I am hesitant as I slowly wake up this morning. Cautiously, I reach over and pick up my leather journal, gingerly cracking it open. There it is. I roll back over, looking up at the ceiling, arms spread wide. I am grinning like an 11 year-old. In fact, I wish I had a time machine so that I could deliver this letter to a much younger me.
A Letter to My 11 Year-Old Self
Hey little Tomás. It’s me. Or rather, you in 10 years. I’m writing just to give you a heads-up, a quick sneak-peek into what life has in store for you because maybe you’ll be able to process it better than I am. Let me start here. Later this afternoon you’re going to sit down with Gabriela, mom and dad to watch a two-episode premiere of a show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. You’re going to geek out. You’ll spend the next nine years waiting for each new episode with anticipation. You’ll talk excitedly over home-made dinners about what you think Zuko will do next, or have another laugh about that one joke Sokka made. You’ll pretend to waterbend with your sisters every time you dip into the Pacific and imagine yourselves to be an actual member of team Avatar.
Then, one day, you’ll decide to stop imagining. Instead, you’ll decide that you actually want to pursue your own Avatar journey of traveling the world to learn all four elements.
And you’ll work your butt off. And you’ll get exhausted. And you’ll keep working. And nobody will care. And you’ll keep fighting. And then you’ll get support from your friends. And you’ll get support from your family. And you’ll be filled with gratitude.
Then, one day, you’ll be pouring jasmine tea into a cracked mug. And you’ll be surrounded in your small dining room with a score of other students who also grew up with Aang. And you’ll hand that cracked mug to an older man who is taking off his snow-dusted coat. And as dusk fills your small dining room with a soft golden glow, you’ll sit on the floor, petting the man’s dog, listening intently while he unrolls the map of a world he created, then unlocks a key to his mind and lets his ideas spill out onto the map, taking shape as he breathes life into them.
Then, he’ll finish his tea, set down the cracked mug and roll up the map. But before he leaves, he’ll take out a pen as you hand him your journal. And the room will be silent. We’ll all hold our breaths. And the man, a slight smile on his face, will sketch. Then, with a “thank-you” and a hug, the man and his dog will be off, walking down your front steps and into the snowy night.
And you’ll look down into your journal. And looking back at you, grinning widely, will be the kind face of Uncle Iroh, sketched as if by the hand that first breathed life into him. Because it was. For the man with the dog will be none other than the co-creator of Avatar, Bryan Konietzko.
I’m writing to tell you, little Tomás, to keep imagining immensities. You don’t know this yet, but your dreams will, in fact, take shape and become the stepping stones that will guide you to unexplored places.
I’m writing to tell you, little Tomás, that I’m currently farther than I ever thought I’d be in a land as unfamiliar as the Spirit World. I have no idea what lies further ahead. So keep dreaming. And we’ll keep moving forward.