I get pretty nostalgic during January. I mean, can you blame me? 2017 and I spent 365 days together. That’s 8,760 hours or 525,600 minutes! If you prefer to be even more pretentious, that’s 31,536,000 seconds. (Please feel free to check my math, but do me a favor and keep it on the down-low if my numbers are way off, will ya?)
That is a long time. A year is a long time.
Let me ask you a question: at this very instant, are you where you envisioned yourself to be this time last year?
Maybe you are. Maybe not. Maybe that’s actually a good thing. Maybe not so much.
You know, a year ago, I envisioned myself to be in my second semester of medical school. I envisioned living in a different state studying medicine. I remember being really torn about whether to pursue medicine or to pursue student ministry. I remember thinking, well, if for some reason I’m not in med school, I’ll go with Plan B. Plan B was to be living in Atlanta, developing middle school ministry curriculum with one of the most active churches in North America. Yet, I find myself writing this in my warm, cozy apartment just outside of Raleigh in a slightly different capacity. I’m not a medical school student and I don’t work in student ministry anymore. However, I do work at an amazing hospital and I speak a lot of truth into the lives of both children and adults. Weird how that worked out.
This is such a cliche but sometimes life just does not turn out the way we anticipated. Sometimes, it just doesn’t match the image in our mind. In fact, most times, it doesn’t; it won’t.
Life tends to throw us unforeseen curveballs that challenge the standard of perfection we picture for ourselves.
In addition, more often than not, such a reality shifts our route from Plan A onto Plan W (and everything in-between). And if no one has ever told you that it’s okay that Plan A didn’t work, let me encourage you by saying: it’s okay that things didn’t work out as planned. It by no means whatsoever proves that you are a failure. We’re not failures just because something didn’t work out the way we envisioned. Who made up that stupid rule anyway?
We’re allowed to adjust our sails when the wind switches direction; when the reality does not match the theory. We are allowed to change our minds.
That is, so long as we are not hurting ourselves or others. The saying, “hindsight is 20/20” refers to what we know now that would have been beneficial knowing at a specific moment in the past. Though there is power in learning from our mistakes, our past experiences are also crucial in shaping our future. History has the strange tendency to repeat itself. The experiences and lessons we have gone through are crucial in our decision-making for our future. But how do we go about helping our future selves right now?
During the first week of Freshman Lit in high school, we were tasked with writing a letter to our future self; the four years into the future version of ourselves. We were to include the accomplishments we hoped to achieve, the memories we hoped to have made, and words of encouragement that we thought we would need. After composing the letter, it was put into a white envelope, sealed, and it disappeared. Naturally, with the daily grind, I forgot all about it. After all, out of sight, out of mind, right? I didn’t see that letter nor did it cross my mind until four years later, around the time of graduation. After four years, we were reunited with our letters written by our former, much younger selves.
I am so proud of you. You made it!
As graduation quickly approaches, I applaud your efforts on your scholastic and musical accomplishments. Earning a 4.0 for four years straight has been difficult but now, you can get into any college you want! Graduating from high school is a success story in itself but now you get to share such a story in front of all of your peers at graduation…
The letter was lengthy, and truthfully, filled with much more aspiration that my former self could really accomplish within a span of four years – my goodness, I was quite optimistically ambitious! However, even prior to reading my own words, I was already beyond stressed and burnt out. Interestingly, the letter brought about motivation and encouragement that I desperately craved; desperately required. The words in the letter were proof that Plan A does not always work out. That’s okay. Be proud of yourself anyway because you are still striving for Plan B or C or whichever letter of the alphabet you’re on; you’re still moving forward regardless of speed. Another important aspect of the letter was the undeniable re-focus that it provided to the task at hand.
At times, we get overwhelmed and distracted by matters that surround a situation rather than the situation itself.
Reading my “Dear Future Me” letter brought me back to the task at hand; to the present.
Jon Acuff, the New York Times Bestselling author (and someone I really look up to in the literary realm), mentioned in his book, Quitter, the “magic” of these “Future Me” letters. In fact, Acuff actually mentions an ingenious website that’s all about these kinds of letters (or rather, emails) to our future selves.
It’s called: FutureMe.Org
Check it out! It’s simple and useful. Write advice for yourself, select the month, day, and year you want to send it to the future and voila!
The renowned American inventor and businessman, Thomas Edison once said,
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.
The reality is, we can use our past and our experiences to help us re-focus on the tasks at hand. You know, like your own personal Jiminy Cricket sending you an email – except it’s from you. If history repeats itself and we’re not quite fond of that history, let’s be prepared for when it comes around again. We may not be able to fix the past, but we can surely take steps to becoming someone we’re proud of. Even if that means taking a little bit of advice or encouragement from our former selves.
Never heard of Jon Acuff before? Man, you’re missing out! Check out who he is and what awesome books he’s written here.
Feature photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash
Light Bulb Photo by Anthony Indraus on Unsplash