Can we talk? I know this is weird, but this is Hugh. Like, I’m you, but in 2022. I’m from the future. Or rather, this note is from the future. I just came across this picture, and thought I would write.
It must be… 1987 there? I remember that sweater. Your mom – I mean, our mom, uhhm, Mom got it from the rummage sale. Those acid-washed jeans came from Walmart, and you bought them with your own money. And just out of the frame are some generic high-top basketball shoes because we couldn’t afford Jordans. And you were proud of that watch you had gotten for Christmas that year.
But I also know what doesn’t show in that picture. I know how ugly you felt, how uncool you felt, how that tiny high school in the middle of a dairy farm in rural Mississippi seemed like your whole world, how alone you were, and how you never belonged.
I know how tired you are. I know how you sweat alone at night in your tiny bedroom, lifting heavy weights so you can not be puny, so people will not push you around and bully you. I know how useless you feel, compared to everyone. It’s hard being Hugh Hollowell’s boy. When you have a father that everyone loves and who can do anything, it can be overwhelming if you are awkward and nerdy. I know that dark feeling you sometimes get, where you just sit on the bed and weep and rock.
This summer, it will come over you like a wave, and you will put a gun in your mouth when no one is home, but you won’t pull the trigger. It’s 35 years later, and I can still taste the gun oil on my tongue. I don’t know why, but you will decide to keep trying. I’m really glad you did.
Because you won’t believe how it all turns out.
You will go in the Marines, and you will like it there. You will have six-pack abs, and long ropey muscles, and women will want you. I know that seems impossible right now, but it’s coming. A war is coming too, and it will have repercussions for decades, but you personally will be OK. Lots of folks won’t, though.
You are gonna flop around a lot in your twenties as you search for meaning. You will simultaneously run away from Mississippi and crave it. You will marry for all the wrong reasons and regret it. A lot of people will get hurt along the way.
But in your mid-thirties you will hit your stride, finding both purpose and a life partner. Eventually, you will be published in national publications and books, be quoted in Time magazine and elsewhere, be interviewed on TV, and speak to huge crowds who will give you standing ovations when you are done… it will be a wild ride.
Along the way, you will build incredible relationships with all sorts of people, you will swim in both oceans, travel to other countries, see mountains and deserts, eat foods you can’t dream of right now, and lose people you love.
But eventually, you will come back home to MS. And when you do, one day when you are 50, you will be driving through the Delta one fine, sunny November day, and you will think about how unlikely your entire life has been, and how while it isn’t what you planned you are so damned grateful for the chance to have been present for it. And you will think about how far you have come and how far you still want to go, and you will think back to that summer day in 1987 and the taste of gun oil on your tongue, and you will be really, really glad you didn’t pull that trigger.
So hold on, my dude. Hold on. Because while it is trite (and not always true) to say that it gets better, it will for you. Your life will be magical.
So hold on.