Reader Request Week 2019 #8: 13-Year-Old Me
Judge Zedd asks:
One of my students asked me a question the other day: What would 13 year old you think of your life now? It really got me thinking about the unexpected path my life has taken, and some things that 13 year old me would have been heartbroken about, but adult me is more than okay with (my eyes betraying my dreams of becoming a fighter pilot, for example). I have been asking this of my close friends, and learned a lot about them in the process. So now, I pose the question to you. What would 13 year old John Scalzi think of 2019 John Scalzi’s life?
I suspect he’d be very surprised about the lack of hair.
And actually 13 years old is an interesting time to ask me about. I was 14 when I decided I was going to be a writer (thanks to an assignment for my freshman composition class where I was the only person in three sections to get an “A” for something I threw together at literally the last minute, thus setting a writing trend I have yet to break totally free of). Thirteen was basically the last age where I didn’t have a plan for what to do with my life. I had wanted to be an astronomer, but by 8th grade, which where I was at 13, it was pretty clear that math and I were not exactly getting along, so astronomy was likely not in cards, which left me a bit adrift. To be clear, I wasn’t having an existential crisis about it — I was 13 and so not exactly freaking out about what I should be doing with my life. But I still didn’t know.
When I was 13, my home life was relatively stable; I had friends and I liked school and was generally happy. All of that was relatively recent, however — things had been shaky for a while before that. Thirteen was also the year before I went to Webb, the private boarding school that materially changed the trajectory of my life. In short, 13 was a year that had me in flux with my life, and being 13, and not actually psychic, I had not a single idea that this was the case.
So, wake up 13-year-old me and escort him into a time portal where he could see what 50-year-old me was up to with his life. What would he think? As a guess:
* Probably a little surprised that he’d become a novelist, because it’s not really something that was much on his radar at that point.
* But, probably happy that he’d become a science fiction writer, because he’d been reading rather a lot of that stuff at the time. Also, he did know what the Hugo was by that point, so he would have been smug he’d picked up a few of those.
* Would be wondering how the hell he landed in Ohio, because, dude, he was a Californian all the way.
* Then would have seen a picture of Krissy and understood.
* Also I think he’d be amazed that he’d been married for twenty four years at that point, because, how to phrase this, he didn’t exactly have a whole lot of positive role models for long-term domestic felicity.
* Likewise would be impressed I’d stayed in one place for 18 years, since at 13, he’d had more homes than he’d had birthdays (and had also at that point had been briefly homeless).
* Really, stability in general would just impress the heck out of him.
* I think he’d like, and possibly be intimidated just a smidge by, his future daughter.
* He’d otherwise be pleased with the people he’d not yet gotten to know but would get to know in his life. And also pleased that some friends he did already he’d keeping his whole life long.
* And if I really wanted to blow his mind, I would let him know that he’d met and was pals with Alison Moyet, because “Only You” was already one of his favorite songs of all time.
In general — except for the hair thing, which would be, like, a real bummer for him, although I would assure him it wasn’t all that bad in practice — I think 13-year-old me would like where life would be taking him, and who he got to take along with him in that life.
And since of course we’d have to wipe his memory before we sent him back, if there was one thing I could tell him that he’d get to keep (even if he didn’t know where it had come from), it would be: Don’t worry. Be who you are. Because who you are gets you here. And here, 50-year-old me can tell you, is pretty good.
And who knows? Maybe 13-year-old was told that. And look where he and I are today. I wouldn’t change any of it.