After one of the hardest months of my life and a disheartening week following the election, a strange thing happened to me yesterday. I got an email from Futureme.org with a letter I had written to myself one year ago on Nov. 11, 2015.
In the letter I express a lot of anxiety surrounding my attempts to be where my boyfriend at the time was going to be in New York and fervently hope things are better by Nov. 11, 2016. I was so sad and worried about my life and my future and whether or not we would be together and that anxiety bleeds into every paragraph I wrote.
I pleaded with my future self to be happier and taking better care of myself and while I was reading it, instead of breaking down and crying and feeling sad that things didn't turn out at all as I'd hoped, I shed a few happy tears and felt relieved that my life is now moving in a direction that seems more positive.
One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, writes about an experience that perfectly encapsulates how I felt yesterday:
"I walked into an office building one afternoon in a hurry, dashed into the waiting elevator. As I rushed in, I caught an unexpected glance of myself in a security mirror’s reflection. In that moment, my brain did an odd thing—it fired off this split-second message: “Hey! You know her! That’s a friend of yours!” And I actually ran forward toward my own reflection with a smile, ready to welcome that girl whose name I had lost but whose face was so familiar. In a flash instant of course, I realized my mistake and laughed in embarrassment at my almost doglike confusion over how a mirror works. But for some reason that incident comes to mind again tonight...and I find myself writing this comforting reminder at the bottom of the page:
Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend."
I’ll share some paragraphs from the letter below but the way I spoke to my future self made me feel like I received a letter from a dear friend that had just gotten lost in the everyday shuffle of life. I spoke kindly to me. I was encouraging and patient and gentle and nice, something I haven’t been toward myself for a very long time.
Future Me allows you to attach a photo to the letter and looking into the eyes of a-year-ago-me, I wanted to reach back in time and hug her tightly (god knows she needed a hug) and say, "Oh baby girl this year is going to bring so much pain and disappointment and anxiety but if you hold out even three weeks after what you'll feel like is the WORST day of your life, you'll realize things are going to be just fine. Breathe and get yourself through it."
Of course some parts of the letter sting and ache in a deep part of me, reminding me of a time when I was with my ex, but for the most part, seeing how unhappy I was and up until about a month ago, still was despite my past self’s assumptions that I wouldn’t be unhappy anymore, I'm so desperately glad my life is going in another direction.
I'm going to write another letter to Future Me and I'm grateful that I'll be able to tell my future self that things are okay now and I know they'll get better with time. A year ago I couldn't have anticipated still being in Utah, newly single with no idea what my future holds, but the best part of my future now is that I don't know where I'll be a year from now.
I don't know, but I know it'll be great and right for me.
|Nov. 11, 2015 |
one year ago - my poor friend Katherine I'd forgotten about and neglected
I hope you've gotten to where you want to go. I hope you've become what you wanted to be. At the very least, I hope you're in your penultimate semester of college and that you're living in New York and still dating Connor. I also kinda hope you got a tattoo. A cool one that you don't regret or something.
Right now you're sitting in your (yes, your...remember those days? Do they seem far away now?) office at the Daily Utah Chronicle where you are stressing about your life and avoiding homework by typing a letter to your future self. (Does that change? Tell me that changes...)
Right now, you don't know what you're going to do past May of 2016. Your boyfriend is moving to New York to begin his life career in June. He is traveling to Europe without you in April or May. This makes you really nervous.
You look up job postings and internships in New York daily and then crumble under the pressure of trying to be the kind of person that would stand out in the application process of these opportunities.
You end each day trying to just breathe and not let the pressure crush you into oblivion. You and the fetal position are best friends.
You cry a lot.
You have a list of internships on the whiteboard in your office and you look at those deadlines everyday hoping you'll make it to one of them.
You are stressed. You are taking 17 credits this semester and will take about the same next semester. You work a lot and are commuting about an hour each way, every day just to get to school.
You worry a lot.
You aren't afraid to put yourself out there and to try, but you are afraid that even when you're doing everything you can, it won't be enough.
You walk around with a constant pressure on your chest and a weight in your heart. You want things to work out, you want to be successful but it's starting to feel like no matter what you do, life's gonna do whatever the f*ck it wants.
Right now, on this Wednesday in November, the newsroom is alive and bustling and people are being really loud and rambunctious and excited and you're tucked away in your dark office, moody, makeup-less and tired.
I hope you start caring a bit more about your appearance. Not necessarily about what people think about you, but about how you present yourself and how you feel. DON'T NEGLECT YOURSELF. I hope your nails are done as you're reading this. If they're not, go get yo'self a manicure. Please.
(Note: Good news past me, I did my nails myself the DAY BEFORE I got your letter. I gotchu.)
Katherine, the last four years were nothing like you expected. College was nothing like you imagined. Some parts of it surpassed your expectations. Other parts have really taken their toll on you.
If life has taught you anything, you know the next couple years will also be just as unpredictable.
While I hope that many of the things I wrote about actually come to fruition, I mostly hope that you're well.
(This is my favorite part of the letter. I give myself permission to not do everything I've been stressed about and just want myself to be happy.)
Are you happy? Is Winston with you? Do you love where you are? Are you doing things to progress as a human?
During the past couple of months you've been really stressed out and at one particularly low point you thought to yourself, "You can cry, or you can hustle."
Sometimes you do both. Get out a good cry and then hustle. But I hope that whatever you're doing you're crying and hustling and laughing and making your life better.
I hope you never stop moving and marveling at life.
Talk to you in a year,
|Nov. 11, 2016 |
one year later and Katherine's doing just fine