Blake Johnson, a 2014 alum of Valor Christian, reached out to me last week with a "Dear Younger Me" letter. Blake has been an incredible blessing to the Valor and TCU communities, and has appeared in Bottom of the Ninth previously (make sure to read his Alumni Speech presented at the 2015 Valor Baseball banquet). Enjoy this letter as Blake tells himself, "The more things change, the more things stay the same."
Dear Younger Blake,
Life gets awesome. Let me start by saying that. You are probably thinking about girls, baseball, or what you're going to do with your life. None of that stuff is worth focusing on because I write this from Fort Worth, Texas, where you have an incredible girlfriend, attend an unbelievably rigorous (but intentionally fulfilling) university in TCU, and a steadfast group of fraternity brothers surrounding you. You're involved in different ways here than you ever thought you would be in high school. You've always wanted to play baseball. That's all you've ever really thought about and dreamed about. I'll break the news now: TCU doesn't necessarily need you on their staff (I say this in a joking way, but also not at all joking. Oh yeah, your sense of humor has changed a bit, by the way). You don't end up throwing a baseball 90+ mph and your slider has most certainly lost its bite.
Things have changed, but things have also stayed the same. Such is life.
Things have changed. You aren't pitching anymore. No more practice, no more tossing around the ball casually during BP with Hick, and no more saves against Skyline to get into the next round of the playoffs. You chose a different path to pursue in life. A path that, I would argue, has shaped and will shape you as a man. Valor Baseball was the beginning; it sculpted your work ethic, your respect, your integrity, and your love for your fellow man. You joined a fraternity. Yep. You heard me right. You've found a brotherhood that is in many ways similar to that of Valor Baseball, but also different in many ways from Valor Baseball. It takes the next step into fellowship and brotherhood, without the baseball. You have a rock-solid group of guys you trust to build you everyday. The guys rely on you and you rely on them. Too often, younger Blake, you lose focus on the brotherhood that is Valor Baseball. I urge you, don't take it for granted because brotherhood will be one of the major constants in your life. Love this aspect of your life intensely.
College is awesome, by the way. TCU will be the best decision you make thus far in your life. Don't hesitate to choose it. It will give you some lifelong friends you'll make over a couple cold ones and a beautiful girlfriend who loves the Lord. You really can't ask for much more than that. You'll grow a gnarly, Grizzly Adams-like beard and it'll be breathtaking, so don't rush it. You're probably 16 or 17 while you read this, so keep shaving your face because you definitely look ridiculous. You'll go to classes that you hate and classes that you love. You'll discover that Kinesiology is not your forte but Communication Studies is right up your alley. You've always been good at communicating with others, and that doesn't change. You'll smile, you'll laugh, and you'll cry at TCU. Without you even knowing it, the Lord planned it to be this way because these four years will absolutely leave a lasting imprint on you.
Things have stayed the same, too. You still love country music… like way more. You start listening to Keith Whitley, Willie, and a ton of Chris Ledoux. Listen to these men, they are wise. You still appreciate a good steak (this will never change). You are still a team guy. "Iron sharpens iron" means more and more to you each day as your fraternity brothers challenge you to be your best self. This kind of thing isn't common these days, so cherish it. You still second-guess yourself, but you're getting better about that. You struggle with what happened with your father every single day, but you are learning how to come to grips with it. There is still disappointment, pain, and anger. That hasn't changed. Hopefully further-into-the-future Blake has better news for us. Your favorite Bible verse is still James 1:4 and it says, "Let perseverance finish its work so that you be mature and complete, not lacking anything." I'm pretty sure further-future Blake will heed those words, so it should be good news.
You didn't ask for it, but I'm going to give it to you anyways. Here's my advice for you: love the little moments in life that make you happy. Have conversations with everyone because, deep down, I know you care about everyone you meet. That's unique to us. Enjoy life, don't always be a rule-follower (you become less of a rule-follower, by the way). Care about every single relationship you have. Friends, family, girlfriend, fraternity brothers… all of these are more important than your phone, your PlayStation, and your Netflix binges. Trust me, you'll make mistakes. Everyone does. I am who I am because of the mistakes you will inevitably make. Please continue to make those mistakes. Just like baseball is a game of failure, you learn a lot in life from messing up. Take adversity head-on and keep loving the Lord. He will guide your path, even if it isn't the one you thought you'd be on. Quit looking so far ahead of yourself and just love the moment you're in and let God take you where he wants you. Life is a lot easier that way.
"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." - Psalm 119:105
"Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." - James 1:4