Dear George,

I’ve been giving it some thought and I think it for the best if I remove myself from the position of your role model.

I have very little figured out so I don’t have much to offer in the way of giving advice. I’m impulsive. I make too too many decisions simply because I think something sounds neat, even if I know I should be saving money to pay off my credit cards. I’m really bad at wandering away: from projects that I’m in the middle of, from the point I’m trying to make in an argument or a letter, from my friends when we’re at the zoo. I wait until the last minute to do anything (this letter being a prime example; on the plus side, I finally finished unpacking from Christmas).

If you were hoping for a poignant, inspired letter where I dispense sage advice, obviously this will be a disappointment. (Which, honestly, should only further prove my point.)

I think if I have to be a role model, if I have to give some sort of advice, the only thing that I’ve got that’s worth sharing are stories of the mistakes I’ve made. Times when I blundered along blindly, convinced that everything would work out, and I turned out to be incredibly incorrect. Or, times when I planned everything out down to the last detail, and still managed to get things wrong. There are some stories that have no educational value whatsoever, they should just be told so that we can all marvel that any human being could be that clueless and still survive.

When I find something that scares me, I tell myself that I have to do it. A good role model would point out that you shouldn’t have to do things that scare you. It seems like a beautiful sentiment in theory but some things are meant to scare you for a reason. Bears. Heights. Poisonous snakes. “Why don’t you want to do this? Is it because you REALLY don’t want to move across the country or is it because you’re scared? Well, now you HAVE to do it.”

I mean, I’m not going to lie: it got me to Spain and horse wrangling and climbing and riding motorcycles and jumping into lakes in December. But it’s also exhausting. Some days I’d like to be content to just be comfortable and scared.

I think it’s a side effect of being an Adams but I always feel like I’m trying to prove something to someone. What I’m trying to prove or who I’m trying to prove it to is unclear but, I’m certain that, if I just tried a little harder or put in a little more work, I could finally get things JUST right. I think it’s another side effect of being an Adams but I really don’t like failing. Maybe you feel these things too.

I thought for a long time, I was trying to impress the aunts and uncles. They’re intense and brilliant and demanding. But, if I was looking for their approval, I got it, at one point or another: for graduating, for traveling and having adventures, for building a career. At times I’ve thought maybe I was trying to impress a boy but boys come and go.

Ultimately, I think I’m just trying to impress myself. So that’s my grand piece of advice: be your own role model. Take all that Adams drive and perfectionism and stubbornness and work really fucking hard at impressing the kid you used to be. Do the kind of stuff that would make baby Georgie proud, like study abroad in Costa Rica and visit the family in Holland and join a running club and be happy.

You’ll love the Netherlands. In some ways, it’ll remind you of home, even the things that are new and unfamiliar. The family comes out in droves. Soak up every last story. Amsterdam is one of my favorite wandering cities. Be sure to visit the botanical gardens and the ship museum. Don’t get hit by a bike.

Affectionately, I remain,

Your Cousin

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