The letter was forgotten for many years. I wrote it when I was 22 years old, sealed it in a mottled gray envelope, and wrote on it,
to – Evelyn @ 30
from – Evelyn @ 22, October 8, 2007
Then I tucked it away in the pages of my scrapbook.
Life went on. I worked a couple different jobs, moved a few times, dated some new men, became a Peace Corps volunteer, and traveled to several distant countries. Basically I experienced life, broadened my horizons, and learned more about who I am.
You expect to change in your 20s. At the beginning you’re practically still a teen-ager. Somewhere along the way to 30 you turn into an adult. What’s the process like? Who is there documenting it?
For most people, the time goes by unremarked upon. They can guess, but there’s no good reliable record of the past to verify all that has happened. This time capsule I created for myself is the best thing I have to identify how I’ve changed over the past 8 years.
I was itching to open the envelope once I rediscovered its existence in December of last year. I was back in Michigan for Christmas and going through some of the items I had stored at my parents’ house. Flipping through that old scrapbook, memories rushing at me from a thousand different angles, the letter fell into my lap. It was much thinner than I remembered, a single mysterious sheet of paper rustling inside.
I brought it back with me to California, placing in a prominent spot on a shelf in my bedroom to stare at it every day until my birthday in April.
The day finally came, and the first thing I did when I woke up was grab that envelope and tear it open.
Dear Evelyn @ 30,
Well, it’s finally 8 years later. I wonder what you’re doing and how your life has changed from its 22-year-old-self…
I read that letter several times during the day, reflecting on everything, sharing little bits and pieces with my friends and colleagues.
There was a feeling of overwhelming love and acceptance of myself pouring out of the letter, going across time between 22-year-old me and 30-year-old me.
The letter laid out some of the facts of my situation back in 2007. I was a fresh college graduate living in Duluth, Minnesota, in a big house with four other people. I had already taken on 3 different jobs since graduation but had quit all of them. I was dating someone I had been with for three years by that time. I had taken on a few new hobbies like chess and tennis, and continued to write and play the mandolin. I had specific hopes and dreams for the future, in addition to trying to discover my true self through the noise of having grown up with 14 siblings in a small town and conservative culture.
The letter asked some very pointed questions of future-me and my 30-year-old life.
A lot of the changes I had been expecting by my third decade had not yet happened:
- I was not married with kids
- I was not a published author
- I did not have a robust career
That’s one thing that became clear to me in reading my letter. I thought I would have a lot more figured out by now, but I don’t. No one does. No one ever figures it all out. You may assume all the time that other people are better, stronger, faster, smarter. But they are just as confused and clueless as you are.
Living is a life-long process. You constantly evolve, discover new things about yourself, and dive deeper into who you really are. Everyone’s journey to self-discovery is different, but the journey is on-going.
I had, however, been shaped by a lot of unforeseen life experiences, and those were much more important to my personal growth and happiness than any of the above could have given me. And the loudest, most prominent message that cut across all the unfounded expectations of my future-self was the hope that I was happy.
The best thing I discovered from that letter is, I am happy. So if I ever write another letter to myself, it will say something like, “Dear Evelyn @ 40, 50, 60. I just hope you’re happy.”
My final message to my future self is a sentiment that I share with all of my readers as well,
I don’t have anything else to say right now. Take it easy. Know that you are greatly loved from the past!
Love, Evelyn Helminen, 22
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