DEAR HANNAH

Gus,

You will find enclosed within this card $20. This should buy you a good number of vegetables. Vegetables are very important for reasons that I’m sure you know, otherwise Mom and Dad are wasting a lot of money on your Nutrition degree. Since you just got back from Alaska, I figured your crisper was running low and you’d need to replenish.

Might I recommend a cucumber to start with? Also fan favorites: tomatoes, mushrooms, and peppers. I used to hate bell peppers but sometime while I was in Spain, I fell in love. With bell peppers, mostly, but also other things like red wine and Spain. Now I eat them raw on Saturdays and Sundays whenever I’m working at the boathouse and my friend Sara brings them for her snack.

You are now returning to A&M from a summer in the wilderness at the same age I was when I came home from Montana. I know you’ve got the whole med school thing on your horizon but in case you want some other options, here are some things I considered doing with my life once I graduated: moving to Antarctica, moving back to Montana, joining the Peace Corps (which I did, and then quit, though I still have the patch from the welcome packet), moving to Spain (which I did, and then did not quit, though I never got a patch for it). In general, your plan seems like the more rational one but just in case you were looking for variety, feel free to use any of the above as escape routes.

Pay attention, what comes next is going to be great. Not in the letter–though I’m sure it’ll be the insightful sort of advice you’ll think back on for decades to come–but in life. I think you can divide the life choices I’ve made into pre- and post-Montana. It took a friend pointing it out to realize, saying, “You talk about Montana like it was the beginning.”

You took a big jump going to Alaska. Your very first grown up adventure! And you weren’t even eaten by bears, not even a nibble! Hopefully, it was equal parts terrible and wonderful. The terrible parts are important because they remind you that you survived. I hope you were homesick. I hope there was a point at the end where you thought you could’ve stayed forever, where you were almost scared of going home and what came next. I hope that you realized that being scared isn’t the end, that just because you’re overwhelmed doesn’t mean that your only option is to give up, that you can take a moment, gather your thoughts and your courage, and charge on regardless. I hope that, if you did give up, that you realize that’s not the end either, that it can strengthen your resolve for the future and you are never again too scared to say yes to an adventure. I hope that Alaska made you hungry.

I’m still hungry. For chicken fried steak, most days, but also for things that scare me. An adventure isn’t really an adventure unless you’re a little scared.

Think about Costa Rica! Mom said if I talked you out of getting a dog, she’d let you go.

XOXO,

Shawn

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Featured Image by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash