A Letter To My Past Self
Those of you who are Facebook users (I’m sorry) will be familiar with the memories that pop up on your home screen when you log in each day. Save the Fraction Member Group, it’s my favorite thing about the social media monster – if not the only thing I like about it, period.
It’s the equivalent of TimeHop, for those of you who’ve chosen to save yourself and jump ship for shore by now.
Anyhow, today, the “memory” that popped up on my phone screen was a status update from nine years ago:
Nine. Years. Ago. I remember this show.
Bleeding Eardrum was a local practice space with a bunch of skateboarding ramps in one of the warehouse-style rooms that also acted as a DIY venue. I performed on top of a quarter pipe. Somewhere in the middle of the set, I probably slid down it and straight into someone face, screaming bloody murder the whole time.
I was working for a local promotion company / screen printing business, and we were trying to get into booking for artists. We wanted to offer young bands a one-stop-shop where they could get some sort of management, booking and merchandise for a monthly fee. We failed miserably. I know because I booked the tour. This was the start of it, and I put myself on as the local before sending all four bands off to their doom.
It’s a miracle In The Midst Of Lions ever took me out with them after that, but somehow, they gave me the chance to join them on the road later that fall for my first tour ever.
I shared the memory when I saw it today, and someone responded with a question:
If you could use this post to reach back through time, what would you say to yourself in 2009?
It got me thinking, and I decided that I want to try to answer his question here. I don’t know why, but I can’t keep my eyes dry, typing this up. Rather than suppressing that emotion and trying to flower it all up into some sort of prose, I’m opting for bullet points, and hoping to capture its immediacy…
Dear Past Levi...
- You’ll never believe this, but I’m writing you from some highway in France right now. You just played a show in London for like 300 people with good friends that are making sacrifices that they don’t have to make to give you a chance. Your wife - that same girl who encouraged you to pursue your dreams, and who went broke right alongside you trying to help other artists live theirs – is asleep next to you in the van. She still loves you. It hasn’t (and won’t) all be for naught.
- God will never, ever fail to provide for you, even though you'll worry about it every day. Cut that out and enjoy the ride. He wasn’t lying about his faithfulness.
- If you can, be present, or you’re gonna miss it all.
- Don’t reject the color, and don’t despise the grey, and don’t miss the forest for the trees, and throw up a white flag on more hills than you die on.
- Go home for God’s sake. Make sure your dad knows you love him. You’ll never regret it, no matter how hard it is right now.
- You’re gonna get strep throat all the time. It’ll suck. Not much you can do about it, but maybe get your tonsils out sooner than later?
- You don’t know everything, and even though it hurts your ego, your soon-to-be-wife 1) does have age on you and 2) is so much wiser than the weird way you’ll start to think about “headship.” Listen to rather than lord over her.
- “Seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all else will be added to you.”
- Quit smoking a little sooner, but also: get into peaty scotches a lot sooner.
- GET OFF YOUR DAMN PHONE.
- Most days, you’re going to feel like you’re going crazy. Practice discipline and silence and solitude and meet Jesus yourself – not vicariously through other people – and I think you’ll experience a good amount of the peace I never realized I forfeit.
- You’re going to go through hell. You’ll both long for a different story and realize what yours is worth when you get the chance to help other people through theirs.
- Conflict is unavoidable and often good – even for a 9. Engaging with it will prove to be healthier than the resentment that so easily builds up inside of you.
- Do not say yes to staying at those host homes (you’ll know when the time comes).
- Keep a record of shows and sales on something other than random torn-out pages of journal paper, or you’ll be screwed come 2017. Actually, give your finances to a CPA right now. Trust me, if you do, you’ll get like a cumulative three years of your life back. They’re worth every penny for the anxiety you’ll avoid every tax season.
- You’ll struggle to find confidence and meaning in what you do. If you can get to a place of believing your encouragers: do. You fancy yourself a rational person and if that's true, consider that surely the entire world isn’t full a bunch of liars with nothing better to do than email their lies to you. Humility and confidence are not mutually exclusive.
- Learn to stop working. You’ve got your dad in you. It’ll always be there for you to return to, but you can’t get the rest back. Say “yes” to your wife and your friends and your family when it’s possible for you to do so (and it’s possible a lot more than you’ll think it is).
- Slow down. Your anxiety will make you feel like you’re constantly running out of time. Pause. Breathe. Go outside. Work out. Sleep in. Keep skateboarding. Don’t forget about the things you love.
- Avoid Nas-energy-drink-spiked-vodka. And especially when you’re sitting in hot tubs. It does not go well for you.
- God doesn’t hate you. Don’t believe it no matter how loud your pastor’s voice is.
- For some reason, a few years from now, people will really start to hate on Superman. Ignore them.
- You will meet people who have been through unspeakable evils that – somehow – find you to be a safe place for lightening their burdens. It will be heavy but it will be worth it. They speak in different tongues. They inhabit different countries. They descend from different races. They identify by traditional and nontraditional orientations. They believe different things. And they are all of them: people made in the image and likeness of God. People whom he loves and cares about. Do not squander your opportunity to listen. Do not presume to be the teacher. Do not forfeit your opportunity to learn.
- Do not be ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believe, and – most miraculous of all – for you. If you can, in the times when you are ashamed, lean into its foolishness.
- Read more fiction.
- Someday you’ll discover that cooking is fun and therapeutic. Start sooner.
- Kevin Spacey is gonna ruin everything, including House Of Cards. Don’t even start because you’ll be pissed that you’ll never know how it ends.
- Disagreement does not have to equal discord, and unity does not have to mean uniformity.
- Someday a band called Twenty-One Pilots is gonna open up a show for you and White Collar Sideshow at a tiny church in Ohio. GO ON TOUR WITH THEM. Haha.
- Say yes to help. Whether it’s for your brain or for your work or for your life. The pride that keeps pushing it off only cripples you.
- You’re going to struggle with envy, which is not love. There is life and joy that comes from cheering on the people who are succeeding, and making a difference, and seeing the fruits of their labor. Absolutely nothing positive will come of your covetousness – only ugliness. Set it aside and join the crowd and laugh and cheer and elevate and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
- "A man makes his plans but the Lord directs his steps." There is no truer statement. By all means, steward your responsibility well, and then try to laugh when it all burns down around you.
- Grow up but remember that childlikeness is the only (worthwhile) way to live. And don’t let cynicism squash your sense of wonder.
- You’ll be coming up on ten years of living this life before you know it. It will have gone by in both an instant and an infinity. You’ll hate it. You’ll love it. You’ll wish you would have stopped years ago. You’ll hope it never ends. You’ll burn out. You’ll keep going. You’ll be hitting the 1000th-show marker before too long, if you haven’t already, and you’ll meet thousands of people along the way. Many of them will become your friends. Some, even: something like family. You’ll see that the world is bigger and more complicated than you thought that it was. You’ll feel the pain of the box collapsing. You’ll watch other people fall apart and you’ll do the same and you’ll both be in it together. You’ll make so many mistakes and you’ll sin against so many people and they’ll forgive you for it. You’ll rebuild. You’ll be poor and you’ll be better off and it’ll keep going back and forth. You’ll go to bed on some random hardwood floor while you’re friends are getting promotions and having children back home and you’ll second-guess everything. You’ll tell jokes with your tour-mates that are all half-true because humor tempers the moment. And then you’ll get up the next day and play a show and love it and have a conversation with someone it means something to and you’ll remember that it matters. And your wife will believe in it and you more than you ever have and you’ll wonder why God allowed you to live life with a person as good as she is. You’ll get art and letters and experiences and sometimes you’ll even appreciate them and remember that these years have been miracles. That show you’re about to play in 2009 is the start of an absolute miracle, and God will be kind to you, even, and perhaps especially, when you can’t see it at all.
- It’s all worth living for.
P.S. – Writing this today had to have been one of the most cathartic and beautiful things I’ve written in quite some time, at least personally, for myself. I’d like to thank Eric Claassen, the person who asked this question of me earlier. Little did he know what he was getting himself into. Haha. I am in tears at the kindness God has shown me throughout these years. I could write of it forever, and it would not be enough.
P.P.S. – I’d encourage you to do something like this. Not as some homework for the week or something, but man, spending the last couple of hours here has left me finishing it with such a sense of appreciation for these memories. Maybe y’all would enjoy doing whatever the equivalent of this might be for you, too. You could write it out in a journal or put it on a blog of your own or something.
P.P.P.S. – Thanks for being a part of making this life so beautiful. Feel free to respond or not. Love to you all.
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