“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” ~Chinese Proverb
Yes, I had reached the age of twenty-five. Still, I doubted this letter from my past would make it to me, all these years later. It was a simple creative writing assignment from when I was fifteen.
The teacher collected our letters to our future ourselves in self-addressed envelopes with stamps and promised to mail them ten years later. But, so much time had passed; would he keep his word? Would he even remember?
Thinking back on the letter, I tried to remember writing it. I vaguely recalled giving my future self some advice.
In my recollection, my fifteen-year-old self wanted to make sure I would continue to write and figure skate, and she probably assumed I’d be married and have a baby by now.
When you’re fifteen years old, twenty-five seems like a grown-up age, but I wasn’t feeling as grown up as I believed my younger self expected me to be.
Then, on a family vacation in San Diego, my parents brought me the mail from home. And in scrawled ink, there was a letter addressed to myself. I knew it was the one! I laughed delightedly and could not believe what was in my hands. I opened it eagerly and was astounded by the results.
The letter began in true, snarky fifteen-year-old fashion: “How much do you bet that this letter will never get to you?”
It continued to greet me casually as if we were having an IM chat.
Here are two key nuggets from the essence of the letter, which I found salient and beautiful:
1. The desire for balance
My fifteen-year-old self was so stressed! As an almost junior in high school, facing the SATS and demanding Honors and AP courses, as well as college applications—and of course, the daily antics involved in peer interactions and being a teen—I was apparently not quite happy.
Thus, much of my letter to myself was fraught with advice and hopes that I wouldn’t stress and worry so much in the future, and that I wouldn’t forget to be present and enjoy my life! It was so wise and sweet.
2. Self- Acceptance
Contrary to my belief, my fifteen-year-old self did not have any demands of me, or false expectations or goals that I might have failed to meet.
Instead, she wrote “…So I guess I'll stand by whatever you do, because even if you are not who I imagine now, I'll support you, because maybe who I'm imagining is someone else, and you are—well you're not someone else, you're me.”
I was blown away, and tears welled up in my eyes at this self-acceptance through time. I immediately wrote a heart-felt thank-you letter to my high school teacher and sent it in the mail.
Then, I wrote a thoughtful letter to my 35-year-old self and tucked it away for the next 10 years.
In this new letter, I paid the self-acceptance forward even further. I am a big goal-setter, and like many I know, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be the best and biggest version of myself that I can be.
However, I now knew that what I would have accomplished and what I would have done in 10 years time would pale in comparison to how I’d feel and who I’d be.
For me, the biggest lesson in receiving the letter was the idea of “allowing”—allowing myself to be whoever I am, allowing myself to relinquish my plans for who I “should become,” allowing myself to simply “show up,” and for that to be enough, more than enough.
In what ways can you create a time capsule for yourself?
I recommend experimenting with envisioning your future life, accepting and forgiving your past selves and forms, and writing to yourself at a specific age in the future (5 or 10 years, for example.) There’s a site that helps with this called FutureMe.org.
As you write, consider these questions:
- What hopes do you hold for yourself in the future?
- What fears and obstacles do you currently face that you wish to overcome?
- What internal resources do you inherently possess that will help you, now and always?
- What goals do you have that you aspire to? Tip: Commit to the vision, but be flexible to the form.
- What is the ultimate and underlying reason why these goals matter to you? (i.e.: I want to be a public speaker. Why? Because I want to share my knowledge openly!
- What faith do you hold in your own strengths?
- How will you remember what you have to offer, and how will you continue to know yourself and your presence as a contribution to this world?
- How would you react if you met your future self? How would you interact? Create a sample dialogue—see where it goes!
- And finally: What are ways that you can seek to love your future self no matter how much the future varies from what you expect it would be?
Time travel is possible, and we can indeed learn a lot by removing ourselves from the chronological march of time, and see ourselves as an infinite but evolving whole. Happy travels!
Photo by M Car
About Jeanine Cerundolo
Jeanine is a workshop facilitator, personal development coach, writer/poet, and Kripalu yoga instructor who lives in New York City. With former experience in social work and education, she believes that much lasting change in our world begins from the inside out. She blogs at ZestforTheQuest.com. Learn more at www.jeaninecerundolo.com.
Dear Future Isabel,
This is somewhat awkward for me because I'm not entirely sure how to write a letter to my future self, but here it goes.
How are you? I can't even begin to imagine what my life will be like after just three more semesters of high school. Although if I have any deductive powers of reasoning when it comes to my future, I'm willing to bet most of senior year was pretty similar in the whole "I can only focus on school work, and my life is incomplete if I don't have a test score to stress over" department. But you know, I hope you had some time for fun during your last year of high school because the world knows just how much you valued your social life while taking a million AP classes, right?
Whenever I try to envision myself by my high school graduation, I'm not sure what to expect. That's all up in the wind, and so many monumental decisions will happen between now and then. I'm still trying to narrow down the list of colleges I'll apply to next year, thinking about what I want to put into my senior-year schedule, and so on. I remember growing up dreaming about the future college I'd attend, what kind of person I'd be like, and what it would be like to become an adult, but now that all of those things are only a year away and not something in the far distance, it's extremely daunting.
Anyways, here's a game of 20 Questions! These are both serious and non-serious (mostly non-serious) and in no particular order of importance.
- What was the first thing you did after you turned 18? Please don't let it be something lame like going to the library or getting frozen yogurt by yourself.
- Did you ever follow through on that threat to leave your younger brother at home and not take him to school if he sleeps in no matter how many times everyone tells him to wake up?
- What college/university did you ultimately decide to attend?
- Are you happy?
- Do you have any regrets or mistakes you wish you could undo? Do you have anything you wish you'd done but didn't? Advice?
- What is currently your biggest nightmare?
- Did you ever get the urge to rent a porta potty? (I only ask because that's on every list of weird things you can do once you're 18.)
- Have you gotten in a crash yet while driving?
- What's your biggest accomplishment/experience in the last year? Your worst experience? What did you learn from those events?
- Have you gotten over your Taylor Swift obsession? How about Josh Hutcherson? Jennifer Lawrence? Kiera Cass? The Piano Guys? Modern Family? Cute little kids? No? Okay... I'm chill with that.
- What was it like finally getting your high school diploma and suddenly realizing that a big chapter of your life is over?
- What is the best thing about being an adult? The answer should exclude getting to sign your own field trip permission slips and registering to vote. (Because yes, I know you, and I know that those two things would otherwise be your answer.)
- Do you still do that thing where you basically talk to yourself on Twitter at three in the morning? Do you still sound crazy every time you do that?
- What's the most important thing in your life right now?
- What's the stupidest or craziest thing you've done since I wrote this letter?
- Who was the last person you texted?
- Has Taylor Swift released a new album yet? If so, beg Mom for concert tickets. Right. NOW.
- Do I embarrass you? (I'm not 100 percent sure yet if this is a serious or joking question.)
- What is the coolest thing that's happened in the world?
- Favorite tweet of the past year?
Questions aside, I also have a few wishes for you. I know you'll probably go through heartbreak with college decision letters (who doesn't?), but I sincerely wish your ultimate path will be one that you love and one that will never make you feel like you're settling for less. I hope that between now and then, you'll have learned a lot more and grown into an amazing young adult with a bright future. Be who you are and who you want to be. Be the best you. I even hope you're still naively optimistic about the world, if only because I'd rather have a bright outlook than spend the rest of my life wallowing in cynicism. You know what? I even want you to go through some hardships and struggles because you and I know that hardships make us grow and learn more not only about the world and other people, but about ourselves, as well. They turn us into a stronger and better person, and the struggles we overcome are oftentimes our best successes.
Most importantly, I want you to be happy and satisfied. I hope you're content with your life and feeling free and on top of the world, and I hope you're happy not only with life, but also with who you are. I hope you're ready to start the next chapter. Getting ready to embark on the next part of your journey probably has you feeling exhilarated and more nervous than I can imagine, but honestly? I can't wait to get there.
Your one and only,
P.S. Do you still eat all the green Sour Patch Kids before eating the other colors?
P.P.S. Don't start writing your answer to this letter until the day after graduation. You better not forget about it, either!
Follow Isabel Song on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IsabelSong