Letter to my Younger Self

A picture of Derek looking nervous

Hey there young Derk, Deek, Sterkenberger, Dstek…or whatever other nicknames you had back then. You’re an inquisitive little one and that’s okay! You’re asking the tough questions and getting tough answers. 

Some words of warning: some of these questions will bring you a great deal of anxiety–even depression. However, I’ve got some advice that will help get you through the next twenty years or so. So sit down and buckle up–shit is about to get bumpy.

Keep Asking the Tough Questions

You ask a lot of questions–the types of questions that don’t elicit a satisfying answer. But these are the types of questions that are going to shape who you become later in life. 

You’ll go through a stage in life where you stop caring. All of the wishy-washy answers will cause you to give up. This part might be hard to hear but…let them. It’s a dark space you’ll be in, but the person who comes out the other side will be better for it. The crushing existential dread will soften (yeah that doesn’t totally go away), and from there on out, you’ll start forming your own opinions and beliefs.

On that note…

Don’t be so Timid

You know what you want to ask. You know what you want to do. You’re just afraid that everyone will look at you differently if you do.

They will. But that’s a good thing.

You’re going to go through middle school and high school trying to fit in. You’ll mimic the people you want to hang out with because you aren’t sure of who you are. You’re too timid to let your own interests and quirks define you. 

You’re not going to be popular, but you won’t be unpopular. You’ll get to go to the “cool kids” parties, but you’ll also spend the weekend at a LAN playing World of Warcraft until 8 in the morning.

Because of this, you will be deemed as “Mixed Bag” in your high school yearbook.

“Mixed-Bag” is Actually Good

This one will sting. 

Your best friend–Class Clown. Your other best friend–Best Smile. Your ex-girlfriend–Most Likely to become a Doctor. You–Mixed Bag.

Ouch, right? You’re going to hold onto this one for a while. At least, until you realize that the underlying sentiment of this is actually a good thing. Like I said above, you are too timid to define yourself, so you mold your personality to those around you. Don’t worry, you’ll stop doing that VERY soon (remember depression?), and you’ll realize that you have the opportunity to excel in a little bit of everything. 

You might not be the funniest, but you’re funny. You might not be the most athletic, but you’re athletic. You might not be the smartest. But you’re smart. You might not…okay you get it. You’re the jack of all trades. But in order to truly become exceptional, you need too…

Use your Resources

You’re not a damn savant. Practice the piano, read books, play the guitar, and for fuck’s sake do your homework. 

You got off easy in high school. You didn’t have to study, you didn’t do your homework, but you aced the tests. Whoop-de-fuckin’-do. College is just around the corner and it’s going to Will-Smith-Smack the shit out of you (this will make sense later). In order to succeed, you need to put in the work. 

You’ve got this far without having to put in much of an effort. Because of that, you think you’re something special.

Hate to break it to ya, but you’re not. You need to lean on the resources around you in order to truly excel. Ask for help, peruse the resource center, have your friend edit your paper–whatever you need to do to get back on track. 

Explore the World Around You

Once you go through this little transformation, you’re going to start exploring. Buy that one-way ticket, travel to the places you know nothing about, insert yourself into a culture that might make you uncomfortable. These are going to be the experiences that define you later in life. 

Be open, listen, take notes, and learn. 

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