I spent the better part of the day rummaging around through piles of forgotten things in my old bedroom. I had broken down the task of cleaning up after decades of memories to a few hours here and there that were taken away from occasional visits to my last childhood home. This time, I turned my focus to the drawers and my closet. Dusty yearbooks were peeking out from underneath mountains of old notepads filled with scribbled interviews in shorthand. I found extra camping dishes waiting patiently in the corner to be used out in the wilderness. However, the most important thing that I had found among the forgotten items was a lost old letter addressed to me.
At the beginning of 2012, I wrote a letter to my future self. It was to be opened at the beginning of 2018. So, sometime in 2017, I had taken the note and hid it in a safe place where no one could find it—including myself. I searched for the letter all throughout the year of 2018, sifting through stacks of papers and magazines that I had had my name printed in them. I was so certain that the letter had slipped out from that pile of documents since they were moved that same day I hid the letter that I stopped looking for them. I declared the letter lost to the undiscovered realms of the universe and continued on in life while trying my best to forget about it.
On occasion, because I couldn’t remember what I had written, I would try and imagine what the letter addressed to myself said. So many things happened to me in 2012 that it seemed as though I had lived several lifetimes in those 366 days (it was a leap year). I couldn’t remember where in life I was when I wrote it, and I couldn’t even guess at the questions that I had asked myself. The letter just became more mysterious the further away in time I stood from writing it, which made me want to find it even more.
Underneath another pile of notepads of shorthand that I quickly threw into the recycling bin was a padded letter addressed to me. Being that it was only a couple of weeks before my 30th birthday, I decided to take the letter with me to my apartment and read it the morning I turned 30. For a while, I was almost glad that I couldn’t find the letter. I felt a little intimidated by my own potential questions. What if I didn’t live up to what my then 21 year-old-self thought I would become? What if I just end up feeling disappointed after reading it? I decided I needed to read it anyway.
On the morning of my 30th birthday, I grabbed the letter, a cup of tea, a pen, and several new sheets of paper and stepped out onto my balcony. Dear future self was how it began. It was followed by an update of how life was for me in the moment of writing the letter. I was finishing college. I was in a long-term relationship, and I had no idea of any of the life-altering things that would transpire mere months after writing. I read about my goals and hopes and what I wanted to do after college. I read about what I thought my life would be at 28 when I was expected to read it and laughed when I assumed that I would have gotten married to the guy I was with when I wrote the time capsule letter. However, I didn’t expect to feel how I felt after finishing the letter.
I thought about the things I had learned, the places I traveled to, and the people I met. I have been able to experience so many amazing things, and I’m continuing to climb to new and exciting heights. I actually felt pretty good about turning 30, not just because of my accomplishments but also for how far I have come as a person. I liked myself a lot better as a more rational yet adventurous 30-year-old than a 21-year-old who was just unsure-of-herself.
At 30, I’m regularly climbing mountains and have pushed myself to run multiple half-marathons while actually enjoying them. At 21, going too far into the wooded area behind Cal Poly Pomona freaked me out, and I assumed I wasn’t able to run more than a mile without stopping because I just never tried. The way I think and how I work has changed, and I know when times do get rough that I can always figure it out in time. I knew this is 2018, but at the tail-end of 2020, I’m even more sure of who I am as a person.
Entering a new decade can seem daunting, but having a physical reminder of how far you have come is a very comforting gift to give yourself. This is what prompted me to write a letter to my future self to open on my 40th birthday. I can give myself another cool gift and can see how far I have come as I enter the next decade—as long as I don’t lose the letter.