Failing to catch me at first, keep encouraged,
Missing me one place, search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
— from “Song of Myself,” by Walt Whitman
Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Author: Jenny Blake)
Ok, I don’t get the first part – how can my 5-years-from-now self give my current self advice on the upcoming year? That’s just dumb. We’re skipping that. Let’s move on to the second part.
Ten years ago, I was 23, about to turn 24. I was living in Richmond with Aimee and had just started working in customer service for a big-ass company after a failed stint as a case worker in Baltimore after college (failed because I couldn’t live on that salary – $10.28/hour with no benefits – once my roommate moved out, so I had to quit and come home) and a final summer at the amusement park. Here’s what I’d tell her:
Dear 23-year-old Melanie,
A lot changes in 10 years. There’s so much you can’t see right now. Right now, you don’t know that this job becomes unbearably tedious because it hardly makes use of your skills. It ends up making you angry more days than not, yet you stick with it because you’re not sure what else you want to do. But for now, you love it and the people you meet. Try to hold on to that feeling; don’t focus on the negative so much. Eventually, you’ll have to leave the job and the people, and not by choice. It ends up for the best, job-wise, but you might try a little better to hold on to the people. Karen’s still here, thank goodness, but you’ll really miss Sandy once you lose touch with her.
Right now, you don’t know that in about 18 months, your world is going to get turned upside down. You’re going to wake up without sound one day. It’s going to be terrifying, heartbreaking, soul-crushing. You’re going to be angry a lot and for a long time. That’s ok. You’re going to think that life is over, that maybe your life should be over. That’s ok, too. But I’m here to tell you, the world does not end. You are stronger than you think, and you have amazing people around you who will lift you up when you think you can’t go on one more day. You will learn who your true friends are and be surprised and hurt at who doesn’t make the cut. You will learn first hand that every person in your family, and your closest friends, will drop everything and come to your rescue when you are drowning. Eventually, you will see that the world is still good and know that you still want to be a part of it. Take as much time as you need.
You’re going to be a lawyer. Can you believe that? After all the lawyers in your family, and all the lawyer jokes your friends told, and after thinking the law would never be for you, it turns out that it is. Don’t be afraid to go to school so far from home. It’s ok to be nervous – law school is hard – but you are destined for the top of the class. First year, though, don’t be fooled by your roommate – she’s crazy, and she is not your friend.
Oh, and right now? Right now, you still think J is the end-all be-all when it comes to love. But I’m going to tell you a secret: he is not for you. You are not going to end up together, no matter how many sappy stories you write, or how many times you try to make yourself into what you think he wants. He is in love with someone else, and he’s going to marry her. And that’s a good thing. She’s lovely, and he is very happy. You just sit tight, though, and when the moment is exactly right, when you are ready to do the work that comes as part of a real, true, grown-up relationship, the right guy is going to walk into the Metro station just moments after you. You’ll know him already, but be careful you don’t pass him by.