During my Senior Year in high school, my English teacher gave our class an assignment to write a letter to ourselves to be received four years into the future. It was a tradition for her; four years after high school graduation, she would faithfully place our self-addressed letters in the mail so that we would be able to look back on our past selves.
Truth be told, I sort of waved the assignment off initially. The letter would not be graded or read by the teacher (a concession to encourage us to write about personal topics) so I had quickly scrawled a page of meaningless rubbish on a sheet of loose-leaf earlier that day in Spanish class — my moronic high school self with a wildly busy work schedule clearly had far more important things to put effort into. Unexpectedly however, our teacher extended the deadline by one day and requested that we go home and type our letters to make them more presentable.
When I went home and sat down in front of the computer, I decided to do the assignment properly… a part of me did find the nature of the letter an intriguing one after all. I typed out a letter to my future self, writing about subjects I had mulled over with the limited introspective skills of an adolescent. I then sealed my letter, quickly searched Google for the proper way to address an envelope, and turned in my assignment the next day.
Around my third year at the University of Texas at Dallas, I learned from my younger brother that my old English teacher would be retiring and leaving the school. Over the course of my undergraduate years, I had thought about the letter from time to time, but I had long forgotten its contents and now, had dismissed any possibility of seeing it again. The thought did not bother me in the slightest — I distinctly remember thinking that “I would probably toss it straight into the trash bin anyways”. I had felt that I had grown so much during college that my high school self would not be able to provide any relevant insight anyways.
Five years later, my parents handed me the grubby looking envelope which had somehow found its way into our mail. Not only had I graduated college by then, but I had also completed one year of medical school and had already made my decision to leave medical school. While I placed the envelope onto my desk upstairs, I debated whether to open it or to simply toss it into the bin as I had planned. I was not particularly enthused in wanting to read the “deep” ramblings of a seventeen year-old and doubted that they could present any value. Eventually, I decided to open it; I was being a bit of a grouser anyways. Why should I not? All the roles I have played in the past were still “me” after all.
Quoted below is an exact reproduction of the letter I received, save for some private information redacted. As past-me requests, I am now responding to their correspondence and will do so in an open manner.
May 15, 2009
Dear [Nightmaren] from the future,
If you are reading this letter, four years must have passed since I have written it. It’s a small amount on paper, but can you honestly remember my life now, during senior year at [high school]? Perhaps senior year at UTD is not much different for you.
You know, [you will always be a resident of two distinct worlds] . . . You know what I’m talking about. Did you finally dedicate yourself to science or will you continue to be distracted with insignificant details? . . . At the same time, you need to remember not to treat some things, including people, lightly. Please, try to enjoy life too. If you work ceaselessly, you’ll be at a loss of what to do when you finally get a break.
That brings me to the next point: balance. A perfect one is impossible, but have you finally achieved a balance in your life? I currently have balance issues with time, workload, leisure, responsibilities, and people. People? Yes, . . . [remember] to try [and] at least know some of them, [Nightmaren]. I hope you’ve resolved at least some of these issues by now. . . If you learn how to balance things, you can enjoy both working and playing.
By the way, what’s changed in the last four years? Did you see the “new” Star Trek movie? It’s [sic] predecessor just came out in this timeline. It’s [sic] sequel is supposed to be released in 2011. . . I remember more people were certainly [interested in the franchise] after the first movie. . .
What about video games? You always loved RPGs . . . Did you finally get a chance to play the Disgaea sequels? I hope you’ve learned how to manage your time enough to have more fun.
Also, how are your parents doing? 4 Years [sic] is going to be an eternity for them. I hope they are still doing well, especially [Dad]. He worked so hard for his health and went through a lot. He deserves a break.
I guess that’s pretty much all that’s on my mind as I write this. Always remember who you are [sic] and the people who helped you along the way. Live Long and Prosper [sic].
Write back! You can reach me on your blog. After all, that’s where my essence is preserved. My personality, my friends, my memories.
Dear [Nightmaren] “from the past,”
It appears that I have received your letter a little bit later than you intended — over five years have passed rather than the four you mentioned. To be honest, I actually read your letter on December 14, 2014, but I was unsure how to begin responding. How does one respond to a seventeen year-old version of themselves? What does someone who has experienced and matured amidst the real world have to connect with in a person who has yet to leave the safe, comfortable haven behind their parents’ walls? Well, the answer to that unfortunately came to me a few days ago — a news headline that not only devastated me, but I can also say with certainty that it will impact you: on February 27, 2015, Leonard Nimoy passed away. It’s not news that one would automatically associate with being “futuristic,” but perhaps it is fitting that your first taste of the “future” be a flavor that is grounded in your present. Greetings from 2015.
That aside, because I know that you will take me of all people seriously given that I am in fact you, I would like to open by telling you that you are a moron. You aren’t unintelligent, but you do not know as much as you think you do right now. As it stands, you are too moronic to even grasp a semblance of how little you know. You can’t. And that is the biggest reason why you will grow more during your years in college than ever before.
Forgive me, I will certainly answer the questions you wrote me shortly, but I find it more prudent to talk about you first. It should be fairly interesting for you to read about this too, right? At least, I hope so. I know that in 2009 you aren’t nearly as open-minded as I am, and it it shows in your writing. While I wouldn’t have thought it back then, your writing is hilariously high-school level and in fact closely resembles the writing style displayed by some of my friends who did not have the opportunity to go to college. Your writing comes across as presumptuous and a little cartoonish (i.e. wannabe “deep” sounding) at times… but because I know how you think, I know that impression is not entirely intentional.
But alright, let me take a look at what you wrote. You are right, I cannot recall much from high school. I remember a few things such as “turtling” Matt’s backpack every couple days, the blissful retardedness that was our lunch table, and me screwing around in computer science class… but honestly I had to think intently even to remember that much. While I certainly had fun back then, the fact of the matter is that life was rather ordinary compared to the vast frontier of new experiences my friends and I lived through in college. Even having left college now, I can still vividly recall parts of my freshman year at UTD simply because of what an adventure it was. And yes, my senior year was absolutely amazing; words cannot do justice to describe the feelings of independence, confidence, accomplishment, and solidarity with friends who you essentially grow up into an adult with. So I suppose you are wrong in that regard… my senior year at UTD was quite different from your high school senior year… it was much better! I don’t blame you for not understanding of course — you simply cannot grasp this sort of concept until you experience it for yourself.
What else… I actually find it amusing that you are trying to give your future-self (of all people) advice, by the way. And yet, some of your thoughts are unexpectedly insightful — as I would expect from myself, after all! Indeed, many of the points you raise in your letter (vague as they may be) are concerned with internal struggles that have resolved themselves over the years. I learned to balance work and leisure; it is part of the reason why I was able to take off and fly in college. I also learned to take more of an interest in the affairs of others, at least to the extent of voluntarily spending time with others even if I may not be entirely comfortable with them. I suppose the best way to explain some of my changes is that I have become more adventurous and secure in my abilities — I’m not afraid to experiment or simply “go with the flow” as needed. Many of these traits were matured in the real-life sandbox that is college.
I also found it funny that you choose to ask me about Star Trek of all things. Your interests really were pretty niche back then, weren’t they? I remember it well — Star Trek, MMOs, and anime. As you may have caught while reading the opening to this letter, I have not completely discarded my interest in such things, but at the same time, they no longer make up my world as they do with you. At any rate, I did see the “new” Star Trek movie — it ends up being called Star Trek Into Darkness, by the way. It has Khan in it. You’ll have to wait until 2013 to see what it’s like though. It wasn’t bad, but I do not think anything will top the charm of the original movies.
RPGs? Yes, I did get a chance to play Disgaea and two of its sequels. I also played both of the Prinny games. One way or another, I have kept fairly up-to-date with the games I have wanted to play, though my 3DS and PS Vita are my favorite consoles these days. Er- you’ll find out what those consoles are like in a few years, I suppose. In that case, I guess there would be no point in talking about how much fun I had playing Portal 2, Gravity Rush, Pokemon X, Sonic Generations, Persona 4: Golden, and Hyrule Warriors either, would it? Alright… that was a little mean of me, but certainly some of those names must surprise you!
At any rate, yes, I am happy to report that our parents are still well. Dad in particular is doing a great job, but I suspect that he is going to be stubborn as he grows older — he still tries to do things he shouldn’t since the surgery. Both Mom and Dad have relaxed quite a bit too since I left home. You will be happy to know that they no longer expect us to be asleep at a certain time. Yes… I suppose the family atmosphere has changed quite a bit since your time. Mom and Dad are just as supportive now as they were before, but they are far more… easygoing now. After being away from home, I suppose they have come to see me more as an adult and treat me as such. Nothing will change the fact that they are our parents though, so even if I am treated more as an “adult,” they still get to act like parents when they want to!
Now then, since I have finished answering your questions, I suppose I will tell you a little bit about what you can look forward to over the years. While I’m not completely sure how much I’m “allowed” to tell you about the future, I still intend on making you discover most of it yourself. You’re going to have to make it happen. I see no reason however not to offer you cryptic pieces of trivia regarding the future. Let’s see, in the coming years you will start collecting games on Steam (2009), move in with a room mate with whom you will live with for three years (2010), join Twitter (2011), get hospitalized (2011, unrelated to joining Twitter), meet up with an online friend (2012), trick a student body into drawing Sanics (2013, do not ask), achieve what you thought was your goal (2013), leave said goal behind (2014), and meet your heroes during a time when you are penning a new direction in life (2015). Try to take all these events in stride.
I will give you some actual advice however. Knowing you, you’ll dismiss it right now, but that doesn’t concern me because I know how things will turn out anyway. See, as of right now, you are used to being at the “top” of things. You will be graduating in the top ten people in your high school class, you are going to a university with a “full-ride” scholarship… these things are commendable of course, but I want you to listen well when I tell you: do not forget the taste of disappointment. Right now, amidst the comfortable life you lead, a lot of things go your way. The real world does not work like that. If you know how to deal with disappointment, you possess the ability to get back onto the road from which you have been knocked from. If you have a hard time dealing with disappointments and road blocks, you will waste time scrambling through the course brushwood before finally finding another road — one that you must guess which direction to travel on.
Once again, I tell you this not because I know that you will face significant failure in the next few years (you won’t), but because I have seen the world of responsibility and ambition that you have yet to set foot into. Walk the path towards adventure, but keep one hand on the hilt of your sword. You’re going to do just fine and will go on to consider the coming years to be some of the best in your life. With hard work and determination you will reach your goal to become a spectacular nurse yet!
… My, I let something slip there, didn’t I?
I believe that is a sign that I should abrogate our correspondence now. Read my letter multiple times between the lines to truly grasp all I have confided in you. You’re not alone.
With that, I will formally bid you farewell and leave you with Mr. Nimoy’s final tweet; its message is uncannily appropriate, and I know that it will resonate in you as much as it did with me: