This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Dear Charlotte, which tells the winding story of the triumph and folly of forever trying to better yourself. This letter is from the chapter on "Unifying Theories".
Hi Charlotte. Well, I guess things have been rough ever since I moved back home. There was an initial period of bliss where I was going to the beach regularly on the weekends instead of working non-stop like I did this past summer. For a little while, I felt like I could be a kid again. After school, I'd slump myself on the couch, turn on TRL1 and let myself get wrapped up in the life stories of P. Diddy and Carson Daly. But the itch keeps coming back. I need to create some sort of start-up or product while this Internet thing is blowing up. Every industry is going to be transformed by this, and whoever is first to embrace it will become a titan.
I keep getting into random, pointless arguments with my mom. She's the one who really pressured me to move back from La Jolla, and I don't resent her for that, but every time we fight, I feel stupid. Every argument is philosophical and pointless. She said, "Sometimes you got to do things you don't want to do." And I exhorted back, "No you don't! That's for old people." And on it went, spoiling our dinner. There's absolutely no reason for these arguments, they just break out like bad weather.
At school, I almost got into a physical fight with Hank. I shoved him, spilling his food everywhere. This was in retaliation for the pranks that he and his computer club gang have been pulling on me. When they found out I was taking a plane flight to Los Angeles for an awards ceremony2, they called the airline to change my food order to vegetarian, and they called my hotel to request a baby crib be delivered to my room. The pranks seem harmless on the surface, but who knows how far they will go. It's making me paranoid. I try to remind myself that they're just jealous of me, since I'm actually turning my computer skills into money.
But I think I found a method to solve all this petty non-sense. It's something I discovered while observing Ira and Daniel. You ever notice how they're always walking casually through the halls, with a smile on their face? Why are they like it? They want to get into good colleges like us, yet they don't sweat anything.
Here's what I figured the problem with me is. I automatically turn everything into a David vs. Goliath situation. Instead, I just need to "coast". There are always going to be rough waves, like discord with my mom or snarky looks from Hank, and I need to just float over them, like I'm surfing. Nearly every problem I have is like a previous wave I've had before, and if I just keep my head turned, with one eye on the past, and one eye on the future, then everything will solve itself automatically.
I think this is the real key to success. The real life lesson is about life lessons in general, which is to make sure they accumulate. There are two kinds of people in life. Those who are stuck in the same rut their whole life, and those who build their own destiny.
In my journal, I wrote in large letters, "Coast." Every day I'm going to look at that page and remind myself to lean back a little and glide through life. Already I see it's working. My mom just looked coldly at me and asked, "What do you do all day?" I almost stepped on that land mine, but instead, I recalled the last time we fought and how that solved nothing. And so I replied plainly, "homework," and left it at that.