A year ago at this time, only a couple of months after graduating from college, the question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” could send me into a tailspin of uncertainty, doubt, frustration, angst, and melancholy. My answer was usually some cobbled together and hopefully-slightly-prettier version of “I don’t know.” Even now, it’s not a question I can answer with certainty.
As I’ve been getting ready to move though, I’ve been thinking about what the next 5 years might hold for me. Though they’re not quite as uncertain as the last 5 were, there are no guarantees in life–of where I’ll be, what I’ll be doing, who will or won’t be in my life. I’ve written to past me, but there are things about this time that future me needs to know and be reminded of. There is good here to be held onto.
Dear 28-year-old me,
Hi there. I wonder where you are; where you’re living, who you’re living with, what you’re doing for a living, if your interests have broadened or changed since now. You’re different now, perhaps in ways both good and bad, but there are traces of past you there too–I hope they’re the good ones. So, 28-year-old me, this is what 23-year-old you needed to say.
You don’t know it all. I’m sure you’ve learned a lot in the past 5 years, but remember what it was like to feel like you had the world to learn. There will always be people around you can learn from, both those who are older and more experienced than you and those you are younger and less experienced. Let them bring their gifts to the table, and learn from those gifts. Appreciate the beauty of always having more to learn.
Remember the meetings, the phone calls, the emails that reminded you your job has meaning. You might not be at the same place or doing the same thing, but right now, there are moments you know you are doing good work that matters, to other people and to God. And it is lovely. Wherever you are, in whatever you’re doing, find those moments. They will be there, even if you have to search long and hard for them.
Read through your old journals. See how far you’ve come? I don’t know what you’ll be dealing with, but be reminded of what you’ve gotten through before. See the ways you’ve been wounded and then surprised by the redemption God works sometimes. Use what you have learned to do things differently. Take the better path, even when it’s more difficult. Look back and see the places you didn’t notice God working at the time, and marvel at what he’s done.
Embrace the unexpected. Seek it out when necessary. Maybe you have an incredibly stable living situation, job, relationships, finances, transportation, and everything else, so the unexpected isn’t playing a prominent role in your life. Go find some. Do something crazy. Be spontaneous. Don’t get stuck in a rut. You will always be too young to be boring. It doesn’t have to be big or grandiose to be exciting.
Keep writing. If you have stopped, I fear that something in you may have broken, that you have believed the lies whispering, “Your words don’t matter.” They do. Even if their only value comes in the sorting of your thoughts and emotions as you write them, there is goodness and worth in that. Remember the time people have told you your words gave voice to what they were feeling or thinking but couldn’t quite express. Maybe you haven’t heard that at all between now and then, but you did once. Use your words well.
Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whoever is or isn’t around, no matter what has happened to you–God is there.
And future self? I hope we’re doing well.
Til next time…
p.s. What would you tell future you?