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It's OK To Be OK

The letter below is part of an ongoing series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested. Today's guest is David Arnold, author of I Loved You In Another Life, which comes out this Tuesday.


Dear David,

It’s me.

You, I mean.

It’s us.

David from the future.

Don’t worry, things turn out okay. More than okay, actually, our life is pretty fantastic. So I suppose, if we subscribe to chaos theory—little changes leading to huge ones—you should maybe just put this letter down right now, lest I wake up tomorrow morning as an IT guy in Topeka, or like, some Wall Street powerbroker. Still, I think it’s worth the risk.

David as a teen

To be clear: this is not a warning. You’re not Scrooge, I’m not Marley, and this isn’t 19th Century London. That said, you are making things wayyyyyyyy harder than they need to be. I know you like lists, so here goes. A list of things you might consider, on the long and winding road between you and me:

1. If you smile in a photo, people won’t think you’re some crazed, you know, cartoonishly-happy person. They’ll just think you’re a person in a photo. Why you feel the need to stare into the camera like it murdered your puppy, I have no idea. You’re not as angry as you look. Quit trying to be.

2. Here in the awesome future, the word “thirsty” means more than just “to thirst for liquid.” It also means “to thirst for favor, attention, compliments, etc,” and I hate to tell you this, but you thirst with an unquenchable thirstiness. At its root, it’s not a bad thing. You feel an immense capacity for friendship, like an empty bucket to be filled. But no amount of thirsty behavior can fill that bucket, so just chill. Be yourself. That’s when the good stuff comes.

3. If you wash your hair, people won’t think less of you. That chain isn’t keeping your wallet safe, and neither Silverchair nor Offspring is the greatest band in the world. No one is buying the tortured soul act. Quit selling it.

4. Give your parents a break, they’re trying.

5. Just know that every time you say, “Ain’t no shame in my game,” a small piece of my soul dies. What can I say? Some crimes break the space-time continuum.

6. Last but not least: it’s okay to be okay. Ultimately, 1-5 is about this, isn’t it? Wanting to be okay, worried you aren’t, worried you shouldn’t be, worried you won’t be, worried you are but don’t know it, worried you have no right to be. But you are okay, you will be okay, and it’s okay to let yourself be okay. Okay?

Okay, that’s it. Like I said, don’t make any big changes. But if you’d like to remember this little list, I do think your life will be better for it.

Yours (I’ll say),

Future David

PS: When Lindsey asks you out a third time (after dumping you twice), do us all a favor, and tell her to get lost.


About The Author: David Arnold is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including his latest, I Loved You in Another Life. He has won the Southern Book Prize and the Great Lakes Book Award and was named a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for his debut. His books have been translated into over a dozen languages. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife and son.


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