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A letter to Luke

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APRIL 21, 2023

Dear Luke,

I’m writing this letter from the future on a computer that hasn’t been invented yet, in an apartment that hasn’t been built, with a glass of red wine I bought myself with my actual, government-given ID.

I’m sure you have a million questions about the mechanics of time-traveling correspondence, but you’ll find out soon enough. Just read the damn thing.

I wanted to take a second to talk man to man, 18-year-old to 22-year-old, senior to senior, to impart some advice about your next four years. You won’t be able to change much because of paradoxes and all, and the fondness I have for, well, existing, but I can warn you a bit, and perhaps help you enjoy the parts of it I struggled with on my go around.

It’s Cal Day today, the four-year anniversary of the first time we set foot on this campus and the day we decided to go to Berkeley. And yes, we made the right decision.

I don’t remember everything from that day, but I do remember the moment I decided this was the place. I was walking down toward the Glade, just past the Nobel laureate parking spaces, listening to a tour guide spout facts about our acceptance rate and the number of elements we had discovered.

Then, it seemed like a shiny, polished factory that turned high school overachievers into, well, adult overachievers — even if it was a factory that occasionally smelled like weed. That’s not far from the truth, but it’s so much more than that.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s get the obvious questions out of the way. Yes, there will be parties with red solo cups and music you have to shout over, just like the movies. Yes, you fall in love for the first time and, despite your best efforts, experience heartbreak. The good news is that you will fall in love again and realize that the first time wasn’t really love at all.

You will play ping-pong in the lobby of your dorm and stay up late on the rooftop of the parking structure next door. One time, you’ll wake up in the hospital with your eyebrow glued back together.

But that’s a great story, I won’t spoil it.

You’ll make friends with people from around the world, and get to visit them. You’ll go to Stanford and Lake Tahoe and places you never even considered, like Hong Kong. 

But more than that, you’ll become a different person. And not just because your hair has grown long and short again, and Grandma claims we’ve gotten taller.

You’ll go through a grueling audition process for over a dozen drama schools, step in dog shit (that probably wasn’t dog shit) in the streets of San Francisco, and then get into the oldest drama program in London.

Your older sister will graduate college, get a master’s degree and a real big-girl job in astrophysics and particle estrangement. And, in a completely inevitable and yet still surprising turn of events, your baby sister will start college as well.

And oh! You get a dog! Her name is Skye, she’s too smart for her own good, and you’ll meet her soon enough.

You’ll take classes you’ve never dreamed of, and get some grades that make you sweat. You will take tests in great big classrooms and listen to professors that take their shoes off when they’re giving lectures. 

You work at Trader Joe’s and learn all sorts of things about what a job actually means. You’ll punch in and punch out and take pictures of dogs that people bring into your store. And no, they don’t instruct you to flirt with people, don’t believe everything you see on TikTok.

Oh, and you’ll find out what TikTok is.

And perhaps most notably of all, you start writing. You write speeches and screenplays and spec scripts and op-eds and an opinion column. Tens of thousands of people listen to or read your writing in one form or another, and more than a few of them will tell you exactly what they think about it.

You learn what it is to be a writer. Neil Gaiman says good writing is like walking down the street naked, and I understand him now. You will get up on your own little soapbox and monologue about your sexuality, about your vices, about your most closely held opinions.

And the cruel truth is the hardest articles to publish are the best received.

I’m here to tell you to be brave. To savor every moment. To live free of guilt and shame. Because it will be over before you know it.

Currently, I have 11 graduation tickets and my cap and gown are waiting for me at the student store.

And you won’t be ready to leave when it’s over. College, in the words and minds of many, is the best four years of your life. And I am pleased to tell you that while I understand where they’re coming from, I completely disagree.

College is a beautiful experience, and it will exceed every expectation. But its true beauty lies in its ability to set you up for what will inevitably be a wonderful rest of your life. And honestly, I’m jealous of you because I didn’t get a roadmap. I can only hope that one day I get one of these letters from a future Luke explaining what to expect next.

Godspeed, my friend. It’s one hell of a ride. Enjoy it.



P.S. Buy Pfizer stock.

Contact Luke Stiles at 


APRIL 21, 2023