An Open Letter to Myself – 1992

Yale Hollander is a dad, husband, legal professional and writer whose works have appeared in a number of local and national publications. He is currently a trustee of the St. Louis Jewish Light, however the opinions and viewpoints he presents in this blog are strictly his. Follow him on Twitter @yalehollander.

By Yale Hollander

Hi, it’s me, er, you. The year is 2015 and, yes, you still have most of your hair. But that’s not why I’m writing you today. I am reaching out with three urgent words of advice.

Don’t do it. 

You’re sitting in a car dealership in Fulton, Missouri, preparing to trade in your 1984 Chrysler LeBaron Town & Country convertible for a brand new Pontiac Grand Am. Walk away while you can. And I assure you, you can.

Sure, you’re 24 years old, entering your final year of law school and preparing for life as a responsible adult. And the vehicle you’ve selected, a four-door no less, is certainly practical.  

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Practical can wait.

Sure, the LeBaron’s odometer just rolled 100,000 miles, but only 55,000 of those miles are on the current engine, thanks to the infamous “oil pan incident of 1986.”  Remember that? I do. I remember a lot of things associated with that car which your young memory has yet to burnish to a sentimental shine.

I remember countless weekend and summer nights cruising with friends up and down Missouri Boulevard, the epicenter of Jefferson City’s motorized social scene. And Friday and Saturday nights camped out on the parking lot of the mall, top down, music blaring, hanging out long after the shops had closed. Dumb teenage stuff. Good times. 

I remember a bunch of us piling into the car for clandestine trips to Columbia to catch all the amazing live music at the Blue Note, notwithstanding our being a few years too young for legal admission. Was it worth the risk of getting “popped” in order to see the Violent Femmes, Black Flag, the Meat Puppets and Sonic Youth? 

Yes.  Yes it was.

How about that crazy first year of law school down in Oklahoma City? So much stress! Wasn’t it great to be able to drop the top and head west on old Route 66, driving into the middle of nowhere (my apologies to El Reno, Oklahoma) to clear your head and regain focus? Don’t discount those memories still too fresh to have any value. They’re priceless now.  

Your mom rode in that front passenger seat. Your oldest daughter is now big enough to ride there. I don’t want to bring you down too much, but you’re going to want to have that connection. Very badly.

Oh yeah, you’ve got a daughter now. Two, as a matter of fact, but you have a decade before confronting that issue. Will a pair of child car seats fit into a back seat barely sufficient to fit two teenagers? Of course not. So you will have to purchase a more practical car. But even then, don’t get rid of this one!

How can you afford to maintain an antiquated Chrysler and still buy a family-friendly vehicle? Easy. 

Don’t spend all that money on Spin Doctors, Crash Test Dummies and Gin Blossoms CD’s. Wait ten years and you’ll be able to listen to that music any time you want on something called satellite radio.  Spoiler alert: you aren’t going to want to.

And don’t throw all that cash into video games. They’re never going to make one that tops the NHL game you’re currently wasting time with on your Sega Genesis. Spend some more time on that novel you’ve been trying to write.  You know, the one residing on that massive 20 megabyte hard drive inside your IBM PS/2. You’ve got about four more years before that thing becomes a doorstop in your in-laws’ basement. 

Sure, that car will be a full-fledged jalopy by 2015; its faux wood paneling sun-bleached to the point of near translucence, and that sweet, two-tone brown Mark Cross leather upholstery worn thinner than onion skin, but what you wouldn’t give to take your wife and kids on just one drive! 

Unfortunately, I know how this particular story ends. You are going to sign off on the title and drive home in your new Pontiac, a brand that I should add doesn’t even exist anymore, leaving behind the first – and best – car you ever owned.

But here’s the good news, at almost 47 years of age, walking away from that car remains the biggest regret of your life. 

You could certainly have done worse.