I know you are still sitting there in that locker, after your first game as starting wide receiver under the bright lights of Bulldog Bowl. You dropped two passes while others rose to the occasion and introduced themselves as the stars of the new season. I still picture you sitting in the locker, falling apart, feeling invisible. You are beating yourself up because now everyone knows you never deserved to be there in the first place. He put you there, that was the only reason. He was your position coach and just months early he made his play and began the abuse, right under the noses of those cheering fans who create the wave of orange in the stands every Friday night.
I know this is the first of many moments where you begin to feel the crack inside of you. This is one of the many moments where you begin to feel invisible. I want you to know that it is not for fault. You are just a kid. He knows this. He sees your vulnerability and he is preying upon you. He has his own sickness inside him that he cannot control, and you are the latest victim. Yes, there are others. There are kids who have walked the same halls as you that have felt the same isolation and invisibility that you do right now. It will be many years before you know this, but there are others.
This is not your fault Jake. You have been manipulated. There is nothing wrong with you. You deserved your place on that field. You worked so hard for it. You love football, and you always will, but your struggles have nothing to do with your ability. He is taking this moment from you. He will be the first person to assure you and comfort you as you continue to fall short of expectations. It is not your fault Jake. He planted the seed of self-doubt and then nurtured it as they grew into a dependence on him to find comfort while he got what he always wanted. So he could have sex with you young boy.
You have a light inside you Jake. Your smile lights up a room. You are intelligent and people like you. You care about people and you have the same insecurities as every other kid in your school. However, they are lucky enough to not have someone seize those insecurities to abuse them. Yes Jake, you are being abused. What is happening to you is not normal and it is also not your fault. I am so sorry that you will have to finish your high school years, the years that should some of the best of your life, withering away while sinking deeper into self-doubt. It's not your fault Jake.
You will leave that town. You will get away. You will continue to feel lost until a work study job just two years after your escape will lead you to the campus childcare center. You will find your love of children and education. You will let education take you across the country which will open your eyes to a world so far from that tiny town in the dusty Southeast corner of your home state.
You will still have endure some relationships that will also prey on the self-doubt he planted inside of you. There will be rough times from the next half decade, but just know you will persist. You will persevere because you will remain hopeful and optimistic despite everything you will have endured.
But you will meet a man who truly loves you. Who sees right through fog of despair and pain, right to the man behind all the insecurity and doubt. You both will decide that you want to start a family and will decide to help the most vulnerable kids. Kids in foster care.
On your 29th birthday, you will hear about a sibling group that needs a home. Your will meet your eventual sons, who will steal your heart and push you to be a better man every day for the next decade.
You see Jake, you will never give up. The pain and invisibility you feel right now as you sit in that locker will stay with you for 20 years. It will keep you floating above yourself, keeping you from truly living in the present moment. You see Jake, you will grow and change but you still be me, almost 38 years old, stuck in that locker and stuck in that town. I will still be you so hurt and unsure, wanting so badly to truly heal.
It is not your fault Jake. It was never my fault. I am writing this letter to you because I need to finally let you go. You will always be a part of me. You will never truly leave. But I need to live in my now. I need to live in the present moments I have worked so hard to create for us.
But in order to do that, I just needed to let you know that what is happening to you now and the pain you feel now is not your fault. I needed to let you know that it will all be ok. That light inside you will never truly dim. You are so much stronger than you know young man. You will be ok. I promise. Now I must go.
With so much love,