Une lettre de l'Avenir (from "à venir", what is to come)

 Dear Current Self,

Notice how I capitalized “Current Self”. That’s because I want you to believe I have the utmost respect for you, and I want you to know that, even though what I’m about to say may be a bit hard to take in.

You need to get off your ass and do what it is you know you should be doing with this day, and the next, and the next. Keep going. Keep dancing, listening to the wind in the trees, performing, watching the clouds, writing on napkins, making up rhymes, tickling, drawing, and savoring everything flavorful…until you get to where I am.

I’m not talking about paying more attention to the daily obligations of taking the dog for a walk or making sure you spend 30 minutes practicing letters with your daughter or kissing your husband as best you can through his scruffy beard, although those are admirable goals, and he will eventually shave that facial fuzz again (remember, as always, this, too shall pass)…

This is not about the here and now and the dirty dishes which seem to be calling your name. This is about your life. This is about moving forward instead of listening to what Martha Beck calls that “social self”. It’s true that your essential self is screaming to come out. It has been for years. 

Remember when you used to get so wrapped up in picking out songs you heard on the radio, playing the keyboard with no timer to stop you? Remember how you’d stay awake in bed until the nightly Top Ten countdown got down to the much-anticipated Number One Song, and how excited you were when “Darling Nikki” made the list? Remember how you’d watch your Sea Monkeys for hours, and how you’d design pixelated cards on the computer and then print them with the row-by-row dot matrix printer? Or do some rudimentary programming on the Commodore 64 to generate awkward computer sound effects? How did your parents ever let you pass so much time dawdling and doing so many creative things with virtually no signal that it was time to stop? 

You spent so much time in the car on road trips, drawing on notepad after notepad, scrawling anything you saw passing along on the highway...streetlights, telephone poles, roadkill…and you’d listen to the rhythmic bumps of the highway seams passing beneath the car until they lulled you to sleep…where did the time go?

I want you to reconnect with that kind of imagination, that kind of wonder and inventiveness. Let that child come to the surface again. Say “no” to things that you know aren’t right for you and fit too tightly, like the size 6 you know you won’t ever be again. Let that go. And embrace the person you once were. Notice the streetlights and the tiny creatures in the aquarium again. Make some music even if you can't remember how to play. Look at the sky and rediscover the world with the same childlike awe your daughter has. It’s the biggest thing you have in common right now. And she is on to something…let her lead you. 

You can’t afford to spend the next 43 years of your life living someone else’s. 


Your Future Self


Richmond, VA

Jennifer ShotwellComment