Second of Four Letters to a Young Man


That was a long story; probably more than you wanted to hear; certainly
more than I originally intended to tell you.  But I needed to write it down,
anyway, and telling it to you was as good a kick in the ass as I needed,
to get it started.

You are 19.  I'm 59.  Both of us have a liking for, and in my case, a
respect for firearms.  You have a notion you'd like to go spend some time
with yourself in the woods; in solitude.  I've done that a few times.
You've chosen the nick, “chemist,” which, combined with the other things
you've said about yourself, leads me to think you are choosing some
directions for your live that will almost inevitably lead you into some
interesting places.

I'm not going to try to give you advice.  You haven't asked, and if you
had I'd be the last person on earth you should take advice from.  I would,
however, like to make a couple of observations about the sort of life you
might be choosing for yourself.

I don't pretend to know what a person ought to do with this lifetime, but
I do know that the kinds of choices we make for it are a driving force in
the direction it goes.  Every person in the anecdote I sent you was the
product of his choices.

15 years ago, Dan thought he was going to be a Baptist minister.  He
believed himself to be a peaceful character.  He'd never had anything at
all to do with drugs.  But he ended up as a bouncer in a titty bar in Phoenix
and met his wife, who was a waitress there.  From there, his life took
directions he never anticipated, ending in insanity, and most likely a
shallow grave.

Tammy was in Phoenix to escape the confines of Valencia County.  Everyone
there (in Valencia County) was related to one another.  The gene pool is
lousy, and the social matrix is worse, as you've probably discerned by
reading between the lines.  Now she's come home, a drug queen, and
probably a murderess or accessory to murder.  Dan used to tell me stories of the women of Valencia County who went off elsewhere to find husbands, then
came home and eventually became widows under suspicious circumstances.
Frequently, this involved large insurance policies.  Tammy had a large
insurance policy on him, which he'd tried in a number of ways to have
cancelled and hadn't succeeded.  But Dan was crazy.

The Mexican mafia lad was personable, intelligent, seemingly well
educated, and strikingly handsome.  He gave the impression of someone who came from a good home, and who had a lot of potential outside the drug community.
When I admonished Dan that he, at least, appeared to be someone in that crowd
He could trust, he answered with a long, bitter laugh.  Then he told me who
The man is.

Jesse was on his way to becoming a champion rodeo rider before meth came
along.  Maybe that isn't much to shoot for, but for a not overly bright
lad who can do that sort of thing, it was probably better than being a yes man to Tammy, shoveling her shit for her.

Then there's me.  I've done a lot of things in this life.  Chased lost
gold mines, spent a lot of time in solitude, been a scholar and for many years, a pillar of the community.  At 59, I'm on the skids, minus alcohol or drugs, and the focus of a lot of hostile attention from somewhere.  Maybe from
more than one place.  Even though I don't know, in some cases, what the choices were that brought me where I am, I'm absolutely certain that every aspect of my life today is the product of my own choices and decisions.

With any luck at all, at 19 your choices and decisions are mostly still
ahead of you.  I don't know what they should be, but I believe all of us
would be well served in our lives to consider our choices carefully, with
a lot more wisdom than we are usually capable of when we are making them.

Best to you,
Jack

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