Dear Fifth Grade Michael,
I’m writing to you from the year 2019. It’s 30 years ahead of where you are (but you already knew that because you’re getting an A in math). I know you’re probably busy building a bike ramp with your brother or playing catch with Dad, but I hope you take a second to read this letter and the words of wisdom contained within.
Life is good in 2019. You’re married and live within a half hour of your family; believe me, it’s the simplest things that mean the most. You’ve got some die-hard friends, including a few from elementary. Remember when you attempted to trade a Mickey Mantle reprint card to your buddy Z in exchange for his Gameboy? That was pretty evil on your part, but he’s still your friend to this day.
You live a block away from that consignment store where Mom buys some of your clothes (it’s a coin shop now because, well, things change). You still hit up consignment stores today because you’re a thrift shopper through and through.
Technology is 2019 is amazing. In 1989, you’re playing The Oregon Trail on a prehistoric green screen computer. In 2019, we not only have better, faster computers with full-color screens, we also have this phenomenal thing called the Internet. It’s essentially an unlimited encyclopedia, plus it’s where people proudly display their bigotry, hatred, and ignorance. Oh, and you can use it to download music illegally (I should warn you to stay away from something called LimeWire; it’ll give your computer herpes). We even have access to the Internet on mobile phones, which sounds like a huge step forward for mankind until you realize that idiots are staring at their phones while driving. Not cool.
Pro wrestling is still a big thing, and it’s popular because kids like you rented WrestleMania tapes back in the 80’s and 90’s. It’ll crush you to see all the wrestlers who died early: Andre the Giant, Macho Man, Rick Rude, and the Big Boss Man, to name a few. Incredibly, Jake “The Snake” Roberts is still alive and kicking despite the decades of alcohol and drug addiction, and you’ll get to meet him in 2016 (act surprised).
Now that I’ve covered some of the basics here in 2019, let’s talk about your 1989 world and what you’re dealing with. You could use some sage advice from someone who understands your plight, right?
First, keep using the hair gel to spike your hair. You’re gonna go bald anyway, so you might as well enjoy that hair while you’ve got it. Don’t worry – the adult version of you can grow some serious facial hair, so that’s partial compensation for your follicle failures.
Sorry, but your baseball cards are worthless. They were overproduced and the hobby just ain’t what it used to be. Keep pinning those suckers to your bike spokes… but not the ’89 Upper Deck Griffey. That one still has some value.
You know about Grandma Becker’s kitchen drawer that holds all the cookies, right? She keeps it well guarded, but you can help yourself if you just know how to play the game. Once you and your brother figure out how to work as a team, one of you can distract her while the other loads up on Oreo goodness. Just don’t spill anything on her white carpet.
If my memory serves me correctly, you just picked the drums as your instrument of choice. Smart move, my man. While the rest of the band has to practice notes, you get to sit at the back of the room and goof off. Plus, your future wife hates it when you tap your fingers, so use your percussional skills and drive her nuts every time you feel like droppin’ a beat.
Speaking of music, it’s totally okay that you’re listening to Janet Jackson’s “Escapade” on an endless loop. It’s a catchy song and you used your hard-earned allowance to buy it on cassette. However, just wait until you discover Pearl Jam and Foo Fighters and Stone Temple Pilots. Whole. New. World. And before I forget, I need to tell you to watch Super Bowl XXXVIII. Trust me.
Your Grandpa Becker fought in World War II and I know you’d love to ask him about it because, even at 11, you’re already a history nerd. I’ll caution you to follow your gut instinct. Even if you never ask him, just know that he served his country with honor.
You know how you dream of playing in the NBA? Forget about it.
You know how you love to write? Stick with it.
Farts are funny. Farts will always be funny. Don’t ever become so pretentious that you stifle a laugh when someone drops a chocolate air freshener.
Most of all, I beg you to not take anyone for granted. Pay attention to the most mundane moments of your childhood, because those will become the most valuable as you grow up. Things like watching Grandpa Siver fall asleep in church will mean the world to you later on. And if Grandpa asks you to go to breakfast with him after church, you say yes every damn time. I can’t give you specifics because it’ll wreck you, but you need to appreciate your grandparents with every ounce of your soul, because all four of them will be gone by the time you reach 2019.
As you grow up, you’ll be ridiculed for being short, for being shy, and for being a nerd. Don’t take it personally. Those attributes all contribute to who you are. Whether you’re 11 or 21 or 41, some butthole will always try to block your path to success. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Take care, young Michael. Be cool, be rad, be awesome. Be yourself.
P.S. – If you ever catch one of the cats in Grandpa & Grandma’s garage, for God’s sake, don’t squeeze him. Grandma has been feeding them mashed potatoes and fried chicken and meatloaf. Those damn cats are poop grenades waiting to explode.