Dear 1999 version of Eric:
This is your future self talking. Hi there. Here are some things I’ve learned which you will find helpful:
1) That accusing voice you feel, just below the level of coherent wording, which feels like other people attacking and poking and saying all the things you never want to hear, even people you know love you, is actually just a part of you biting yourself. It stands to reason: you’re the only one there. But that part of your soul is so ashamed, it will vigorously pretend to be someone else so that it can’t be seen.
When you feel another knife thrust from inside, don’t fight back. Just smile, look on yourself in grace, and accept yourself before God’s presence.
Yes, you actually have that depth of self-hatred in you. That’s why you’re in seminary.
2) Just relax. It’s going to work out. It feels like you’re Sisyphus climbing Mt. Everest right now, working three part time jobs and night shifts and just barely feeling like you’re holding it together, but you’ll turn around a few years from now and be amazed at the view, because you’ve climbed a lot. Except, it was God getting you up there, not all your effort. It’s not all your frantic rowing which keeps the ship afloat, it’s God. So relax.
3) Don’t worry so much about the weirdness around you. Don’t over-interpret your present experience as being indicative of the future or the world around you, or of your own weirdness. Just relax. The people still working at the level of neat abstractions and transparent, translucent truth which is easily grasped and then dispensed to others—God has good things waiting for those people, too. Don’t try to position and understand yourself too much in relation to the people around you. Just accept God’s grace and keep going and learn as much as you can.
4) Enjoy hair while you have it.
5) See you soon. Sooner than you think.