Dear 15 year old me,
Let’s get the hard stuff out of the way. You’re almost 25, and you haven’t done much. A decade has gone by and we’re not too different. Wish-lists and to-do lists, weighty goals combined on loose leaf pages of notebook paper stacked in little piles, they don’t amount to much. I’m making the same lists now, jotting them down in journals and scribbling them in the margins.
You always have some idea of what life will be like in the future. Some blank slate that you may project your ideal world onto. A film projector showing repeat showings of fantasy-you. It’s been this way as long as I can remember it. From five to ten, ten to fifteen, fifteen to twenty, every so often I stop to think what have I done that I said I would do? Not much.
It is easy to think that the inability to check these things off means some you’re some sort of failure. That the inability to keep the promises you made to yourself a decade ago means that you did something wrong. But you haven’t. If I were to look at these lists in another ten years, which I will, I will know what guided me. I will see the dreams that I had and what encouraged me. I will think about the things that woke me up every morning, the things that pushed me out the door. I will know what collective dreams bottled up to make me, me. Explore the world, learn french, become very good at something I enjoy. I haven’t done these things, but it took getting older to realize that you never really do. They are all a process. They are all a sliding scale of mastery. I cannot give these things a final checking point because they are always in progress. It is the process itself that makes me who I am, not the completion.
You don’t just wake up one morning and find that you are who you want to be. You always want to be more, different, better, you always have some point to look forward to. When we get small pieces of the things we want – graduation, a house, a car, a new friend, a new love – we move forward, but it’s hard to tell. You cannot understand the scope of life through a series of things that happen to you. There are always more things.
I understand that it is hard to think that a decade went by and, here I am, telling you that there are no real moments in which I could say you might find extraordinary. It is lucky for you, however, that you find all these seemingly mundane moments so special. Conversations, new connections, the feeling you get when you look certain people in the eye. Little trips that beg the desire for more and bigger trips. You will take photos and look back at them and want more. It is the cloyingly sweet truth – not the destination, but the journey. I’m sorry to put it to you that way.
If I could advise myself of one small thing it would be to not try so awfully hard to want of the future. It’s coming every moment and there is no earth-shattering sound when it arrives. It is here now, and now, and always coming faster.
In these lists you can look back and see what it is you tried to grasp along the way.