Dear Freshman Self

Ivan Ango

This November, 826DC is thrilled to publish our very first compendium: a collection of the best of the best from our first five years. To celebrate the release here on the blog we will be posting a weekly podcast consisting of selections from the book, read aloud by students, volunteers, staff, and other friends of 826DC. So find a comfy spot and get ready to listen, savor, and share the words of our most inspiring young authors. This project is made possible in part by support from AT&T Aspire.

You Will Be Able to Say a Thousand Words collects the best writing from 826DC’s first five years of running fun and unique writing-based programs. Spanning genres and styles, students ages 6-18 imagine dangers on the high seas, struggles with bullying, and mourn loved ones. From advice to their former selves to advice for the reader, students begin a journey that starts on the page and ends in the boundlessness of the imagination.

This week’s featured piece from the collection is “Dear Freshman Self” by Ivan Ango, first published in Get Used to the Seats. Reading Ivan’s piece is Adam Mistler, a dedicated clerk for Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply who also helped select the works in this collection as a member of the Editorial Board.


yabp 13

Dear Freshman Self,

I know that, reading this letter, you will only be able to understand maybe half of it. This means you have to pay more attention to Mr. Tobron, your first-ever English teacher. Don’t you worry, because you will master that English language and you will be able to say a thousand words a day, instead of just “good morning.” However, the effort will have to come from only you. Find the wanna-learn attitude in you and everything will be fine. The school is changing fast, and so are the people. You will hear it in the news: the fights and killings near the school. You will see and smell it in the hallway: the weed and the pregnant girls. You will get that sour and bitter feeling in your guts.

As the new principal settles in, as the test scores grow higher, the school will mature like a tree that lost its bad fruits in the winter to grow good ones in the spring. Make friends that do not speak the same as you. Don’t stick only with the beginning English learners. I know how much you want to fit in, so you want to be around the ones that speak fluently and have good grades. Join sports teams, and you will receive the MVP Award at the end of your senior year, because I know you’re good at everything you do. Let your style be selective and your mind be reckless. Do not worry about how you look on a daily basis because this will hold you back.

I will fast-forward a bit because your life will get interesting as you move on. You will have someone. She will make you feel handsome when you think otherwise. She will make you laugh when the strong wind outside slaps your lips and freezes them. She is not your mother, nor your sister, but her ravishing inner beauty will attract you more than any of her body parts. Her life story will be inspiring, and she will make you write poems. You will dream of her now and then.

I can imagine your heart pounding as you read this, and it will be helpful if I give more details—but, believe me, her Louisiana accent will be a sweet sound in your ear. She will be your girlfriend. I’m not capable of telling you for how long. I don’t have much time, so I will leave you with this: Your character will make you, but your roots will never be loose.