This letter to you, ten years in the future from today, is a part of the Day Zero Project, which you started on your 28th birthday. We are four days in the year 2011, and many things have led me to decide that this is the perfect time to conquer this task. It goes without saying that I do not know what stage in your life you will be in when you see this letter. But there are things that I imagine my future including, things that I want to address here. There also are things that I hope by now you have outgrown, mentioned only so you can remember how far you really have come. Finally, you will find general thoughts that, if they have been lost in your shuffle of another chaotic decade on Earth, should remind you of how important they were to you in what I’m sure seems like only yesterday.
If nothing else in this letter rings true, at least know that it is being written at that apartment on Grand, in a home of all your own creation, at a desk full of lamps and candles and other related table flair because you can’t stand overhead lighting. Remember how many times-for 27 months now, specifically-you have referred to this exact spot as your favorite place on Earth. Amazing things have happened here. Your insights have clarified and you have begun to really crack the surface of who you are supposed to be. You feel relaxed in this space, enough to the point that you feel comfortable branching out and exploring new endeavors; you feel like you can do damn near anything with an organized list and a little foresight.
You have realized that a space for this specific purpose is exactly what you need at your disposal to remain both in love and faithful to a world that is too often dark, disturbing and catastrophically unfair to such a large number of its inhabitants. If you don’t have a spot in your life like this now, one that does this same thing for you, create it. A space that is yours. Only yours. Should you be in a relationship or have children, do not feel guilty in excluding them. The person that you will be after an hour in this place will be more adept at handling everyone else. Of all that you have learned about yourself in the first 28 years, this is the biggest and most important theme that keeps resurfacing, with the frequency that has let you know you simply can’t ignore it.
Ten years is a long time. I am today not where I thought I would be when I was 18. You today will not be where I think I will be as I write these words. Be okay with that. If at 28 I was living the life I would have pictured in high school, I would have missed out on so much. I would not be writing this letter. I would not be in this apartment that has done more for me than anything else to this point in my life. I would not be paying graduate school debt. I would not have 90% of the friends I was lucky enough to meet along the way. I would not be a quick drive from my family when they needed me. I would not know what it’s like to have the floor under your feet disappear, and the experience of starting over, and over, and over in relationships, career moves, and in drafting a life plan. I would not know the feeling of foraging on when nobody trusts your sense of direction but you, and I would not have learned that the most beautiful things in the world are usually those that, at first glance, look the most imperfect. I hope that you are still seeing the world this way, too.
I hope that you are not driving a mini-van. I do not care how much economic sense it made at the time of purchase, or how many people you are carpooling around on any given day. If you are, sell it.
I hope that you are still in Minnesota. You meant to leave so many times for so many reasons: for college, then after college, for a new job. But you haven’t been able to leave your family behind, and are pretty sure by now that you never will. I hope that this has not changed, and if it has, that it was done on your own terms and without unwelcome pressures.
I hope that you have continued to maintain meaningful relationships. Maybe you are married, and maybe you are not. Happiness is defined within you, not by the status of a relationship. Single is just a word. Single simply means feeling comfortable enough in oneself to go out and conquer the world without waiting for the approval of another. And marriage is not the answer to a unlonely life. You have seen married people who look more alone and empty than you can even begin to comprehend, and that has somewhat scared you away.
But do not shy away from marriage either. It is a wonderful endeavor that you believe in, and one day hope to be a part of. There is nothing that implies a married person is less strong than a single person. Marriage signifies the ability to compromise, the selflessness of putting another’s needs before your own, and the talent of taking two different sets of emotions, strengths, weaknesses and ideals and sewing them together in a way that reminds you of a worn patchwork quilt that keeps you warm and comforted at night. There is honor in this, too.
I hope that you have a home to call your own, and it is filled with only things that have made you happy, and things that you have found important, and pictures of all the things you have accomplished, both big and little.
I hope you are healthy. Three weeks before writing this was when you had that accident in the Cavalier, and you can still feel it in your chest and ribs. You spent the month before that sick with a horrible cough and cold. In other words, you have felt more old lately than you ever have before, and it’s scary. It’s reminded you how much you take your health for granted, and made you re-evaluate all the changes that you should be making to fight aging as long as you can.
Speaking of aging gracefully, you probably have some wrinkles starting by now. Fighting those is only natural, and I expect that in ten years I will only feel more strongly so. But your 28-year-old naive self still believes that wrinkles are earned, and it makes you think of that quote from Maggie McGlone, “I got a few wrinkles here and there, but I’ve layed under thousands of skies with sunny days. I look and feel this way, well, because I drank and I smoked. I lived and I loved, danced, sang, sweat and screwed my way thorough a pretty damn good life if you ask me.” You loved that quote the first time you heard it, and you have been reminded of it fairly often since then. Please tell me that you still believe it.
I hope that you remember that crying is important too. I hope you appreciate the cleansing relief that a deep cry allows for, but I hope that you cry more at things that are full of beauty and not pain.
I hope that you have not lost the desire to search high and low for every little way you can make a difference to someone else, and I hope that you still believe that the smallest act of kindness can ripple to something bigger than you could ever imagine. I hope that you still see that this ripple is always going to expand to farther outside what you ever could have done by yourself, and that you really do need to be connected to other people. I hope that you still have enough light in your voice that people leave an interaction with you laughing. I hope you still are more concerned with finding a resolution to a conflict than making your opinion heard.
Most of all, I hope that you are happy. And, if you are not, I hope you have strength deep enough to admit it, and bravery enough to fight to change it, and the faith to believe that everything has, and will continue to, work out in your favor. You have always had a bit of luck on your side, you never have been one to deny that. But you have also come to know that you are a hell of a fighter as well, especially when the happiness of yourself and those closest to you is on the line. Never lose that, and everything will end up just fine. It will all work out as it is meant to be.