I decided that I wanted to re-dedicate myself to the thing that got me here in the first place, my writing. I’ve read a couple of these online from other people and thought it would be therapeutic to write a letter to my younger self. On the cusp of 8 years working on The Chronicles, I decided it would be a good time to talk to myself about the thing that changed my life.
Dear Young, Naive, 18 Year-Old Joey,
Nobody is going to believe in you right away. Nobody. The truth is, you don’t even quite believe in yourself yet. You’re 18 years-old, fresh out of high school, with absolutely no direction. You got accepted into San Diego State University but you know you don’t want to be there so you won’t even give it “the old college try”. You’ll try to go but you are so completely unaware of how to go about being a college student because you don’t have any idea what you want to do with your life. College is a refreshing change of pace for you because high school kinda sucked but you’ll soon realize that school just isn’t for you and you’ll just stop going…
I guess this is the part where you’ll read this and brace for the moment when I tell you that you royally fucked up your life by not going to school…
It wasn’t a good decision but it was the right one. It’s okay. I guess I should tell you to stay in school but honestly, I don’t believe things will be very different for you. Be honest with your Mom and explain to her why you don’t think school works for you. She’ll be disappointed but at least you were honest. It’ll be better than ignoring how you feel and dragging your ass for the next few years before that letter of disqualification comes from SDSU and she is devastated to know that you failed and quit. She’ll cry about it, but it’ll be the last tears she’ll ever shed at your expense because you’ll do right by her. Dad never really had expectations for you and he’ll never say anything directly to you about it, but he’s disappointed too. Again, you’ll be just fine. You somehow unknowingly make them proud later in life even though they aren’t the type of parents to ever tell you that…
It gets worse before it gets better, but that’s just how life goes.
You’re going to drink the next few years away. Partying seems like the only escape from your otherwise monotonous life and you’ll have fun—for a little bit. Girls won’t like you. Seriously, like, I don’t think me telling you this now will change anything. You just won’t be good with women because you really don’t even like yourself that much. It’ll be obvious. They’ll entertain the idea of you but you won’t get very far. I mean, you’re not ugly, you just don’t bring anything to the table just yet. The girls you’ll meet are just passer-bys that will help you learn little things about yourself, but they aren’t for you. Just try to party a little less because future you will pay for it. You’ll remember those nights that disappeared so often with wear and tear on your physical health.
The only constant in your life will be your love of cars. It is something that has always been comforting for you. You’ll build a couple cars, one will be better than the other one, but cars will always be in your life. That 1992 Honda Accord that Dad has right now which he refuses to let you drive because he’d rather have you driving an old Toyota Camry, well, he’ll eventually fuck that engine up and you’ll get to tinker with it. You’ll figure out that drinking your life away isn’t the best situation for you so you decide to spend money on that Accord instead and it turns out pretty cool. You know those car magazines that you like buying from the supermarket? Your car ends up in one of those. Oh hey, you know what? You end up working for those magazines later too. It’s crazy.
Don’t forget to thank your older sister for unknowingly guiding you towards your career. Uhh, I guess you can call it a career. I’m still struggling with that but I’ll get back to you on that one. You should just thank her though because you don’t talk to her much anymore when you’re my age. She’s also the type that will never tell you that she cares about you a lot, but you know she does, she’s always been that way. She’s known you your whole life and picks up on your love of cars, the magazines you read, and your ability to write a story. One day, she’ll suggest that maybe you should try becoming a writer for these same magazines that you enjoy reading. She gets you this book about magazine feature writing. It’s fucking terrible. You’ll flip through it once and never look at it again. In 2016 it’s still sitting on the shelf in your current bedroom at home. I still haven’t picked that book up to look at it again when I go home (Thank goodness you don’t live at home in your 30s) but it somehow steers you in the right direction in life. You should give her some credit for helping you. You fight with her a lot right now over stupid petty things just because you’re brother and sister but she will help you more than you’ll ever realize in the coming years. To this very day, this very moment, I don’t know if she realized her impact on your life. Communicate that to her.
For the next couple of years, you’re going to feel like you’re stuck in one place. If anything, that is more your fault than anything. One day, you’ll just pick up and leave San Diego. You’ll leave on a whim without much notice, but it’ll be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made in your life. The friends you left behind will do just fine without you. The monotony of your past life will seem comfortable for you because you don’t like change, but you’ll need to learn that change and everything that comes with it will be best for you. Life and adjusting to the pace of Los Angeles will be difficult, but you’ll be okay.
Save your money. You don’t have much of it in your 20s because you burn a lot of it drinking and buying car parts. I don’t know if you have any misconceptions about how life will be but you’ll never have much money. I mean, what did you expect? Haha. Money will have zero control over your life because you’ve never allowed it to dictate who you are or what people think of you. Don’t forget that. EVER.
I don’t want to spoil it all for you, but you actually become a pretty decent writer. Like, people actually pay you to write stories. You even do some work for Super Street and Import Tuner. And a few others. Someone that works at Super Street will ask you to shoot a car for a feature story even when you didn’t know how. Just pretend that you know what you’re doing. You’ll spend every dime in the same nearly-empty bank account you have now to buy a shitty camera. No one will really teach you how to use it, you just sort of figure it out.
Around 2008, things get interesting. At this point in time, you’re about a year into your freelance writing gig for Honda Tuning and it’s going decent. You’re not really making any kind of money and you’ve spent the last year or so surviving off of canned soup and 7-11 hot dogs. Luckily, you have a sister that cares enough to give you a place to live, otherwise you’re technically unemployed with nowhere to go. One random night during the summer of ‘08, you come up with an idea to create a website. Living in LA has provided you with some opportunities to make some pretty good friends who share a similar hobby as you and most of them own Hondas. You guys all go to a bunch of car meets and car shows together. It’s fun. You kinda toy with the idea of starting a website that has a focus on Hondas and since you and your friends go to so many events, you’d also give people a glimpse behind-the-scenes of what you guys do. The only problem with this idea is that you don’t really have any way of documenting anything other than in writing because you didn’t know how to use a camera. A friend offers to let you use his but you might as well be operating alien technology because you have no idea what “ISO” means or anything camera-related, for that matter.
You’re going to present this website idea to some friends and acquaintances that you know. You’ll try to gauge their interest to see if they want to collaborate on it with you.
They’ll listen, act interested, but they won’t believe in you. That’s totally fine. It was an idea that was a little farfetched and undeveloped. Forums and messageboards were all people needed at the time, why start something nobody will look at?…
You have nothing but free time on your hands so one night, on October 23, 2008, you spend a couple hours creating this site. It’s like an actual website and not like that shitty Prowrestling site that you half-assed created when you were 13 that absolutely no one looked at. In your middle-20s, the sleep paralysis and night terrors that you experienced when you were younger weren’t even an issue anymore because you just decided to stay up every night until 6:30AM.
“The Chronicles” is what you will decide to name it. Why? Well, because you’re telling your story. You’re chronicling what you see. It isn’t the most exciting name, but it makes sense.
Not soon after, you’ll try to register the domain name “thechronicles.com” and find out that it isn’t available.
That odd AOL Instant Messenger handle you came up with when you were 17 because you’re weird.
You call it: STICKYDILJOE.COM
Get used to that name, it sticks (pun intended) around.
It is odd enough that people remember it but you’re also mildly embarrassed every time someone asks you what it means. Things start out pretty slow in the beginning. After all, people have no idea who you are or what you do so it’s slow. In your first month, you get 36 total hits.
3-6. Thirty-six. Not even 40.
And half of those hits are probably you because you’re checking to see if anyone has looked at anything you wrote. You’re not disappointed. You just continue to do it, you keep writing, because well, you don’t have anything else to do. Some months later, you decide to get some stickers made so you could give them out at events to help promote your site that no one is looking at. You only make a few and you give them to your friends and a few car guys you know at a car meet. At the end of the day, you’ll see one of your decals in the trash.
Don’t be discouraged.
They don’t believe in you…yet.
By October of 2016, your labor of love will have surpassed 14-million hits. The merchandise that you used to give away for free will have made you enough to travel the world. You used to go to a Japanese bookstore and pick up Option magazines so you could see all the great cars overseas. Japan will later become a second home to you and you’ll not only get to see these great cars in person, people will even pay you to shoot them. Learn how to use a camera, it will help, because you’re not really that great at it, haha. You go multiple times and just hang out there and do car-related shit because you make a whole lot of friends in Japan. You not only get to experience car culture in Japan and other parts of the world, you somehow become a bit of an influential figure at the center of it all.
You will do great things.
Don’t ever forgot to speak your mind. You learn quickly that it is better to be a polarizing personality than just someone who always says the right thing, the diplomatic thing. Some will love you for it, some will hate you for it, but they will know you for being someone who doesn’t hold back. They respect you for being who you are.
You’re going to go through a lot of bad times. There will be friends that come and go, relationships that you thought were good for you that just weren’t. Life doesn’t get easier. I wish I could tell you that it does, but it doesn’t. There will be some unexpected challenges, losses, rough patches. You just grow and get better at understanding all the subtle nuances of this thing we call life. At 18, you’re just floating around aimlessly with no confidence, no direction, but you gain traction. Life will be an incredible test of patience and there will be situations that will get the best of you and you won’t understand why you are being tested, but you will be a better person for it. Be ever patient. This thing that you love doing with cars, it will sometimes push you to your brink. You will get exhausted and burnt-out, but then you’re going to see your brand represented well on the other side of the world and people will occasionally come up to you and tell you how much they appreciate what you do. It will re-invigorate you. There will be a lot of good times too.
It is a little too early to tell where this life goes but you do alright Joey. Life wasn’t so bad leading up to your 18th year, you just sort of…sucked. You let situations that weren’t ideal for you eat you up inside. I guess if there was one thing that I would change, that I could tell you to work on, is to just be patient. Your time will come. In your mid-20s things will happen to you that will frustrate you to no end. Your heart will harden and you will lose yourself for a short time. Anger will control you and you will become cold. Just know that things get better. “Everything happens for a reason”. They really do. I can’t tell you what these things are now because you will try to avoid them but they help to shape who you are as a man down the road. You will need that pain.
You will find your passion and those that didn’t necessarily believe in you in the beginning, will. They weren’t at fault for doubting you, not for a second.
Just don’t doubt yourself. Who cares what the naysayers think?
The world will know your name. You won’t even realize how it all happened, but you will have dedicated the best years of your life to complete strangers, telling them stories, showing them what you see, and recounting your experiences with them. They appreciate what you do and not too many people in 2016 can say that they were able to hold anyone’s attention for eight years. Many sites like your’s will come and go but your’s will stick around. You grow organically in everything that you do and these strangers will grow with you.
You meet great people later too. Friends seem few and far between now at 18 but your friends are incredible human beings. They will need your help at times too. Be patient with them as well.
If there was one final thing that I could tell you that I wish I/you could change, it would be to try your hardest to just simply live in the moment. That will be your greatest struggle. You see so many amazing things in your life, experience what many wished they could, but you can never truly appreciate that moment that you are standing right in the middle of. You tend to find so much importance in trying to capture that moment, steal that point in time, that you often let it slip away. Try to learn to just be. Put the camera down and let go. I don’t know what it is about yourself that prevents you from giving yourself that freedom to embrace the moment, but I hope I can look back and say that we figured it out. I get so caught up in sharing my experiences that sometimes I myself am removed from them. If that makes sense. Try to wrap your head around that and remember to feed your soul. Sometimes you don’t need to capture the moment. Just breathe it in. Be in it.
You’re never going to be rich, might not even own a house, or anything that most would deem the linear course of a “normal” life. Your life is anything but normal. What you lack in material riches you make up for it rich in life as a whole.
Love you man.
34-year old Joey