Okay, the real prompt is “White Elephant: What are the gifts you are looking forward to giving, or hoping to receive?” And even though I know this could be interpreted more broadly, I am stuck on it being a holiday post, and in case you missed Day 5: I don’t really want to talk about the holidays. So I was cruising my old Reverb posts for a prompt that I would rather write about [rulebreaker!] and I stumbled on a few years of letters– written to future selves or past selves– that were part of the Reverb project. I was struck at how graceful Past Kate was to herself, former or future. I don’t know if I have been that graceful or kind to myself this year. So I thought I would share parts of those letters and let that guide a new letter to my future self.
From 2010, this is a excerpt from a letter Past Kate wrote to herself 5 years in the future (Kate 2015). It is now 6 years in the future, but I was surprised at how nice it was to hear from Kate 2010 and how well she she seems to know Kate 2016.
“… these challenges have been so good for you. They have provided you with a new perspective on what (and who) really matter. They have given you a new patience and grace with people while also reminding you that life is simply too wonderful to waste holding grudges and being angry.
You can always ask for help and no one who loves you is going to be disappointed that you didn’t have the right answer or all of the resources. You are still young; forgive yourself the way others forgive you.”
(You can read the full letter here.)
In 2012, I wrote a letter to Kate 2011. Specifically Kate on December 16, 2011. I had been laid off for almost two months at that time, and felt hopeless and scared and depressed. A year later, I could not believe how much things had changed and in response I wrote a really loving and forgiving letter to my past self. Some excerpts:
This place you are at is dark and uncertain. Frankly, you’re not having any fun, but you don’t need me to tell you that. I won’t give away all the secrets of what 2012 is bringing to you, but knowing what I/you know now, here is some advice.
Stop magnifying the ways you feel you have failed and assuming that everyone around you thinks you are an unmotivated dunderhead. Lady, hard times happen. The things that make you Kate are not tied to your professional success or failure. The false notion in your head that people who have loved you for years would suddenly find you ‘less than’ is ridiculous. The longer you continue to believe that false notion, the more toxic you are making your relationships.
Let go of your expectations of yourself and others. You are enough. They are enough. Be at peace with that and know that it is true.”
I, like, really love Kate 2012. She was smart and kind and has good words. You can read that full letter here.
Kate 2014 wrote to her 5 Year Future Self (Kate 2019). Even though it’s technically “too early” to read it [rulebreaker!], Kate 2014 asked some good questions and was wiser than I remember her being:
“Dear Kate 2019,
How much more gray hair do you have now? Is it gonna get a lot worse? SHOULD I START DYING IT NOW?!
I am sad to think how time will treat you– the dog will probably not be the youthful goof his was on his walk this morning, inevitably people you loved will have left this world, relationships will have transformed in ways unrecognizable to either of us.
But I also hope time will be good to you– that you and Aaron continue to adventure and enjoy the little things, that as you change as individuals and as a family you haven’t forgotten the silliness you share now, that you remain fulfilled in your work, friendships, and activities.
Future Kate, be kind to all the Past Kates as you travel this journey. Don’t second guess us or wish we had made another choice. Learn from us– our victories and failures are your ingredients for growth.
It is good. It is so good.”
Okay, Kate 2014 was kinda swoon-worthy too, no?
And today, a letter to Kate 2021:
Every day I watch you become more and more yourself. I thought the early 20s was the time when you “find yourself,” but either you’re a late bloomer or there is something magical in the late 20s and early 30s that no one tells you about.
At times, I worry that you have become angrier and jaded. But I don’t think that’s true. I think you are just more honest about your intensity– that when you feel something you really feel it– and are letting people see that more fully, whether that is joy or frustration or fear. I hope you have found ways to express that intensity without hurting others, that you have channeled that intensity towards causes productive and meaningful, and have not dulled yourself to appease others.
I hope you do not fight the passing of time. Do not count the days. Do not worry about life’s schedule and where you are on it; do not let others try to put you on theirs. Do not put face cream on your crow’s feet. The wrinkles your face makes when it moves are beautiful and will always be there to remind you that you have laughed and it was good.
Undoubtedly, you have made mistakes in the last five years. Apologize. Then forgive yourself. Don’t be in a hurry to undo the things that make you uncomfortable– that space created when we make mistakes is filled with opportunities. Take some. Be proud of the times you were unafraid to fail and then did so spectacularly. This makes you human and humble and they are usually really funny stories (later– it will be funny later).
Continue to be a good steward of your gifts. Share freely in ways that bring you joy and fulfillment, but do not allow others to take until you are burnt out. Set boundaries and keep them. Maintain distance when it is due.
Be kind to yourself and your past selves as you travel this journey. It is not always easy. Continue to do the best you can with what you have, knowing it will not always be perfect but it will always be enough. Trust yourself and The Universe to be partners in this life.
It is good. It is so good.