A Letter to Myself, 10 Years Ago

If I tell you, it won’t happen. So the night you have your first panic attack, don’t open this.

Photo Illustration; Image Source: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Dear Charlamagne,

I want to talk to you about what happened to you tonight. You were driving back to Mom’s home in South Carolina. You’ve done it a million times — but this time, out of nowhere, your heart started pounding, and you had to pull over and take some deep breaths.

You think there’s something wrong with your heart. Tomorrow, you’ll go to the doctor, and he’ll tell you that you’re perfectly fine. You’ve got the heart of an athlete. Then he’s going to ask if you’re under any stress.

Tell him the truth: Yeah, you’re stressed. You got fired from a job working with Wendy Williams in the biggest radio market in the world, got your own morning show in Philly but was also fired, and now you’re living back in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, with your girlfriend and young daughter.

He will tell you that last night was a panic attack. And when you give it some thought, you’ll realize it wasn’t the first time.

Hurricane Hugo, 1989. Remember how afraid you were? Even the adults were panicking. When the heart palpitations began, the only thing you could do was hide and try to catch your breath. That was the first panic time, and there would be more.

So, listen to the doctor tomorrow. He’s right. And your panic attacks won’t stop just because you get a new job and start making decent money.

But it’s not just that. There’s more you need to hear. Right now, you are losing faith. You think someone like you has used up all the chances you’re going to get in this world. Inside, you know better, but it’s still getting to you.

That feeling you have inside you, telling you that you’re bigger than the dirt road you’re living on? It’s absolutely correct.

I don’t want to tell you about how all this will play out for us. As Dr. Strange once told Tony Stark, “If I tell you, it won’t happen.” But this letter is going to be a story one day, so I’ll tell you the future anyway.

Yes, you’ll get back into radio — in a way you can’t even imagine right now. It will start with Michael T. By the time I write this, he’ll have passed, but soon, he’ll bring you into 98.5 The Box. I know you think being back doing radio in a small market in South Carolina isn’t enough for you. It’s a start. And it will serve you well.

Over the next 10 years, you’re going to accomplish every long-term and short-term goal you could think of. You want to be the number one radio show in the number one market? Five years from now, it will happen. You want to be nationally syndicated? Write a book? Two books? Have your own show?

It’s all coming.

Remember when you met that medium in New York City, Tana Hoy? He told you that you’ll have more than one daughter. He said you’ll achieve your dreams with relative ease. And he said that when you get to where you need to be, you’ll realize you have to deliver a message.

You don’t think it’s possible. But that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Remember the other day, Oprah Winfrey was talking about a book called The Secret? Read it — and start telling the universe exactly what you want.

There will be challenges. If I tell you what they are now, you’ll never trust me when I tell you to trust the universe and even the divine misdirection that will happen in your life. You’ll make mistakes. Big ones. Small ones. Everything in between. And almost all of them come with lessons that are critical.

Want an example? Here: the name Tomi Lahren. Remember it. You’ll end up inviting her on your show. She will not come. You’ll end up meeting with her to discuss her misguided political views. And then, on social media, you’ll ask why there aren’t more Black women with her level of influence.

That’s some serious misdirection. You could not have been more wrong, and you’ll be dragged from one end of Black Twitter to the other — and rightfully so.

But here’s the divine part of this misdirection.

People will start dropping names of people you should know. People you should already know. One of these women, Angela Rye, will DM you and let you know how wrong you were and what you needed to know.

That misguided tweet would lead to your understanding of so many Black women doing work — not just Angela Rye, but Tamika Mallory, Simone Sanders, Nina Turners, and more. Your connection to Black women doing the work in your community will become an important part of your journey.

It started with misdirection. But I don’t want to tell you that, because I don’t want you to take it back. You need that to happen in order to meet and amplify these incredible voices in social justice.

Remember, you’re here for a reason. It is and will always be bigger than you as an individual.

This whole life of yours will be the most perfectly imperfect set of circumstances. There are no good or bad experiences—they’re all just part of one long process, and they will all contribute to your growth and evolution.

Your dad is going to recommend some books: Elijah Muhammad’s Message to the Blackman and The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. Read them both. Watch Farrakhan’s speeches. Ten years later, you’ll still watch them regularly. You’ll gravitate toward those lessons and teachings, because you love redemption — the idea of someone taking the worst of us and transforming it into the best of us.

You’ll need to go to therapy. There’s no way around that; you have trauma you don’t even know about.

There will come a time when you realize cancel culture never would have allowed Malcolm Little — a petty thief, drug dealer, former pimp and addict — to grow into Malcolm X. That it never would have given this man room to evolve to tell the world, “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

You have elements of Malcolm Little in you. You’ve earned and deserve redemption. But I don’t want to tell you that, because you might not be ready yet.

You’ll need to go to therapy. There’s no way around that; you have trauma you don’t even know about. Over the past few years, you’ve spent all this time bettering your physical health, while somehow not dealing with your mental health at all.

Eventually, you’ll realize things that seemed normal to you because of the environment you grew up in aren’t normal at all. Sadly, though, you’ll have to bleed on a few people who didn’t even cut you before you realize that you’re the problem, not someone else.

That feeling you have inside you, telling you that you’re bigger than the dirt road you’re living on? It’s absolutely correct. You have the ability to transcend your circumstances in a very extraordinary way. So don’t worry about the people telling you that you can’t. (There’ll be plenty of them.)

Your dreams are your dreams, and the only person who has to believe in them is you.

Keep growing.

Sincerely,

Me. You. Us.

Co-host of The Breakfast Club. Author of Shook One.

Sign up for Minority Report

By LEVEL

A weekly newsletter that dives into cultural news in need of a strong opinion. Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store