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July 5, 2012 11:32 AM   Subscribe

A Conversation With My 12 Year Old Self
posted by jjray (40 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Oh charming, no wonder I'm single"
posted by Mojojojo at 11:43 AM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


His reaction at about 1 minute is priceless.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2012


This is something I would have done as a child, only I would have used some format that no one has used for 20 years, so it would be totally unreadable. Oh, and I would have lost it in a move. And I would have been more annoying as a younger me. Hmmm. Maybe it's for the best that I did not.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:50 AM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


yeah, I remember I wrote a super long letter to myself some 15 years ago, kept it in such a safe place I never again found it.
posted by Tarumba at 11:58 AM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, now that's meta-filter, and very cute. Wonder if he filmed himself saying every straight line, question and reaction shot that might possibly be incorporated into a conversation 20 years later, or... did that little kid actually script this for his older self to play?
posted by Scram at 12:01 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


This reminds me that when my kids were born, I wrote down a bunch of guesses as to what they'd be like, what they'd end up doing with their lives, their adult height, so on and so forth, and sealed them in envelopes that I wouldn't open until they were out of college (or at least that age.)

At the time I thought there was no way I'd forget what I'd written down, so it was kind of pointless. Now, nearly seven years on, I have no idea what's written in those envelopes, and I am not sure I even remember where they are.

And that reminds me that I'd better find them, so that my kids don't find them many years from now among all my other belongings when I'm dead, open them, read them, and spend the rest of their lives wondering what the hell I had written that stuff for.
posted by davejay at 12:02 PM on July 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wonder if he filmed himself saying every straight line, question and reaction shot that might possibly be incorporated into a conversation 20 years later, or... did that little kid actually script this for his older self to play?

Ummm...I assumed Little Him just did some kind of normal conversation on his end which Big Him used the concept of but re-edited.
posted by DU at 12:06 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


And that reminds me that I'd better find them, so that my kids don't find them many years from now among all my other belongings when I'm dead, open them, read them, and spend the rest of their lives wondering what the hell I had written that stuff for.

Are you kidding? If they are of a curious nature, this thorny mystery could be the best gift ever!

Except of course, for a convincing old diary that reveals that you were actually a pirate ghost from the future.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:06 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ooooh, a chance to link Kate Beaton!
posted by Popular Ethics at 12:20 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


And that reminds me that I'd better find them, so that my kids don't find them many years from now among all my other belongings when I'm dead, open them, read them, and spend the rest of their lives wondering what the hell I had written that stuff for.

Nah, just write an explanation, seal it in an envelope, and let it get misplaced like the others. If they find the others first, they will wonder what it all means. If they find the explanation first, they will then wonder what you had written. A potential solution and treasure hunt wrapped up in twice the mystery! Win-win.
posted by insert.witticism.here at 12:29 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Better than I'd hoped.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:31 PM on July 5, 2012


He kinda lucked out like crazy that 1992 Jeremiah asked about Doctor Who.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:55 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, that took a 90º turn into "holy shit, now I'm crying" territory that I totally didn't see coming.
posted by Ian A.T. at 1:14 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


That was pretty well done... I give his 12 year old self credit for the original video, and his older self credit for resisting the temptation to do something with it for 20 years...

Interestingly, he seems to have started a blog, with the first post today, where he invites folks to suggest that he draw something....
posted by HuronBob at 1:44 PM on July 5, 2012


I feel a little disappointed. I was looking for some sort of profound conversation and the whole exchange barely bordered on a conversation.

That older version seems like kind of a jerk.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 1:49 PM on July 5, 2012


"I feel a little disappointed........

Perhaps you could go to his channel and tell him he sucks.
posted by HuronBob at 1:55 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was looking for some sort of profound conversation

With a 12 year old boy? Really?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:58 PM on July 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


At about 2:45, this went from kinda cute, to hitting me like a ton of bricks.

That probably says more about me than the video, but there you go.
posted by Frayed Knot at 2:03 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


He has some animation on his youtube which is actually pretty cool.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2012


Man, I'm deeply glad to see I'm not alone in having done this kind of thing when I was a kid, though in all fairness, I only ever saved letters to myself on old floppy disks*.

(*warning: thesis film)
posted by DNAshwood at 2:28 PM on July 5, 2012


Oh man, I had a whole cast of characters, too. What have I done with my life?
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:37 PM on July 5, 2012


I didn't want to watch this because I imagined it would be either drippy sentimentality or screaming gibberish.

Luckily, I was wrong. It was excellent.
posted by milkb0at at 3:33 PM on July 5, 2012


I have the resources to do this. There are the obvious ones, like the letters I wrote to my future self, including the ones I wrote in a made-up language I used between 1983 and 1986, but forgot, necessitating some help from a friend working in the cryptology field. My old battered Craig portable cassette recorder with the chrome-plated knob like a little gearshift supplied much of the rest, and the stacks of cassettes are like a historical record of brands and my personal finance, from Norelco to store brand cheapness to my beloved TDKs. If you went to school with me, there's a good chance your voice is stored away in boxes of cassettes in my house somewhere. I'm gradually transferring those into digital format, but there are hundreds of hours and I am awfully busy these days.

When I was ten, I believed in the future in the way Gatsby believed in the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. At every neighborhood yard sale, I bought whole stacks of Popular Mechanics magazines from the thirties through the sixties, ten for a dime, and I found a huge cache of pulp-era science fiction magazines that would net me a nice little reward if I'd ever take them to ebay, but they are and will remain one of those possible futures that raised my hopes—branches of probabilities splitting and twisting off the mundane now like lightning bolts raging in an overheated summer sky, illuminating ways that might have been, if things were just right. Ray Bradbury taught me to love the lush, overwrought joy of the perfect adjective and the way words make the future, read out over and over from paperbacks with faded yellow pages, and he believed in the future with a conviction that drew me in.

"Joe-B," my mother said, often enough that it was an essential family mantra, "I know that God has a plan for you."

She said that when my fits and phantoms were all too much, and when I took the wrong path at every single intersection, coming home to cry and curl up on a sympathetic lap. It was hard to know what was wrong, but things were just so intense—to feel was to feel everything dialed up into a bristling blur, like what you got when you turned the COLOR knob on the TV all the way up.

Back then, it seemed like maybe God did have a plan for me, so I kept a record, in case anyone ever wanted to know how it all started.

I have the resources, and sometimes, they are those cast-off selves that stay with us, or at least with me. I am who I am now, but the me of 1973 is still there, still spinning an outrageous tale of why I emerged bleeding from the little room where we kept the classroom gerbil, and the me of 1976 is still there, marveling at the laser beams tracing the sky from the top of the Washington Monument. The me of 1978 is unusually clear and present, which means he was at the core of one of those formative me-moments, and I've written quite a bit of his story, lest I lose the voice as I move along.

I can still turn up the arch, mannered, difficult me of 1982-1986, the guy who knew it all and still thought God had a plan, which meant risk was not something to be concerned with. The intricate costumery, the chemical coifs, the disdain for anything not within his rather fascist notion of how things should be—my, it's hard to bring that guy back. The broken-down me of 1988, on the other hand—well, you learn hard lessons, sometimes.

1981 me had the bad luck to turn up his sister's copy of Kramer's horrid little dirge of self-hating New York faggotry and came to a panicked state of abject disbelief at the mention of rimming, a sexual practice so inherently disgusting to that me that 1991 me was rather pleasantly surprised to discover all was not as it seemed.

The space program died and turned into a quasi-military rah-rah party for the Reagan years. The atomic deluxe Autorama future did not come to pass. For a time, I anticipated an exciting dial-up future, where my modem would be so sophisticated that I wouldn't have to clap the handset into rubber cups when I heard the screeeeeee, and computers came around that could display 512 vivid colors for less than three grand.

I had Douglas Adams and a digital wristwatch, L'Oreal Coloriffics and a Datsun 210 with the Deluxe Sport trim that was only flaking off to the base plastic chrome a little bit. I had QT and two months of splotchy orange skin to go with the bit of bulk I built on my roommates' dusty Soloflex.

With good recordkeeping, time swirls into the cosmic blender, and you have these reflective moments where you can dive in, looking through a box for the manual to a synthesizer that's now a treasured antique, but which you bought new.

There's orange, muscle-y me in that snapshot. Handsome.

I wonder why that guy felt so unattractive then?


All those roommates are dead, from the Soloflex house. AIDS—1990, 1992. The Malaysian drag queen was murdered on the street on a visit to his home well before the other two went, leaving his Datsun 310 settling on flattening tires beside where I parked my Fiat Strada before I moved out.

I keep so much paper and so much tape out of a fear that I'll lose some of these voices before I have a chance to tell those stories. I no longer think God has a plan for me, but I think something of the life I've lived is worth telling, if only as a cautionary tale. I'll get in one of those winsome, drifty moods and head down to the basement for a nice root in hopes of one day turning up a comic book I once bought that's supposed to be worth a small fortune now, and I'll find my old journals, full of daydreams, awkward plans for the future, and details that have blissfully slid off the continental shelf of my existence, and they're an uncomfortable meeting of old friends who never got along very well from the outset.

The one-of-these-days was a big thing for me then, in the way trapped animals dream of escaping their leg irons, never knowing that predators haunt those sunny woods just beyond. These days, I try to stay, because someone wise finally articulated why that was better than practicing the well-honed craft of the artful dodger. For 1993 me, there was always the day when I would finally beat the old game and be idiotically happy for every moment of every day, but that was a long, long time ago.

The guy I was in 1978 would not understand who I am now. This was supposed to be the world of the future, but I just got a sixteen year-old full-size American pickup truck and I am absolutely giddy every time I see it. I went from old Datsuns to driving Citroëns to settling into a kind of vaguely blue collar look. '78 me was skinny as a rail with hair that begged to be tousled—2012 me is carrying seventy extra pounds and reluctantly identifies as a member of the ursine subspecies of queer, with a ridiculous two-tone post-modern porn star mustache and a silly buzz cut that's practical rather than fetching.

I thought I'd be an engineer or scientist, because I love those things so much that they fill the place where religion evaporated out of my awareness, but I'm just not smart enough, and never was. A mastery of words, as it turns out, will put you in places you don't fit, because life is made of words and moments, threaded in sequence along the ways of our daydreams. I got a degree in poetry, not astronomy, and I didn't have the math skills or emotional coherence to take up a profitable trade in computers like so many of the kids I chose as friends.

1986 me would be mortified to find that I am single and have been for seven years because someone broke my heart and it's taken this long to feel like venturing out again. Of course, that me just shrugged everything off, all the time, hiding behind the perfect armor of emotional distance, where nothing ever hurts because nothing ever gets through. 2005 me, curled up on floor of the shower with cool water mixing with tears because things weren't supposed to go that way would not understand that it is okay for it to hurt that much and for this long, but I do. My eyesight is slipping, along with my memory for the most arcane details, and my knees sound like etudes for prepared piano when I climb the stairs, but life is always getting better.

I can revisit all the myriad past mes back there because I'm wired that way, so that things don't fade as quickly as they do for some or torment me quite as they do for others, but time makes us different and different and different, even if all those lives are still there, embedded in the timeline. Everything I have ever done is an essential step in the path to where I am right now.

Where I am right now is sitting in room 202 of a giant novelty clock tower built to advertise a tranquilizer-laden effervescent hangover cure, and this is my place, and my job. When my grandmother walked me down from the old Hippodrome theater after inadvertently taking me to see an age-inappropriate Pam Grier movie and told me, in the sweet Baltimore accent she had, that she always thought the blue light that shone from the top of this tower was like the color of the bluebird of happiness, there's no way in the world I could have looked forward into the future and seen myself sitting at a desk made from an old ladies' room door, writing a rambling bit about myself on an unimaginably powerful (but obsolete) computer connected to almost the whole entire world after spending another day managing this old architectural curiosity.

I can see them, though, out there on Eutaw Street, looking up, and my grandmother is pointing and spinning the kind of stories that I've spent every day since mastering, and telling me in this way and at every age in my history that there is still wonder and magic in the world. She's in her catseyes with little rhinestones at the corners and her hair is spun silver tucked into a whorl of big ideas frozen in place with the help of a quarter can of Aqua-Net and I'm in shorts, sandals made from old tires, and that dumb brown polyester shirt that I loved because it had a print of old tools. I can scarcely believe it when she tells me that there used to be a blue bottle on top of this tower that lit up and turned, but you just had to believe anything she described with conviction.

It's too late to change a thing, and if I'd could have listened then, I wouldn't be here now, because decisions make chains and loops and clouds of possibilities in the world, and you get here by going there first. It's July, it's hot as hell, and I've got way too much work to do in the next three weeks because it's festival season for those of us adjacent to the arts, but I have never been so close to being exactly who I am than I am right now. At 44, I know loss, I know love and losing that, I know regret and sorrow and bitterness and a kind of desolation you could have never explained to 1973 me, and yet, the flush of pure joy, when it comes, or the wash of wonder, awe, and epiphany, is seasoned by all those bad things and is all the sweeter.

We lose simplicity and easy optimism, but it's not a one-sided trade-off.

All those former Joes wouldn't have understood, but I like to think that they do now, even if they occasionally drift in from the recesses of my brain to ask if maybe I ought to revisit some of the old ideas I left behind on my way here.

One never knows.
posted by sonascope at 3:44 PM on July 5, 2012 [40 favorites]


Strangely kinda sweet. Makes me wanna dig out and digitize all the synth-pop songs I recorded when I was 15. I think there are some instrumental versions that I could sing over...
posted by tantrumthecat at 4:00 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can't believe he didn't say "Buy Apple stock" even once!
posted by crunchland at 4:01 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


This wins the internet for this week. I loved the sentimental turn it took towards the end.
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 4:09 PM on July 5, 2012


I got to the end of the first paragraph and said to myself, "Self, that's gotta be sonascope."
posted by The Michael The at 5:41 PM on July 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


When I was 12, I had a camera... Super 8 film, silent. I did also have a cassette recorder, Craig brand, of course. Considering I wasn't satisfied with the way my voice sounded when I worked in radio in my 20s, I never would've done anything like that then. On the other hand, all the pictures of me from that age are a lot less fat than I believed I was. 12 year old me would hate to see me now, but also be relieved that I didn't lose all my hair like my dad... and dammit, Dr. Who hadn't even started airing in Los Angeles until I was 16 or 17 (after it went full color).
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:00 PM on July 5, 2012


I think my favorite touch is the drawing of Van Gogh (?) I think, behind the grown guy, which looks just like him.
posted by Miko at 6:46 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not to derail the thread by gushing over Sonascope (again), but like The Michael The, I knew before I got the the "Joe B" reference it was Sonascope. I don't read every metafilter thread and I don't specifically seek out Sonascope's posts but I totally feel like I scored when I stumble upon the pearl that is a Sonascope post when I'm enjoying a delicious chewy oyster of a thread.
posted by Jezebella at 8:24 PM on July 5, 2012


Check out his Jazz Dispute. He does conversational conflict well.
posted by nickyskye at 10:10 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nah, just write an explanation, seal it in an envelope, and let it get misplaced like the others. If they find the others first, they will wonder what it all means. If they find the explanation first, they will then wonder what you had written. A potential solution and treasure hunt wrapped up in twice the mystery! Win-win.

This is a good idea, and would be even moreso if I could buy a decrepit mansion in the middle of nowhere behind a large iron fence to store my personal belongings in, to be revealed only through the reading of the will...
posted by davejay at 10:44 PM on July 5, 2012


My junior (third) year of high school, in Oregon (USA), our English language and literature teacher assigned us all to write a letter to ourselves 10 years in the future. We were to put it in an envelope with our parents' address and stamp it; 10 years later, he promised he would mail them, making up for any postage increase on his dime. That was back in 1993.

Since I kept a diary, I skipped stuff about my then-current life and asked about my future self, as well as friends from then. I asked what kind of a house I had; if I'd had just one kid by then, or two; if my husband was someone I knew in high school or someone I'd met later. What kind of a job did I have? "You know I love writing, hehe," my younger self wrote, "but I also love chemistry and math." (I was in AP Chemistry that year and did indeed enjoy it, but only ended up using it for astronomy courses at university.) "What did you end up choosing??"

In the summer of 2003, I was still in touch with my family; they forwarded the letter. To France, where I was then a freelance French-English translator. My then-boyfriend, a Frenchman I'd met on a math-focused IRC channel in 1995, had recently blown off his second marriage proposal and was becoming physically violent. No children. Facebook wasn't around then, so I had only sporadic contact with few of the friends listed in my letter. (Almost another 10 years later, the web has allowed us all to get back in touch; a miracle-gift from technology.) Although my family had forwarded along that single letter, they had "lost" my childhood journals, kept from age 5 until I left home at 21. My father eventually found them, where he'd put them, in the garage attic. "They smell moldy, so I'm not sending them." Never did get them back, despite insisting I'd pay postage. I can only hope that they're stored in boxes and never opened; that they'll behave like books tend to do, outer pages protecting the inner ones. That the cheap, lined paper and ball-point ink will somehow manage to stand the test of time. (Nowadays I buy acid-free paper and use fountain pens.)

Left the boyfriend a year later. He took everything but my clothes and books. I kept the letter to myself in one of them, but only looked at it once I'd managed to find a little apartment for myself.

20 years on and an Internet later, now is when I have my own home and can answer the questions about my friends. But I wish I'd said something about myself in that letter. It didn't occur to me then that family would hoard my childhood. As it is, I only have about ten photos of me, all taken when I wore dresses, since family didn't approve of my tomboy style. My mother once tried to placate my requests for photos by sending a 750Mb CD burned with a few JPGs of my... books.

It was cool to see this guy's still-existing link to his own childhood, with his toys and Dr. Who memorabilia. Behaving like his 12-year-old self, silly and curious.
posted by fraula at 12:55 AM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Are you a secret agent with a room full of computers and a Corvette and you play D&D all night with hot women?"

"Errrrrr...yes?"

"I mean you, not your Top Secret character."

"I HAVE LOTS OF COMPUTERS"
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:57 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, this was very cool and quite moving. And kudos to the kid for even thinking of making that video in 1992 and the older guy for waiting twenty years to do something with it. It's come together beautifully.

I wrote a short play based on this concept - a thirty-five-old guy writing a letter to his fifteen-year-old self and then getting a reply. A reply he doesn't expect. Because, you know, the older versions of ourselves get to be nostalgic, but our younger selves can dream but can't always see the future.

It's actually the most autobiographical play I've written. Part of it plays on the idea that "it gets better", because I was bullied as a child and I wanted to let my younger self know that things turn out fine. And part of it is about whether or not my teenage self would be happy enough with where I ended up; it gets better but it doesn't necessarily turn out how you imagine.

The play is called "You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia", after the night Carrie Fisher gave me a peck on the cheek. Because, you know, if you're going to tell your fifteen-year-old self that his life's not really going to go the way he planned, you should totally lead with teasing a virgin about a kiss he's not going to get for twenty years!
posted by crossoverman at 3:36 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I only wrote myself (ten years in the future) a short, two-line letter when I was about his age:

"IF IN WORLD OF BUSINESS, GET OUT.

IF ENJOY BEING IN WORLD OF BUSINESS, KILL SELF."


And you know what? It worked. I got out right before the banking crash. Smart, younger me.
posted by Eideteker at 6:24 AM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh, it's basically a Space Ghost interview. Oh, and a Doctor Who reference.
posted by Eideteker at 6:30 AM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


crossoverman: Okay, this was very cool and quite moving. And kudos to the kid for even thinking of making that video in 1992 and the older guy for waiting twenty years to do something with it. It's come together beautifully.

I wrote a short play based on this concept - a thirty-five-old guy writing a letter to his fifteen-year-old self and then getting a reply. A reply he doesn't expect. Because, you know, the older versions of ourselves get to be nostalgic, but our younger selves can dream but can't always see the future.

It's actually the most autobiographical play I've written. Part of it plays on the idea that "it gets better", because I was bullied as a child and I wanted to let my younger self know that things turn out fine. And part of it is about whether or not my teenage self would be happy enough with where I ended up; it gets better but it doesn't necessarily turn out how you imagine.

The play is called "You Will Be Kissed By Princess Leia", after the night Carrie Fisher gave me a peck on the cheek. Because, you know, if you're going to tell your fifteen-year-old self that his life's not really going to go the way he planned, you should totally lead with teasing a virgin about a kiss he's not going to get for twenty years!
So... you gonna post it in Metatalk or somethin' when you're ready?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:09 AM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


our English language and literature teacher assigned us all to write a letter to ourselves 10 years in the future

Interestingly enough, my English teacher did the same thing, although I think it was in perhaps 8th grade or so. And much to my surprise, the letter really did show up in my parents' mailbox, a number of years after I graduated college. (I was informed: "You got a letter, looks like it's from some kid with bad handwriting.")

Unfortunately, I wasn't a particularly self-aware 8th-grader, and the letter was basically just a bunch of bullet points about current events at the time and a few superficial predictions about technology. Which I suppose does provide some insight into my personality at the time, just not anything flattering. If it had been written a few years later it probably would have been a lot more interesting reading.

It would be interesting to have written more of them, at different times, to be mailed back over time. It would be neat to get into a pattern of writing letters to yourself at different points in the future, or even to your descendants, if you had a reliable way of ensuring their delivery. But I'm not sure how you could arrange that.


One halfassed idea: periodically I've heard people propose various cryptographic "time capsule" systems, where a digital payload is encrypted with a random key of a set length, that is then discarded. The idea being that by choosing the length of the key properly, you can control — to a very general extent — how long it will take before someone could brute-force their way in. So I guess you could do something like that, and post it to Usenet or someplace else that's likely to be widely archived and available in the future, and hope that your key-length guesses are on target.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:32 PM on July 6, 2012


February 2006, I delivered an electronic letter to myself on my birthday in 2008 using futureme. During that time I created a new gmail account, and abandoned it. In 2010, I went back to the gmail account, sifting through spam, when I found the letter. Very surreal.

I wrote about my girlfriend at the time. My family. My job. My goals.

It was a messy breakup. I have a new sister. A new job. New goals.

Futureme.org is still up, but it's not future proof. It definitely gave me some creeps three years later.


OP's video is quite amazing. I love everything about it. I would probably be a real jerk to my 12 year old self as well.
posted by synthedelic at 11:44 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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