“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