In my time working with Odyssey EMU, I've shared a lot with the world that I didn't think I would. I've talked about my diagnosis and struggles with depression, gone over my self-image and body issues, as well as opened up about my excitement on becoming a future aunt. What started as a fun way to enhance my writing skills, soon became an outlet for me to expose my life to those around me.
Some of the reactions I've gotten from my articles have been incredible- from likes and shares to old friends reaching out. I soon realized that Odyssey serves not just as a writing community, but also as a way to make connections and impacts in this world. As grateful as I am, I wanted to write something a little bit different this week: an article for me, myself, and I.
Throughout my career as a student, there were many times when I was asked to write letters to my future self. I still have some of those letters, and I look back on them from time to time to see how I've grown and changed over the years. The concept, at first, was unknown to me. I knew how to write a letter to myself, but I didn't really understand the purpose behind it until all these years later when I was able to look back. The goal isn't to reach into the future, but rather to look into the past.
One of the oldest letters that I have to myself is back from fifth or sixth grade. One thing I distinctly remember from when I read it last is that I asked myself not to change too much. It's funny- when I compare it to most of the letters from my peers, they seemed to be asking for the opposite. They all seemed to hope for sudden popularity, the ability to eventually drive, to find a partner...my letter didn't ask for those things. All it really asked for was for me to stay in school (which, to my past self: you're welcome).
Instead of focusing on future dreams and goals, my letters seemed to revolve around a sense of self from the present. I can recall writing down my favorite things at the time, such as movies, games, and friends. I wrote about my personality and achievements. It was almost as if I couldn't see a future for me at all.
I won't get into any theories about why I chose to write what I wrote; whether it was a lack of creativity or the start of my depression, at the end of the day I don't think that it matters too much. What matters now is I can write back.
To my past self,
You asked me once not to change too much. You told me about your personality- that you were funny and kind, and a good student. You shared with me your favorite shows and movies and gave me a glimpse into the past...into my past. But I'm here to tell you that I have changed, for the better. Change isn't something to be afraid of anymore.
Even though I didn't listen to the "don't change" part, I can tell you that I am still a student, at least. I'll be a senior at Eastern Michigan University this fall- I know we were hoping for MSU, but I think it was better this way. In addition to going to a different school than planned, I've also pursued a different path. Instead of studying to be a veterinarian, I'm studying to be a journalist. It's funny- we spent so much time writing back then, we really should have seen this coming.
At this point, I think I'm supposed to tell you that everything went smoothly. At least, I think that that's what you wanted to eventually hear when you wrote to me. I won't lie to you- smooth is one of the last words I'd use to describe the future for you. Whatever fears you may have had about the future, whatever you may have felt, I'm sorry to tell you that the time between then and now has been really, really rough.
Without getting into too many details (I'm not sure that details are important, anyway) I did end up changing. I had to. The world has always said that change is inevitable, and I think that I'm starting to understand that now. There are many different types of change, good and bad, and I'm realizing that they often go hand in hand. It turns out the phrase "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" has some truth to it.
The point of this letter isn't to say that the future is bleak, or that the past me was right to be afraid. The future has no agenda- it simply is. There's no such thing as a "smooth" path, no matter how hard you try to plan. I thought for years that I had it right until I realized nobody is "right" or "wrong." One day, you'll realize that too.
I know that if I were to go back in time and read this letter in fifth or sixth grade, I would probably be confused out of my mind. Maybe I'd even angry. I would probably wonder why my future self wouldn't just give all of the answers. But the second most important thing I've come to learn is that for every question life answers, it asks five more. The first more important thing I've learned is that that's okay. We're not meant to know everything.
So, to my past self: don't try to prepare for change, but always expect it and more importantly, do your best to embrace it. The future is neither good nor bad, but it holds both, and you'll grow from both, too. You'll learn things about the world that you hadn't thought to ask, and you'll ask things about the world that you may never learn. What's important is to realize that, regardless of what the future holds, there will always be more ahead.
With much love,
(To anyone who has read this far, I challenge you to write a letter to yourself- past, present, or future!)