I got a letter in the mail the other day. It was from me, eight years earlier, my senior year of high school (it was originally meant to get sent when I was 23, rather than 26, but I'm almost happier that it arrived later). It came with a prompt:
CONGRATULATIONS!! You are about to conclude 13 years of schooling. For most of you, this is the first major milestone you are overcoming in your pursuit of an education; for ALL of you, this is the beginning of a new life, a new road on which you are starting to walk, and a new perspective on the world and your place in it.
Write yourself a letter reflecting on your education for the past thirteen years, on what you have accomplished in your life and education up to now, and which details your hopes, dreams, and goals for your future education and plans. What is some advice that you have learned in the past 13 years that you would like to be reminded of? How do you think that your education thus far has prepared you for the future? Why do you want to continue learning? How do you think you will affect the world? What are some goals you have for yourself? Reminisce, review, and reflect on yourself and your life as it stands now. Write a letter that will draw you back to this time but that will also push you forward to the future ... YOUR future!
This is what I wrote to myself:
First of all, I wonder if my handwriting will have evolved by the time I am twenty-three.* In all my years of education, I have been decidedly undecided regarding the way I want to form my letters. At present I seem to have settled on a mishmash of cursive-print.
Anyway...the past twelve..or thirteen..or fourteen years of school seem like a finger snap to me now. And the most random things stand out, especially from elementary school. Middle school is mostly a blot, but some memories are pleasant. And high school...was better than I ever imagined it could be. I have friends, and status, great teachers, good grades...it's actually been fun. I sort of wonder how college could ever prepare [sic, I think I meant compare] - I'm sure it will be quite the culture shock. But also, an adventure. A glorious adventure.
I hope I'm ready. I don't feel particularly brilliant, but I suppose I can hold my own. I have a foundation of love, support, strength, wisdom, faith**, and quirky memory. I have a family that could not be more of a blessing. My loved ones assure me that I'm ready. I am almost ready to believe them.
Even if it turns out I'm NOT, what a wonderful opportunity college is. What freedom, what joy to live for myself, by myself. And, in my curiosity and love for learning, I eagerly anticipate that my brain, which is currently [image of a small brain surrounded by question marks] will be stretched and provoked into [image of a much larger brain surrounded by exclamation points]. Or at least, that is what I hope will happen. Who knows what awaits me? I have no set goals, I only want to learn, and keep learning, soaking in all I can (except completely unnecessary Calculus), amazingly never reaching my saturation point (except during final exam week).
And keep myself. I know I'll change, it's unavoidable. But let it be for good. Let me continue to pursue what I love, drawing, writing, reading, singing. Do not give me a spirit of timidity - help me to be BRAVE, and joyful, faithful** and smart.
But, although I hope to keep doing what brings me pleasure (harmless, innocent sorts!***), don't keep me in my box. I want to taste all I can. I want to become a connoisseur of life. I want to become REALLY GOOD at something, not just pretty good at a handful of things.**** I want to find my medium, my place, my purpose. I don't know what I want to be (commercial airline pilot? masseuse? bee keeper? mortician? lounge singer?), but I want to love what I become.
I may never make a dent in the world, but that's okay. Maybe I'll make little differences. I'll cultivate my own life.
The most important thing I have learned so far, besides having a healthy curiosity, a positive mindset, and a sense of humor, is simply this:
Phileo or agape - it's important.
Initiate love with wild abandon.
Never fear to love.
Never give up on love. There is so much love to be found, and so much to give.
Whatever specific relationships I keep, or release, find again, lose, rejoice in, am devoted to...
I have been so lucky to have a family that daily teaches me the value of love.
So lucky to have a Lord who loves me enough to forgive me (forgiveness is important too), who saved me.**
And all my wonderful friends - lost, forgotten, strong, weak, wonderful, wonderful. Remember them, remember to make the effort.
So. There isn't much more I can say, except to recap:
1) Keep an open mind.
2) Keep an open heart.
3) Take it to the limit.
4) Embrace life.
5) Never stop learning.
6) Love, love, love.
This is going to be an amazing life.
All the best of luck!
I alternately cringe and smile fondly at my youthful, idiot self. I'm so desperately sincere! So naive! And I write like I'm trying to impress a teacher (probably because I guessed that my teacher would read my letter - not sure if she did..but it's a pretty safe bet).
But wait, there's more! Evidently I finished my letter and still had time to burn, so there's another sheet of impromptu thoughts, and they are a little less...effortful:
By the way...
Today is a Thursday!
I recently got a Costco card.
I live in Bellevue (at Lala's again!) and Issaquah (<3 i="">3>
I went to Alex's prom last Saturday - it had fondue fountain. Mmmmm...
Prom #2 (TBCS [my high school]), on a boat, is this Saturday.
I am in love with Alex, and I am going to marry him.*****
The Voltaire at Dilettante cannot be forgotten. Nor can Seattle in all its glory - and Rocky Horror nights.
I went to Districts [for Varsity Golf] yesterday and shot a 121. (I love golf.) Don't forget - 25% hips, shift weight from right to left, head down, chin up, trust the driver, it is magnificent.
My locker is the snazziest.
Celery is amazing.
Go with God!**
And dissect as many critters as possible.******
Bubble Tea is amazing.
There you have it. A glimpse inside the mind of a nerdy teenager. It's funny - in some ways, I am still exactly the same person. I'm still not as cool or charming as I think I am, or maybe I'm cooler and more charming than I know (that would be nice). But I think I would make my 18-year-old self happy. I have retained my core personality, but with the improvements that come with years and experience and some serious heartbreak. I would also infuriate my 18-year-old self, because I would mock her - lovingly, but incessantly.
*My handwriting is still EXACTLY THE SAME, almost eerily so.
**I thought I was a Christian, but it turned out that I was still an agnostic, just momentarily brainwashed by the private school I attended.
****Still working on this. I realized the other day that I'm mostly mediocre at everything I do. This does not keep me from feeling like a cool chick most days, for some reason. Delusions of grandeur, probably.
*****Thank GAWD I did not. In fact, as of this month, all three of my great former loves are now married, and not to me, and I'm sincerely happy about that.
******I was really into science, biology in particular. We'd just dissected fetal pigs in class and I thought it was so cool. But this sentence is still really creepy.