A letter to my present self | This is not the end

by You Have My Word

Dear present, slightly self-absorbed self,

As you are right now, reading this, you are as far along in the story as you’ll ever know right now. You made it through yesterday, you are in today and there’s no way you can see tomorrow yet. Be present. This is not the end.

Don’t always try and rush your way to the end. I heard a story just the other day, of a widower: he moved out of his big house into a smaller establishment closer to the city. A few days later, his son received a call telling him that he’d forgotten his mom (even though it was his father who had lived there). Naturally he was rather perplexed as she had died more than a year before that, only to find, upon asking his father about it, that his father had forgotten his wife’s ashes in the pantry. The new house occupants were relatively unimpressed – the remains of a person among the cornflakes and the beans – imagine!

Truth is: you never know where you’re going to end up. If you’re anything like that poor woman you’ll be cooped up in a little jar in a stranger’s pantry – deserted. If that is the case then you sure as hell don’t want to be rushing along to get there.

Be patient always.

You need to learn to slow down. You need to learn to call it a day when the day is done – insisting on going to bed last just because you don’t want to miss anything is impractical. You’ll tire quickly if you force how far you can actually go, and tired people are draining to be around. Don’t try and convince yourself that less sleep means less stress because you have more time to get things under control – that’s nonsense. Less sleep will ultimately mean more stress – test it, you’ll see.

Speaking of stress, imagine being the president. Aside from the fact that you’d have to significantly alter a number of physical character-traits, I think it must be quite terrifying – not only are you responsible for yourself (which in itself is enough of a plight), but you are obligated to make decisions for an entire country! Millions of people – each one looking to you for profound direction and guidance – stress!  Stop moaning about being overworked and underpaid – you have no idea what that actually means. Stop sweating the small things – your situation could be worse, but it’s not. In the words of Shane Koyczan, “There will be bad days; be calm.” Sometimes that’s enough.

Tweet less; talk to people more.

Love. Look around, allow your heart to break and love. Lose faith and then start again. Stop trying so hard to save face. Love with a fury that can’t be tamed. Love with a vengeance that can’t be named. Love with a force that will leave lives changed. Love big, love high, love deep. Love without restrain. Love like a steam-rolling, won’t-stop-for-anything-so-get-out-the-way train.

Love without second-guessing, thinking twice or looking back. Love to heal. Love to sympathise. Love with open arms, ready ears and gentle eyes. Love out judgement. Love out the unfair. Love out the pity. Love out the despair. Love like an atomic bomb that will obliterate the hate with this four-letter word. Love through the shrapnel and the unjust. Love through the hurt, and the tears and the slowly settling dust.

Remember that time you nearly knocked yourself out when you tried to throw the javelin and it whacked you on the back of your head? Also that day you used pro inline skates the first time you tried to roller blade and went home with enough scrapes and bruises to look like you’d come off a battlefield? Remember that friend’s birthday party where you snapped that thick log of a branch and nearly crashed onto the jungle gym below because you wanted to bounce the highest? Or that time you thought you smashed your hip when you came off your skateboard from six feet just because you wanted to prove to the boys you could do what they did? Idiot! It’s a wonder you don’t froth at the mouth when you play card games. Competitiveness is not attractive when it causes you to compromise your character… or when it causes you to face-plant. Give your all and be the best at what you’re passionate about, just not at the expense of others. Don’t quit until you reach the goals you set for yourself, unless it means you have to quit on people and leave them behind to get there.

Too often you have underestimated the value and blessing of family. Part of the teenage years’ contract includes “bitch about parents on an on-going basis”, but now that you’re past that take the time to show them and tell them how much they’re really appreciated. Make time to see extended family even if it cuts into your work schedule – if not for the pleasure of their company, at least for the peppermint crisp tart (because let’s face it, your life is changed a little bit every time you eat it). The twins – your siblings – you once wanted to throw over the fence as a young child, they’ve become human since they left school – don’t lose touch with them. (Only ET was ever able to call home.) Tell your friends you love them – in person – and be honest about when you don’t feel loved. Fight to keep the relationships that matter most to you.

Let’s get practical for a second: call your mother (seriously). Also, exercise – if you’re going to be old (because chronology demands it), at least that way you won’t be fat. Get onto it! There will be no sagging or bulging! Get off your ass and learn to dance sometime too – stop talking about how much you’d love to be able to tango and go for lessons or do something useful about rectifying the two-left-feet-and-shitty-rhythm situation. More importantly than any of that: it’s ridiculous that you’re into your third decade and have still not crossed into, or even come close to visiting, Cape Town – sies! How do you expect to see the world when you can’t even flit about your homeland?

Before you go any further, there’s something you should know. Contrary to popular belief, Curiosity never actually killed a cat. Don’t be alarmed by the fact that you have more questions than answers – this will always be the case. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll give your mind a chance to be inquisitive. Ask questions, seek, explore, let the thirst for knowledge quench your ambition but never allow knowledge to ignite apathy – press on. This is particularly important when you ask questions about God. Where do you go if you commit suicide? What’s the deal with homosexuals and heaven? Why did God give us free will if He already knows who’s going to choose Him? I say this cautiously: don’t lose the simplicity of the message of Jesus’ love for a broken world amidst the complexity of theories and theologies. This is not to say that you shouldn’t pursue an answer driven by the discernment of the Holy Spirit, but make people a priority whether you ever reach a conclusion or not. God’s heart is for people, yours should be too. Questions like that are important, but not when compared to the explicit command to love God and love others.

Make sure you don’t forget the victories, even the small ones. We wrestled and worked in groans and grace, don’t take it for granted. Don’t stop thanking God for his merciful protection through the years. Don’t stop sharing how God’s truth cut into your story. Do not be afraid.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.
Oh, what a fore taste – glory divine.
Heir of Salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

I hope you never lose sight of where you’re going, even if it’s just the next step. Be a better girlfriend every day, with every chance you get – the past does not dictate how you move forward. If you ever stop picking up your guitar I’m going to kick your butt so hard you’ll wish you’d been born without one despite the inconveniences that may have caused – music is the life blood through the veins of your otherwise relatively mundane brain. Read Lord of the Flies. Avoid bananas at all costs.

Find who you are in every moment and be true. Find who you are among these pages; find who you are when you turn out the lights.

As you begin each new chapter of your life, tell yourself that you can do it. Acknowledge when it is hard but know that there are legends that have gone before you, those who have walked the very paths you’re trying to batter through, victors who have stood with their fists raised to the sky and stakes in the ground because they marched relentlessly. You’ll be OK. In fact, you’ll be wonderful.

You are wonderful.

You are strong.

You are you, and that is more than enough.

Shae

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Click these links to read my previous letters:

A letter to my five-year-old self | Sunshine

A letter to my fifteen-year-old self | Are you freakin’ kidding me?

A letter to my twenty-five-year-old self | Do not be afraid

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