Searching For Hope: Why You Should Write Letters To The Future
“You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet.” - John Green
We have a tendency to cycle back to the past in all of its pain and pleasure as we voyage onwards to an unknown future. Ironically, we’re much better at forecasting the future when looking at the past and present, even if change lies on the horizon. I’ve been writing letters to the future since I was in eighth grade and, boy did I not predict even a fraction of what was to come. In fact, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the future.
I often think about what I may need to hear at certain points in my life. For example, here’s an excerpt from a letter written four years ago: “I know that there will be terrible events to come in the future, but there will have been so much good that must have happened and you have to just focus on the good and move on.” While that statement wasn’t in reference to any particular event, but rather emotionally-charged events in general, right now, reading that letter reminds me that we can only guess at the aspects of our lives that will be relevant or remain relevant.
So much mattered to me back then that doesn’t matter at all now, from specific friends that became distant to forgotten crushe to dreams I’ve outgrown, and so on. I’m comforted by the constant that is change, but also by the constants of human experience. Almost no one is exempt from the sway of love and loss, struggle and triumph. There was no possible way for me to predict the future, and that continues to be true with the progression of college. Whatever plans I set out for myself and deem reasonable will likely be derailed in some fashion. That’s not necessarily bad, however.
Changes of plan have led me onto tracks better than I could ever have imagined. In moments of immense hopelessness, I tend to stick to the notion of the stagnancy of life, as if change is some vague, unreachable place. Writing letters to the future imparts upon me a hopefulness, and reading these letters validates that hope, and extends it into the distant future. Letting go of specific plans for the future frees me to focus more on the present–and to have faith that I will end up where I need to be. As my eighth grade self once wrote to my present self: “Feelings and dreams can change. They do change, they will change. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t exactly get there.”
If you want to write a letter to the future, visit FutureMe.org.