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Last fall, I took a children’s book writing class. The first assignment was to write a letter to yourself at a younger age. I just came across my letter to my 12-year old self:

Dear Vincent,

You don’t have to read the whole thing if you don’t want to. You don’t have to read this all at once. I’m hoping you do but you don’t have to.

This is going to sound weird but sometimes it is OK to lie. Just like people, there are “good lies” and “bad lies.” A “good lie” would be when someone gives you a present and you really wanted something else, but you say you like it anyway because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. A “bad lie” is when you say you have something you don’t because you think it is going to make you more friends.

Don’t try to impress people. Your friends are your friends because they like you, not the things you have or who you want them to think you are. That’s the other thing. You’re not a bad person, so I don’t understand why you need to be someone else. Don’t. You are going to hurt more people than you can live with because you weren’t honest.

Try this: Get yourself a marble notebook, the kind that Mommy buys every August to get you ready for school. Then get yourself a pen or pencil, something you like to write with. Always keep the two together. Always keep the two hidden in a spot that only you can remember. Write down the bad lies you want to tell in the notebook instead of telling them to people. It’s like making up stories just like the stories you read or watch on TV. Use the notebook for your thoughts, dreams, and the things that scare you. It might feel strange and be hard at first, but I think you’re really going to get to like it.

You’re 12 now. Twenty plus – almost 30 – years from now I don’t want to be sitting here writing this letter.

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