Letters from the Past; Letters to the Future

If it’s possible to be nostalgic for the future, as a teenager, I managed it.

For about five years, on December 31st, I would round up the four or five closest people in my life and force them (on more than one occasion threaten them) to pen an epistle to their future selves. Each year the “To be Opened” date was randomly selected. I think the first time around was when I was 16. Patience wasn’t a strong virtue of mine then (nor is it one I champion now), so I think we wrote to two years into the future. The next time around was maybe three. And so on.

The first group to be strong-armed into this included my brother, best friend, girlfriend, girlfriend’s cousin (my neighbor), and girlfriend’s cousin’s boyfriend. And me.

Madly in love with my girlfriend, I wrote largely about her. I threw in some obligatory concessions to family and friends, but mostly, it was to her. I don’t know what the others wrote about because I delivered their letters to them without prying.

The deal was that they’d write the letters and I’d seal them in envelopes and make sure they got them at the appointed time. Because we had planned to write them each year, burying them like time capsules didn’t seem practical. Instead, I placed them (alongside other childhood treasures like cards, middle school notes, an old pocket knife, and oddly enough, those Jaw-Dropper Magic infomercial VHS tapes) in an army tin and slid the thing under my bed.

True to my word, I never looked at the letters and I got them to their writers each time. Even after I broke up with the girl I had written about, I got her letter to her (and her cousin with whom I was not on speaking terms). The years went by a few more times, and the letter writing continued. The group changed, with a few of us staying and others going. In 2010 I got a group together for the last time and we wrote letters.

The group consisted of my best friend, mother, brother-in-law, my wife, and me.

I just found these letters today, lying at the bottom of the tin, under the Jaw-Dropper videos. They were to be opened on January First, 2013. That didn’t happen because I was in China.

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Considering the changes that have taken place in all of our lives since their writing, these letters make me apprehensive. I’m no longer married, I’ve been out of the country for more than two years, and I haven’t seen my best friend yet since I’ve been home for a little more than a week. The rest of the group had a crazy last couple of years, too, so as I stare at the envelopes setting atop the desk I used to complete homework on in high school, I’m hesitant to read mine. I have no clue how to get the letters to the two others that I don’t see, and I’m not sure if my friend even wants his. I can hand my mother’s to her, but then what about mine?

In 2010 I had a life trajectory that I could see ahead into for years. By the end of 2013 that path has been demolished and built over so that now, I’ve got visibility for about a few months out or so. Not only is it a new path, it’s a route that wasn’t even on the damn map before.

As I wrote before: I count myself among the truly blessed to be living the life I want to be living. Even if it comes to an end sooner than I want, I have been able to lead the very life I have always wanted to lead. How many people can say that?

That being sad, there have been plenty of mistakes on my part. I’ve hurt people, and I’ve let others down. I’ve gone through pain and no small amount of stress due to the things I’ve done or haven’t done right.

And every time my eye catches the corner of the envelope hanging half off the desk, I’m reminded of these failures. I truly have no idea what I wrote about, but one thing is certain: I had no way of knowing the Jordan who would be reading the words written.

On this day, though, as is the heart of the holiday, I’m looking ahead as well as at what is in my past. I will read the letter, and I will let the words do whatever they plan to do, but then I will fold up the paper, tuck it back into the envelope, and put it back in the tin where it will stay. The tin will get slid back under the bed that is no longer mine, and I will go about my life.

I’ve got so much yet to learn from life that I can’t be consumed by the lessons of yesterday. Forgetting them would be equally foolish, but then again, I’ve never been one to let go of the past anyways. Instead, I’ll learn from the experiences and just simply let go of the baggage. I recently read a fantastic quote on a friend’s Facebook.

“Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.” — Aldous Huxley

This is my motto for the coming year. Just decided it, and I feel good about the decision.

Where ever you are and whoever you’re with, take your experiences and do something crazy. Learn, Love, and Live in 2014!

*And because I won’t be able to get the song out of my head until Chinese Spring Festival, here’s a classic.*

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give me a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

Robert Burns.

English Version.

The only difference between this picture and most Chinese cities: Confetti. I should totally buy some when I get back and just start launching confetti into crowds and taking pictures. Yeah, that'll work.
The only difference between this picture and most Chinese cities: Confetti. I should totally buy some when I get back and just start launching confetti into crowds and taking pictures. Yeah, that’ll work.

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