I know you think you don't have time to waste reading a stupid letter when instead you could be on some meadow scampering around, running, and jumping with your mates.
So, you know what?
Fold it back up, put it in your pocket and go have fun, because in any case everything you will learn from here on won't certainly come from the words of someone older than you, even if this someone, after all, knows you quite well.
You will learn it all by traveling the world, by taking risks so beautiful that you will not even be able to consider them as such. You will do it light-heartedly, with a clear mind and, most of the time, barefoot.
Then go, Clemens.
Hide this letter in a book and go play, because there's no time like the present and playing, you know this already, is the most important thing of all.
Among all the sports that you could choose from, in the end, you will fall in love with the strangest sport of all: beach volleyball. Back home, in our country, there is no trace of a sea and the sand to create the playing fields, we have to deliver it over with trucks.
But, trust me, because the end will be very different from the beginning, and everyone in Austria will fall in love with that odd game.
The first few years will be almost like being a surfer.
You and your partner, on an everlasting journey, with a one-way ticket that will make you bounce around like a mad ball between Europe, the United States and Brazil.
No coach, no psychologist and no trainer, just the two of you. On an adventure.
In the spotlight.
Looking for new and increasingly absurd experiences, because those who start playing beach volley, they do it for love and fun, not for money, or for glory.
You will even organize a month of training in Rio de Janeiro without even booking a single hotel. You and your partner will just go for a walk on the beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana, looking for some pairs to challenge on the sand and some good man to host you.
Or simple passers-by.
You'll visit the favelas, eat the most hidden and dubious street food, and rest on the most ramshackle sofas of the entire South America.
You'll spend many hours by the ocean, sipping fresh coconut juice straight from the nut, without knowing what it means to worry about something.
A life without the future, enclosed in an everlasting present.
Over time, all of this will change, and it will be impossible for you to figure out if you had been the one who changed more, or if the circuit did. You will play a World Cup, at home, in front of ten-thousand fans, crazy and wild, who will fill the stands for every single match of the event.
You will have a lot of fun, in and out of the court, but I'd rather not tell you how this ends, I'm letting you find that out for yourself.
With the passing of the seasons, clearly, everything around you will change deeply.
You'll begin to worry about your nutrition, the sponsors, and about how to arrange a high-level staff team around you to deal also with the tiniest details of your job.
Because, yes, my friend, beach volleyball will become a job.
But you should never give up, even when you will feel overwhelmed by all the artifice surrounding your beloved sand court. When you have doubts, take a moment for yourself, sit alone in a corner and think back to the adventures of the past, how much this game will have given you; and you'll see that the desire to compete will come back instantly.
You'll play for so many years, many more than what you expect now, and you'll be able to do that because you're a hard worker. Don't ever forget how to be in this world.
You will pay a price for so much effort.
Your knees will end up on the table of an orthopedist about ten times and in at least three of these it will really be a crapshoot. They call it ACL, it is one of the many ligaments that hold together the two parts that make up a leg, but ACL is the only one that really matters.
A torn one means having to reconstruct it and start back from scratch, for a year or so of physical therapy. You will tear yours three times.
But, let me tell you; it's not that bad.
You will watch many colleagues give up their heads in front of such a diagnosis; instead, you, be brave because, believe it or not, it is thanks to those three accidents that you will play for so long.
An athlete's engine almost never turns off, even when he's on vacation, and the piling up of many years without real breaks will create small dysfunctions in you, big enough to bother you, but not enough to force you to take care of them. . A shoulder that creaks a little, an unstable ankle, things like that.
And when your knees crack, don't let go, because then it's the right time to fix everything else, not just the knees.
Push hard and work harder, because every single time you will return to the sand stronger than before.
Less explosive, and with more scars, that's for sure.
But also, unquestionably, more ready.
So, Clemens, an extremely long journey awaits you; and you will go from the most absolute improvisation to the perfect organization of the smallest detail.
You will go from being a mad dog, son of the moon, and a citizen of the world, to feeling all responsibility for a family, a nation, and an entire movement.
But it is a give-and-take process, in which what you lose will always be less than what you find, as long as you have the strength to see the glass half full because you can be sure that you will meet many pessimists, more than you need to.
Go, then, fold this letter, toss it away or throw it into the fire.
It's no big deal.
Because whatever you do, you will do it instinctively, out of pure passion, and this is your fortune, even if you don't know it yet.
Remember that nobody starts anything for money.
No one does it for a reputation.
Everyone starts with passion.
You'll just want to do things right.
This is why you will love your life, and that's enough.
You have fire inside you, don't forget to throw some wood in it whenever you can. Without going overboard, however, as too much wood can suffocate a flame as much as its total absence.
Maybe I talked too much.
Maybe you don't even need all this, but telling it reminds me of what you have in front of your eyes, and what I have behind my back.
There is no better way to make you understand what all this is actually worth than to say: how much I would like to start it all over.