchen table; another from the breakfast bar in my shiny, new apartment in Northern Virginia, the one where I felt like I had finally become an adult; and a third from a dusty, old newsroom where I once worked. I shake my head in shock and surprise at what I was thinking at the time and how I described my life.

I feel blessed that I’ve been able to go back in time. Here’s some of what I’ve learned from my time travel:

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–Worries come and go. Many of my early letters right after college focus on job fears. Would I find the perfect job? Should I go to graduate school or continue on a particular job path? Would I become a success or end up a bum on the street? I thought some of those worries would disappear. I still worry about job high and lows, but I seem to worry less now that one wrong move will send my career spiraling out of control. My worries now have changed. I seem to focus now more on what I can control rather than crazy things outside of my own doing.

–An F in Handwriting. I’ve written about my love of letter writing, but I read my old letters and I’m frankly appalled at how bad my handwriting has become. My handwriting was never great, but it’s somehow gotten much, much, much worse.

–Humor and sarcasm help. When my wife and I had our third child and we became a family of five, I wrote that “of course, there goes my early retirement in sunny Florida.” When my daughter’s school tested her IQ and moved her into a gifted class, I joked that it was “obviously my genetic influence.” I joked at the five-year anniversary of my current job that I had them “hoodwinked.” I also used humor when I talked about my father’s passing, saying that “God wanted to see how I would handle life without the training wheels.”

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Good friends are to be valued. Good friends are tough to come by. When you find them, work hard to keep them. I met my friend in college. We don’t talk often, but when we do, we pick-up right from where we’ve left off, throwing comments and questions back-and-forth at each other a mile-a-minute.

I’ve learned one other important lesson: we look younger in our pictures, but your best days are always just ahead.

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