I know that you’ve been with me every hour, every minute, and every moment of the last ten years, but I hope when you re-read these words at the turn of your half-century on this Earth, that they make you smile.
You probably remember how, two weeks before our fortieth birthday, I cracked open a fortune cookie to find the words “You will soon be inspired to make a life-changing decision” on a tiny slip of paper.
“Life-changing” feels like a loaded phrase with many meanings. Perhaps, I needed to let the universe guide me towards spontaneity and adventure. Maybe, I should accept the path I was already on with a measure of certainty that success would certainly follow. It could also be encouragement to take a sharp left turn into the unknown.
However, you know me. I have said over, and over, again that change is not something I take lightly.
I do not jump. I plan.
I do not step off the path, I take the sure and steady curve to get where I need to go.
So, when that fortune slid out between my fingers, I knew its meaning would not be obvious or immediate, but rather “life-changing” hinged on the two little words at the beginning of the sentence. Two words necessary to light the fuse.
In January 2022 I filled out a questionnaire asking me to describe 1-2 long-term goals and 3 short term goals for my future.
The short-term goals were all about balance: balance between physical and mental wellness, balance about what I thought success looked like versus other people’s expectations, and balancing work for myself, with work for others through service. None of these were a unexpected, and I hope you can see ten years later, how easy they were to achieve.
The long-term goal, however, was revealing, but not a surprise. After all, this was something I have mused over cups of coffee as I started my day, or a thought that flicked at the edge of my perception as I drifted into a starlit sleep. In the last eight months, it is even something I have shared aloud just to see if verbalizing made it feel any more real.
I wanted to write a book.
I know I have done this already with The Heart of the River (and hopefully the books for the other three munchkins in my life), but it is not the same. Rather, this is a book—part novel, part creative non-fiction, part something entirely different—that I have had in my heart for most of my adult life. A story that combines of my experience as a historian with a fictional narrative, elements of which have been bouncing about my head for many years, though still largely ephemeral in nature.
Even as I write that out to you, you who knows the future, it feels so mundane. But doing something meaningful means using what you do best to make a difference…right?
So. Close your eyes, my future self, and tell me—did I do it? What are your lessons learned? What steps did I take to get it off the ground? And if I never made the leap, what held me back? Maybe I will hear you in an echo, so that I might take different steps to make this dream a reality.
Seriously though, I know life isn’t meant to be lived that way. Not knowing what is to come is part of the adventure, as I’m sure you, my older-wiser-self, would agree.
I also recognize that while the goal I wrote down is important, what was more evident, was what was not on the list. And, if I learned anything during the pandemic years (or however we are referring to the early-mid 2020s) priorities change, and sometimes world events can shift your perspective.
With that in mind, I started 2022 reading the past ten years of my “New Year’s Stories” where I reflected and tried to refract my life for the year to come. All of the messages were the same, tinged with the voice of someone looking to find a footing, someone filled with no small measure of uncertainty about what she wanted. Someone who did not entirely know herself.
Which is why just days after I ended my fourth decade of life, I decided to write this letter to you, my future self. It is a promise, a recognition, that at this moment in time I have conviction.
And, as illustrated by my recent (unexpected) drive to Canada, if I have to step off the pre-planned path, we will be all right.
I also wanted to take the chance to remind you—just in case you find yourself faltering at the turn of another decade—of something I wrote in 2012 (with one small tweak).
Ten years ago, I wrote optimism is my greatest weapon.
I know now that optimism is not something I wield, a defense mechanism implying an avoidance of reality. Rather, it is something I hold within myself, a belief—faith—in our ability to persevere.
So I remind you: Optimism is our greatest strength. It is what will inspire and encourage that life-changing decision. It is the characteristic within me that says: I’m ready. We’re ready. Let’s go.
With so much love,