This letter is part of our inaugural editorial series, “Letter to Myself,” in which we asked 40 remarkable queer people to write a note to their younger selves.
Hi pumpkin, it’s me. If you haven’t stopped straightening your bangs every day before high school yet…please do. You’ll make it to graduation day just fine, but maybe stop hot-boxing Mom’s Toyota so much because you’ll grow up and feel guilty every time you see a burn hole in the seats.
When you get to college, you’ll meet a boy named Stephen that’s going to change your life. He’ll split a pot brownie with you and kiss you on the mouth one night after you watch Bridesmaids and then you’ll spend the next two years both stereotypically and hopelessly in love with your first boyfriend. You’ll come running out of the closet (no one will be surprised), and NEWSFLASH: HE WILL BREAK YOUR HEART, BRAYTON. I won’t tell you to leave him before he leaves you or lie and say it’ll be easy to move on, but you’ll be fine in the end. Heartache is going to turn you into an artist, Brayton. Life is going to hurt and scare you beyond your wildest fears, but you’re going to turn your pain into art.
When you meet Uzoechi, let yourself fall head over heels in love with him. Make a mess, make mistakes, make a life together. Don’t get overexcited though, sweetheart, because he’s gonna break your heart, too. You’ll still love him in the end and he’ll still love you because young adulthood is just as confusing as adolescence and even I don’t have all the answers. Big Deb will die. Mom’s going to get sober. People that used to bully you in middle school will buy tickets to your shows. Boys that used to call you a faggot under their breath in the hallway will know all the words to your songs. Karma will take care of it all, Bray…try not to worry.
You’ll eventually start your own record label and get an email from your publicist one day asking you to write a letter to your “former self.” Yes, 24-year-old you has a publicist, Brayton…clearly, life can’t be that fucking bad. You’ll sit down in a crowded terminal at LAX and write a few hundred words of so-called “wisdom” to a younger you only to realize the message is pretty simple. Not tomorrow, not in five minutes, or when you finally like what you see in the mirror, Brayton…do it now. Love yourself. It’ll be harder to master than the hardest song you’ll ever sing and you’ll still be practicing the same damn thing 10 years from now. We’ve never been too good at taking direction, but just please do me a favor, Bray: Try as hard as you can to love yourself like your life depends on it.
Because it does.
Brayton Bowman recently released Chapter 23 (The Edits).
Read more letters here.