Dear Future Self,
I don’t know how old you are now, but I know what you’re doing.
You’re trying to picture me. You’re forcing your way back through the cobwebbed landscape of the past; rushing, perhaps, through your most recent memories, sailing over the innocuous, clambering through the funereal. As you reach your early thirties and your abstract recollections become more focused, perhaps you’re discovering a clearer image of the woman you once were, the woman I am now. Maybe you’re even remembering what it was like to write this letter, all those years ago.
It could be uncomfortable. Perhaps life has changed so dramatically over the decades that to read these words – the words of your twenty-nine-year-old self – is almost unbearable. Perhaps you’ll get no further than this. But if you do, if you’re peering through the gaps in your fingers, reading slowly and swallowing back the mortification you feel at ever having allowed yourself to publish something so juvenile on the internet, then good for you, because it means that you/I have grown. It means that wherever you are now, whatever person you have become, those years have been worth something.
Today I am less than a week away from a seminal moment in my life, a period of change that will take a considerable amount of time to get used to. A threshold will be crossed, a new epoch will begin and I have consequently found myself reflecting on the life that I have started to build.
This seminal moment? You already know what it is: my birthday, my thirtieth birthday.
We both know that life’s foundations are laid in your twenties; solid, dependable groundwork, carved out of interests, abilities, judgements. By twenty-five a framework will have begun to take hold, established by the acquisition of monetary bricks, of new-found skills, of need driven by necessity, and as we reach the decade’s conclusion, a shadow of what we have built, of what we are and what we will inevitably become, has taken form.
At the moment, I can’t help but look around, cast my eye over the landscape of my contemporaries, watch as they build their homes with dreams more tangible than my own. That’s when fear threatens my resolve: what if my foundations are shaky? What if my bricks crumble? What if I reach forty, fifty, sixty and discover that I never had the tools to build such an ambitious life to begin with?
But what you have to remember – what I have to remember – is that there is freedom in fear. There’s clarity in uncertainty. There’s authenticity in laying your foundations, building your framework, forging a life for yourself based solely on a dream that is the most honest reflection of who you are.
The past thirty years have not been wasted. Neither have they been built in regret. A scaffolding of those closest to me – my husband, my friends, my family – supports my dreams, keeps me standing, ensures my growth. It is to them that I owe my slow but steady progress as a writer and it is because of them that I will continue to develop as a person.
I know what you’re thinking: time is not your enemy. You won’t hit thirty and that will be it, your life carved out for you, nowhere else to go. I suppose in a way this letter is for the ‘me’ of today rather than the ‘you’ of tomorrow. I write to remind myself that life is, and always will be, malleable, and so long as I can remain aware of that fact, then I can continue to shape my framework in whatever way I want.