By Peter Tóth.
It’s me, your 36 year old self.
How are you doing?
I’m writing to you from Nottingham, UK. Yeah, I know, you might want to ask how did I get here. But that’s not important. I’m here as a result of many decisions, almost all of them still unmade by you.
It’s shortly before 7 in the morning and I’m sitting on a George Street bus stop, waiting for the Nottingham City Transport bus line number 10, going to Ruddington, where I work. You haven’t really worked yet and I cannot lie to you that it’s always great, but work is good, it will be good for you. You’ll meet many people at work and/or while working. People are good. It takes an effort to convince myself of that sometimes, but I truly believe they are.
But I’m not writing this letter to tell you what I’m doing, what you’ll be doing in 20 years time, because even if you would somehow read this letter, you probably wouldn’t become exactly who I am now anyway, as you would hopefully read this carefully and you will avoid some mistakes that I have made. Although it’s these mistakes that got me where I am, doing what I do and I neither can, nor I want to complain about it, so let’s cut this hypothetical bullshit of what would, or wouldn’t be.
I won’t be telling you what to do and what not to, what I decided to tell you is this: Whatever you’ll be doing, just enjoy it more, enjoy it as much as you can. I’m looking back and I don’t think I regret doing anything. I also don’t regret not doing anything. But what I regret is not fully enjoying what I was doing while I was doing it. Not being completely present, focused. Not paying attention. Not being in love with what was surrounding me, not being in love with what’s within myself.
And believe me, there was so much love and beauty surrounding you. True, some of it was only just becoming visible, tangible and perceivable, but it was there. All around you. Waiting for you to reach out for it. I want to tell you, that you grew up in the place surrounded by love. And although it takes a long journey to understand what love actually is, and I am still on that journey (just for the record), you’re on the right path. Just keep walking, trying and learning.
Compared to you, I’m more experienced (or I would dare to think so) and I could easily fall into attempting to lecturing you how to live and what to do, but I don’t want to. What this beautiful assignment to write to you teaches me is, that in 20 years time, there could be another me (you) who could be asked to write a letter to you, which is 16 year old me and a letter to the current, 36 years old me, and it could easily draft the similar story wrapped around the same spot of bother, that I am wrapping my story about: the unbelievably merciless passing of time. Time is a teacher, a very good teacher. Probably the best each of us has.
Could this time also be the God? The Judge we are all afraid of? Time doesn’t start and doesn’t end, even if all life disappeared completely and there was no one to witness its passing, it would still flow. Right?
You are 16 and I know that some of the things that you have to do don’t seem as interesting as they seem to me now. (With my senses blurred with nostalgia and melancholy, I am painting pictures my mind wants to see.) It’s probably now when you’re getting to know the very basics of beekeeping and although I know that you rebel against it, against the summer Saturdays spent in the solitary valley 5 miles from your home, let me get this one clear, just fucking enjoy it. Enjoy the smell of honey, beeswax, propolis, of smoldering rotten wood. Enjoy being inducted to the mysterious craft of beekeeping, which is slowly becoming almost extinct.
You know, our grandad, Apa, the unbreakable leader of our clan, who you occasionally dislike for his firm and seemingly unforgiving tone of voice passed away this year. Yeah, I went to see him in his care home just a month after I’d seen him, after nearly a year had passed.
He passed away on the very day me and my friend (one that you actually still need to make) planned to visit him. But instead I received a phone call from my auntie Maria informing me that there’s no more need to go anywhere.
You still have all four grandparents, each of them unique and each of them will teach you something valuable, but let me tell you this, Apa is the one with who you will create the strongest, almost sacred bond. Some people said that “he waited for me” with his death. I somehow think he did. It’s something people in our parts say and although I don’t believe in all that people say, this was exactly how it felt. For everyone at home his death was just something they saw coming as he was very weak towards the end and they knew it’s near. But I felt privileged to be able to attend his funeral and I actually said the speech at the feast afterwards.
I am thankful that I was obedient enough to never turn him down although I never really had much interest in spending Saturdays helping him with bees in the beginning. But it’s this silent obedience that will teach you one of the most important lessons in life, that to gain something, to learn something, to become good at something requires time and effort. And yes, a lot of sacrifices. All of us are exchanging our time, our given time for wonderful experience of being a human. On the great market of life, where time is the most valued, almost priceless commodity.
If it wasn’t for our grandad, Apa, I probably wouldn’t be writing you this letter. I probably wouldn’t be who I am and even when I am only learning to admit it, I am proud to be who I am. It would take you years to realise what was happening back then in the wagon in which we had the hives and outside in the little patch if green grass amongst fields of sunflower and rapeseed. The buzz of hundreds of thousands little bodies and the smell of their homes is one of the most magnificent displays of life’s ingenuity, beauty and love that I have witnessed.
20 years later and I cannot give you much better reason to believe that you have been blessed.
The pure rawness of life, the constant birth and death of its tiny speechless, yet tireless brown fuzzy heralds, the silent Buddha-like silhouette of Apa sitting on the hand made stool surrounded by the fume coming from the bee-smoker instead of incense sticks, barely moving, just observing the combs, the almost slo-mo passing of time. Well, you will find much of this boring and you would draw on the walls of wagon, you will be reading books, looking at the watch trying to move its hands faster. Just don’t do it if you can. Try to absorb the light that’s coming out of so much life around you, conserve it within the walls of your heart, fill it like bees fill the cells of the combs with honey and keep it safe. One day you will look back and thank God that you have seen it all.
I know that this letter won’t reach you. There’s even a name for letters that never reach their addressees – dead letters. Apparently some countries even issued special labels for envelopes that have travelled through the dead letter office. And used examples are highly prized by collectors. Actually, now when I re-read the article in Wikipedia about dead letters again, this one wouldn’t actually classify as one due to possibility of being returned to the sender. And while we are on this subject, I found this one paragraph extremely intriguing:
people interested in postal services throughout the world sometimes deliberately send mail to fictional addresses throughout the world to see if a particular nation’s postal authority would return the mail to the sender.
This makes me actually think of our dad, who was a postman (now retired). And I am tempted to send this letter somewhere very far to create a little whirl in the world of postal services. You see, this, and more can happen if you listen to people like Jennifer Pastiloff. You don’t need to know her yet, you don’t need to know any more than you already know. I probably said too much now anyway. What you however should know is, that I’m doing well, with usual ups and downs as everyone else, but it seems that life is great. Keep doing what you do, don’t worry too much, life is gonna sort itself out anyway. Just please, enjoy what you do, try to put your soul into everything you do and be grateful for what you have. Be very, very grateful.
PS: (A letter should always have one. I love PSs in letters.) I’m not exactly sure when you will have the first opportunity to clink the wine glass with Apa, but when he pours you the first wine, from his own vineyards and moves his glass towards yours, look into his eyes, clink and drink it with pride, gratitude and love.
Your 36 old you
Nottingham, UK, 17-20. November 2014
Note from Jen Pastiloff: Peter appeared suddenly on my Facebook page and has written me the most beautiful things. He took this prompt I gave (one which I also do in my workshops) and sent it to me. I would love to hear your letters. Please post in the comment section below! Connect with Peter here.