Four years ago, I started high school plagued with questions. I questioned whether I was good at anything and the like. Even today I still don’t have the answers to them. In retrospect, I truly was a bit of an idiot in freshman year. I was terrified of failing to meet everyone’s expectations and my own expectations. I restricted how I acted, what I said and I tried my hardest to uphold the image of being a perfect daughter. A single misstep and it felt like the ground beneath me would give way (wow, how unstereotypical of a teen thing to say).
I began to get so caught up with keeping up appearances that I gradually lost sight of what I wanted to do and why I was trying so hard to pursue something I could never see. I couldn’t remember how I used to act around people, much less what I wanted to do with my life. While I was able to make friends and even still have friends, I started doubting myself as to whether I was being my genuine self around them or if I was subconsciously censoring myself. Around that time, I was, quite frankly, lost — I couldn’t tell how much of who I was at that point, what was mine, and how much was fabricated and modified to meet others’ expectations. I couldn’t recall as to whether the reason why I wanted to write was because I enjoyed it or because my parents told me I was good at it.
I was cleaning up my room around junior year when I found an old letter I’d written to myself when I was 12 years old. It was less of a letter and more like an interrogation of my future self. Yet despite how childish it was, it reminded me that at that age I was also full with questions that I couldn’t answer. Even though it was just the ramblings of my younger self, reading it reminded me of countless dreams I’d casted away in the pursuit of maintaining the image of a perfect daughter. The letter, aside from its nonsensical questions, had asked me if I was an author or a teacher, both of which were dreams I’d once held and long forgotten.
When reading my past self’s letter, I also realized that I’d always be full of questions. I had questions then and I have just as many now, and that’s all right. I was obsessed with trying to find answers to all my fears, but a single letter was enough to start melting those thoughts away. Since then, I began writing letters every year to remind my future self to breathe. Through writing them, I was also able to reassess myself, who I was and who I had become. While I couldn’t fulfill all of my past selves’ hopes nor positively answer all my past selves’ questions, I didn’t feel regretful or lost anymore.
I still question myself and the world around me, but these questions no longer feel so daunting. I don’t feel as pressured to answer them nor am I desperately searching for an answer to who I’ll be or how genuine I am. The truth is, I don’t know any of the answers, and as scary as that may initially seem, there’s something comforting in knowing that despite all that I’ll be alright.
I don’t know what tomorrow will be like. I don’t know who I’ll be ten years from now. I don’t know if the few friends I cherish now will still be beside me. I don’t know if I will be able to cling onto the dream of being a photojournalist that I hold now. Yet despite all that, while I cannot say I don’t have moments of fear and doubt, when I read the letters of my past selves, I’m not scared anymore. My fears fade away like a hazy figure in the corner of my eye and I’m left knowing that somehow, somewhere, I’ll be alright.
If there’s anything to glean from this or what I would’ve told my past self it’d be this:
Don’t over complicate who you are to the point where you lose sight of what you want to do and who you want to be. That seems like a given but evidently it took me two years and a letter from the past for me to realize that. Don’t be afraid of questions without answers or try to grow up faster. Enjoy the time you have now, as you are, and maybe write a letter or two to your future self and see how much you’ve changed. Whatever it may be, the future’s not ours to see.