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Dear me, what is your problem?
#8 Where I wrote letters to myself from two years in the future
Last week, the Reinvention Road detoured through time to the year 2002. I was a directionless administrative assistant bursting into tears when faced with a simple career question, "What do you want?" Flash forward to 2018, week two of working with my life coach.
My circumstances were much different. In the previous 16 years, I'd earned a Masters in Marketing Communications, launched two children into the wild world of adulting, and climbed the career ladder to a comfortable height. I had money in the bank and a supportive life partner who shared my dream to live in Vermont.
What did I want? Well, surely I already had it.
Nope. Not really. %^&@! I didn't know.
I was a 55-year-old woman, confused about life
Diane, my Life Wizard, assigned homework to help me answer questions about my purpose. I was to write letters to myself from the future. "Pretend it's two years from now," she said. "Share what you've learned on your journey."
(Blech—journey. For some people, it's "moist," for me, it's "journey." I apologize. I'll try not to use the word too often.)
The following day, the sky was still dark when I poured a coffee and sat down to write my first letter.
Dear Two-Years Ago Me,
The schoolhouse clock on the wall tick-tocked, and I glimpsed a wash of pink from the kitchen's east-facing windows. Curious about the sunrise, I checked the weather app on my phone—snow flurries predicted. I opened Instagram, then closed it, then opened it again, tapped out a few comments, checked my follower count, then scrolled until my coffee cooled. I posted a photo of Rangeley in front of the fire on Facebook and checked Twitter for trends.
Anything to avoid hearing from my future self. Or was it today's version I was trying to avoid? The assignment was confusing.
The dog groaned, and I picked up my pen again, pretending I was two years older and wiser.
It's nice to sit in this chair by the fire and enjoy the morning quiet. Snow is starting to fall. I've got nowhere to be. I think of you, two-years-ago me, in this same place but entirely different. Have you put down your phone yet? How much time have you wasted?
In two years, if you do everything right, you'll feel less pressure to be so visible—always on, always trying so hard. Your shoulders will fall away from your ears without those long to-do lists you keep making and never completing.
Maybe future-me knew something I didn’t, but today-me was late for work. I tried again the next day.
Thank you two-years-ago me, for working so hard and building up our savings account. Because of your efforts, I enjoy my leisurely mornings and carefree days.
But maybe you could have done more. And sooner.
Future-me was passive-aggressive.
I switched to my laptop for a few letters. The keyboard made it easier to catch my thoughts as they skidded around corners and raced from my brain to my fingers. But as I scanned the document, I saw more lists, more "shoulds," more self-flagellation.
It's been two years, and you still haven't learned to play guitar, knit, or grow a garden. You still need to finish painting the bedroom. Glad you took the consulting work to pay for health insurance, but remember how you used to say, "If I die without writing a book, that would be a huge regret?"
Well, you still haven't started that either.
This assignment is bullshit. I texted Diane. "Future-me is no different than the current version."
"You are too cold-hearted about yourself," she replied.
I closed the laptop and headed for the shower. Diane was right.
Can I conjure a kinder of myself?
I directed the hot water to the tense part of my neck—that is, all of my neck. Seven meetings were waiting on my calendar that day. As I rinsed the lavender shampoo from my hair, a clear voice rose from the steam.
You want to write.
But I couldn't be a writer. If writing were what I wanted, I would have been writing. And I wasn't writing. So, how could this be true?
If only I’d had this advice fromwho wrote a Letter to My Younger Self forearlier this year.
“I’m here from the future to tell you that you shouldn’t worry so much about it, that you will work it out, but it’s the anxiety, of course, that drives you, that makes you work harder than everyone else around you.”
What I wish I had known
The world hollers its expectations, and the cacophony is deafening. I did everything I was supposed to do—marry, mother, achieve, earn, plan for the future.
It's no wonder I didn't trust my desire to write. I could only judge my failure to have written.
I'd forgotten to water the seeds of my inner potential. To nurture the purpose deep within me, as dormant as a tulip bulb in winter—and as full of potential to bloom.
And I wish I’d known this, the last bit of advice from Helene Stapinski’s letter to her younger self:
“It’s the twist in the plot, the bit you never saw coming. That place you ran away from will help propel you … and make you a writer.”
“Dear Me,” letters from the future will continue next week. Subscribe now so you don’t miss it.
While I scrolled social media, avoiding my future-me letter writing, this Anne Lamott tweet hit especially close to home.
"If you somehow, against all odds, managed to finally do something perfectly, you beat yourself up for not having been able to do it years before."
This week, I offer you these prompts. Choose one or all.
Against all odds….
I beat myself up ….
Years before …
Take a deep breath. And write.