Readers, you have my express permission to skip this one. The title is misleading, this post has nothing to do with hoverboards. So go ahead and skip it.
For my yoga teacher training, I had to write a letter to current myself, from 43-year old self. It wasn’t easy, and it isn’t necessarily something I’ll check back on once I’m a worldly and seasoned 43-year old. But the practice of writing for myself is a revelatory practice, that I’m happy to try out once in awhile! To my lovely two followers: I didn’t know where else to post this letter to ensure the best chance that it’s around in twenty years. It’s scary to overshare like this on the internet!
Dear Alexis at 23,
What is it that you want? What are you willing to do to get there?
While your life must necessarily be a mystery to you in order for everything to turn out as it will, there are still a number of things I have dreamt of imparting on my younger self. There are big things ahead for you, some will be obvious, some disguised as small things whose significance can only be appreciated from a great long distance.
First, a quick update for your incurably curious brain. We are doing great in the big ways. Always there will be small disturbances to the balance of your life, but you are grounded in your relationship with yourself, after decades of disordered thinking and self-blame. You’ve made intentional strides toward adopting the pliable nature of unshakably content women. I’d say, at 43 we’re soundly halfway there 🙂
Here’s where you stand, from “my” perspective twenty years from now:
You’re still figuring out what’s most important to you. What success is. You have a cloudy idea of what you want your life to look like, but need a bit more confidence before you can start making steps in that direction. Right now, you know that being independent is important. That you want to make enough to comfortably support yourself and maybe a kid one day. You want to find a career that completes you but doesn’t try to eclipse you (basically, a career like Dad’s!).
You want relationships to be the star of your life. You want to find a career (and a couple relationships, actually) that spark your passion, but right now you’re scared of the uncontrollable commitment that comes from engaging with something (or someone) completely. You’re scared of the momentum that passion creates, because you surrender control when you admit to yourself that you’re passionate about something. It’s like how you feel with David right now: You love him, and passionately desire to make a life with him, but to dwell on that desire, to sit with it in complete honesty: it’s dangerous! It opens up the possibility of wanting something I have no control over and (at least at the present moment) that I might never get. Once you admit that you want something or love something passionately, it’s so much harder to switch tracks should that thing not work out! But I’m telling you that passion pays off, even when it leads to deep pain at times; it also leads to the deepest elation of your life. Because of the emotionally cautious person you are, embracing passion requires major courage and the maturity to see beyond the joy it can bring long term. Once you are able to glimpse the great joy that comes with delayed gratification… and couple it with the hardest work of your life, you can quit digging your heels in so damn much!
In twenty years, you will be 43 years old. Where will you be? What will fall away along the way, and what will emerge? At 43, you want to have a small family. You want good relationships with your parents, whom you are just learning to love as they deserve to be loved (that teenage angst was rough on you!). You want a balanced life with a rewarding career and family life. You will need love and supportive relationships. You will need spiritual growth (but don’t worry about that one too much because it can’t be rushed anyway!) You want physical health (Crohn’s will not win. But you will have to prove you are a serious opponent) and I want to assure you that so long as you act intentionally, you are likely to find health.
My last and perhaps most actionable advice is to stop giving up on things when the going gets rough or you’re bored or something else catches your eye. Do not quit yoga when your body hurts. Do not quit trying to get into a doctorate program when it feels like an uphill battle toward another battle. Do not give up on relationships that become temporarily inconvenient. Do not give up. Your persistence in the pursuit of what you think is worthwhile (at times mistaken for obstinance) is part of what makes you who you are. Kapka told mom that, somehow, you always get what you want. And she was right– because you know when to keep trying and when to change what you want! The point is: Consistency in the face of adversity is when you get the opportunity to earn your stripes.
Your favorite poem at 23 (and a fervent reminder):
God has pity on kindergarten children,
He pities school children — less.
And adults he pities not at all.
He abandons them,
And sometimes they have to crawl on all fours
In the scorching sand
To reach the first aid station,
Covered in blood.
He will have pity on true lovers
And take care of them
And shade them
Like a tree over the old man sleeping on the public bench.
Perhaps even we will spend on them
Our last coins of compassion
the we inherited from Mother,
So that their own happiness will protect us
Now and in other days.
Sending love from across the universe,
P.S. you have a hoverboard!