Issue 63: A letter to your future self
On January 11, 2022, I wrote a letter to my future self, to be opened a year later. This was part of a letter writing gathering run by Catherine LaSota, founder of The Resort, to set our writing intentions. Well, reader, I finally opened that letter this month.
My partner asked me how it felt to read it, especially knowing that it was me giving advice to myself. (Am I the drama?) It was a combination of amusement, regret, sympathy, pride, gratitude, and disappointment. I realized these were the same emotions that I experience when I read old journal entries. You see how your life has changed since writing it, where it matches your hopes and where it does not. Letter writing lays it out in a much more direct way. You don’t have to look back on journals, but a letter demands to be read.
One thing that stood out to me was how often I had written the words, “I hope.”
I hope, I hope, I hope.
I think this is, in part, because I was intentionally more general with my letter. I did not list concrete things I expected myself to complete, rather I focused on certain subjects and behaviors I wanted to improve upon. At the same time, I can’t help but let go of the word “hope.” Not just desire, but a degree of trust in my (future) self.
Areas I made strides in this past year: seeking purposeful community and connection, being more open about sharing work in progress. Areas I still need to improve upon: easing up on the self-induced pressure, be gentle with myself, and really celebrate accomplishments big and small. The major threads I noticed in my letter were the importance of patience, consistency, and (providing and receiving) support.
I wrote holistically about my conception of a writer, about preserving my innate motivations for writing and encouraging myself to unabashedly embrace my obsessions. The letter gave me permission to say things I normally wouldn’t say out loud. That not only included more difficult things, like envy or professional jealousy, but also things I don’t often give myself enough credit for, like balancing a full-time job with writing. I chuckled at my own self-awareness. I’d written, “You’re also extremely hard on yourself. I hope we’ve gotten a bit better about this by the time you read this.” (@ me, from me)
Writing letters to yourself is not a particularly new concept. It helps with self-reflection, serves as a reminder to keep the goals that matter to you front and center, and helps you acknowledge your growth. But what I find particularly useful about reading this letter at this moment is how it intersects with Layoff Brain and how it can help us break out of sick systems. When you are inundated by precarity, crises, and exhaustion, it’s difficult to get distance and perspective.
Of course, the solutions to systemic problems like mass layoffs, recessions, and toxic work culture are not individual. But it can be very easy to get stuck treading water or wading in uncertainty for so long that you have no shore to swim to. Whether it’s letter writing, journaling, or talking with a trusted friend, it’s useful to pause, reflect, and reorient.
If you were to write a letter to your future self, what are your intentions? What are your hopes, your needs? What types of care and communities are you seeking out? Don’t be afraid to get too sentimental. This is for your eyes only!
I’ll leave you with my cheesiest hope—for myself and for you: I hope you can find a way to focus on yourself and not compare yourself to others. No one can do what you do. No one can write what you write.
- Join Literary Cleveland’s virtual online Flash Fiction Festival from February 19-25! You can register for one-, two-, or three-event passes, or a full festival pass.
- 18 Free or Low-Cost Writing Residencies to Apply for in 2023
- J.T. Bushnell on rethinking writer’s block: “Around and around I go, eluding the block—not by performing metacognition but by avoiding it. At every stage, my only goal is to find behavior that downgrades and informalizes the writing, which helps strip away my expectations, wrench my attention from the future product, and embed me in the imaginative process. The heaviness lifts, and my mind opens.”
- Kundiman is hosting publishing panels for Asian American writers—the second installment will be this Saturday, January 28, with a moderated conversation and audience Q&A among acquisitions editors.
- Hannah Bae is teaching a creative nonfiction class with Kweli Journal for BIPOC writers of all levels. Hannah is an incredible writer and I highly recommend enrolling if you’re interested in personal essays, memoir, cultural criticism, or other hybrid forms.
- My friend Eshani Surya wrote a great retrospective of a short story in Moot Point that my Kenyon Workshop cohort and I collaborated on! Our story is delightfully absurd and it was such a joy to write, I hope you’ll check it out alongside Eshani’s newsletter.
Recent reads & other media
I completed my ninth year reading 52 books! In addition to my 2022 reading reflection, here are some of my favorite reads, loosely modeled after Roxane Gay’s year in reading. You can find a full list of these books on my Bookshop!
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
A rip roaring academic satire and “coming of consciousness”
Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou
Most highlighted and underlined craft book
Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses
Feels like you’re on the hellsite but takes you to deeper places
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Favorite romance novel
A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore
Incredible climate change novels set in California
Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, Something New Under the Sun by Alexandra Kleeman
Best self-help/productivity book that actually embraces finitude
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
A deep dive (sorry) into ocean creatures, adaptation, gender, sexuality, and relationships
How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler
Best novel about interiority and the possibilities of language
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura
A memoir that you should definitely listen to the audiobook for
What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo
In movies, I rewatched Everything Everywhere All At Once with my family (hyped for their Oscar noms!). I also saw Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (twice lol) and it’s great. I thought it was going to be fun but frivolous like Minions 2, but it’s actually about chosen family and how to live a meaningful life. Hanif Abdurraqib sums it up well!
When I’m not watching Puss in Boots, I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing after finally getting a Switch. I caught a pond smelt! Whoever smelt it, dealt it!
Note: Book links are connected to my Bookshop affiliate page. If you purchase a book from there, you'll be supporting my work and local independent bookstores!
~ meme myself and i ~
Dogs whenever you give them a treat. What it would take for me to join a cult. The fish in Dubai when they heard Beyoncé singing. How every conversation goes when you meet someone new. Places this cat sploots on. Happy Year of the Rabbit!