I recently had the pleasure of becoming reacquainted with my past, thanks to a letter I wrote to my future self in social studies class.
The point of writing this letter was to create a mini time capsule that would be sent to my parents’ home right before college graduation. It was a grounding exercise – a reminder to embrace the dumbass you truly are, yet relentlessly attempt to bury under layers of experience and self-improvement.
My letter somehow slipped between the cracks and arrived 13 years late. I was poking around Facebook and noticed the Messenger icon highlighted in the corner of my screen. My former social studies found my letter and needed my current address in order to complete its mission.
She promptly added 12 one-cent stamps to the original postage and sent it across the state of Wisconsin. Two days later, I was staring at my own familiar, curvy handwriting. Before tearing open the envelope’s crusty seal, I had a brief flash of anxiety regarding the person I was about to become reacquainted with.
I really liked high school, but I rarely think back fondly or longingly for that time. In fact, I rarely think about that time at all. Once I was in college, I thought about college stuff. Now that I pretend to live in the adult world, I pretend to think about adult stuff.
My biggest fear was that I somehow managed to let the girl inside this envelope down by becoming the kind of adult she never intended to be. I took a deep breath, dove into the past and was greeted by two vaguely familiar faces.
Seventeen-year-old me was thoughtful enough to include a photograph to better illustrate my situation. I’m seated on my parents’ plaid sofa, wearing my beloved boot-cut cargo jeans, sewing my latest batch of track medals onto my letter jacket. My sister Kelly is perched on the arm of the sofa, watching TV (TRL Live for sure). My Mom used to yell at her for doing that all the time, claiming she would ruin her new furniture. The sofa ended up getting tossed long before Kelly managed to break its arms off.
The letter was rather insightful and only mildly horrifying. I was fresh off my first time traveling abroad and brimming with newly acquired nuggets of wisdom such as, “You haven’t really lived until you’ve walked in another’s shoes.” I was speaking specifically about the small, stylish shoes of the Spaniards I had just met.
I then go into justifying my inability to save my grocery store earnings by prioritizing “experiences over things,” while asking big questions like, “What’s the point of having money just lying around if you’re not going to do anything with it?” True…and humbling to consider that I was lucky enough to know not a thing about paying bills.
My day-to-day musings ramble on for three pages about friends, track meets, boys and my family. It was the fourth page that caught me off-guard. When asked about my hopes for the future, I was brief and surprisingly accurate: I wanted to write for a living, travel, meet as many people and gain as many experiences as possible in my lifetime.
Even though I was a tiny bit obnoxious about it, that trip to Spain was a pivotal moment in my life. It granted me access to a world bigger and more complex than the one I knew at the time. It broke my habit of expecting to know or be told what to do next. It taught me how to be comfortable living in a state of perpetual open ends.
Prior to the letter’s arrival, I promised my coworkers I’d bring it in so we could share a good laugh together. I didn’t follow through because there’s nothing funny about my younger self’s perspective. The person who wrote that letter is essentially the same person writing this blog post.
I don’t own a lot of “stuff,” but I have been around. I have seen things and places and met all sorts of people. This kind of existence doesn’t come without a price, but it’s one I’ll gladly pay for as long as I can afford to. Which is a good thing for someone who clearly sees no point in letting piles of money sit around collecting dust.