When I was younger there were a lot of things I thought I’d be doing with my life at twenty-two. I once wrote a letter to my future self; at the time I was a mere nine-years old, my first experiences with peer pressure and bullying still fresh and stinging. The friends I’d made early on in elementary school were, like me, showing their true colors. It seemed like everyone was running to someone new, to a cool new candy store on the avenue, to the most popular game on the playground. Though I never witnessed a single game of kickball take place at my school, the most perfect way to describe ages 9-13 of my life is to say that I was the kickball field: I could see everything that was happening, could feel every footfall, and felt strongly that everyone was my friend—but no one knew I was alive.
And so I came up with the letter. One day I looked around at my life, at the few people I could call my friends, and at the handfuls of people who I wished so badly would listen to me when I spoke, and I realized that to them I would always be the girl who was too poor to afford jeans, who was too overweight to be pretty, who stuttered too much to be funny. And little me said, “I need a life plan.”
The letter reads, “Dear me. This is your past self. I hope you are doing well. I hope you are skinny, tall, funny, long hair, famous, talented singer. Love, me.”
Little did I know height would never be a thing I could control. (I’m still thinking about the possible control I have over self fame. After all, the Kardashians, you know?)
Though, while reading this letter I am sure I was trying to communicate with a future version of myself, I’m always struck with a sense of confusion while reading the letter. Which future self exactly was I trying to speak with? And will I ever feel like my future self—or will I always just feel like my present self?
I’m twenty-two, the same weight I’ve been since high school (though a bit taller, and more fairly evened out), with the shortest hair I’ve ever had, and absolutely no singing career—though I do dabble in writing.
I’m not who I wanted to be, whoever it was that my nine-year old world made me dream of becoming. In high school I continued down the path of dorkdom, until one day I emerged into college where I was labeled a freethinker, the epitome of individuality. And I’m not sure if I aged into the World of Cardigans, or if the fashion trends brought on the World of Cardigans, but one day I woke up in the World of Cardigans and in that world I was the coolest of cool (having worked on my cardigan collection since high school).
I’m turning twenty-three in two weeks. I envy anyone who can experience a birthday and not find themselves haunted by all the versions of themselves they’ve left behind or burned through. I envy all the people who don’t have letters from their nine-year old selves requesting popularity or plentiful, flowing locks of hair.
But I also feel a little sad for them. Well, not necessarily for them, but for the old versions of them. For nine-year old them.
I like to think that, though I’m not famous—and though I’m not one of those people who vowed never to sacrifice who they were under peer pressure—that nine-year old me would be proud. I didn’t hold out, wait for the world to turn around for me; I didn’t ask for jeans and Poke’mon cards for Christmas.
But I never stopped being the kickball field, the playground, either. I just invited new people to the game. I invited the people who mattered, the gems I found following whatever path I found myself on, all the people who ever gave me bruises worth bearing—but most importantly, I invited myself to the game. All of myself, all the versions of me—however that sounds, that’s okay.
That’s the point. It’s my game.
And, of course, you can play too, if you like.