To the Me I Was Before

 

Dear Me (circ. 2018),

Holy [expletive redacted] it has been A Year. (Note the capital-A capital-Y, because that’s intentional, buddy. Yep. It hasn’t just been a year. It’s been A Year.)

By now you’re probably wondering, “hey! Wait, supposed future version of myself, if you’re really me, how’d you send this letter back in time?!” And the answer is, I don’t know yet. Maybe me (circ. 2020+) figures out time travel? If you figure out how you got this letter, write back and let me know. I figure it’ll be easier to send a reply forward in time than vice-versa.

Anyway, it has been A Year.

Assuming I - or, I guess assuming me (circ. 2020+) - sent this back to about the right time, it should early 2018 for you right now. And let’s be real: early 2018 was rough for us. Severe stress breakdowns, existential crisis, the works. We didn’t know what we wanted, but we knew that it couldn’t be where we were then. If we stayed there, one way or another, it was going to kill us.

(Yeah, your flair for drama hasn’t changed. Not yet, at least. But for real, early 2018 was… not good for us.)

Again, assuming this was timed out properly, you’re thinking about going back to school, right? Maybe you already took the Cal Lutheran tour. (It’s pretty nice, right? Not as big a school as we thought, which is ideal.) Heck, maybe you even applied already. Or maybe you’ve already gotten to the scary part: turning in your notice. (If you haven’t gotten to that yet - don’t worry, it goes pretty well, especially given how nervous we were.)

But the point is, you’re about to take a big scary leap from full-time, stable employment to, horror of horrors, college part two. Seriously, didn’t we learn from our suffering the first time?! We’ve had nightmares about going back to college, it was so awful. Are we really so desperate to get out of the frying pan that we’ll douse ourselves in oil and swan-dive into the fire?

Well, I’m here with good news. It worked out, somehow.

School’s pretty good, actually. We’re two semesters in, now, and we’ve got two more to go before we graduate. Our classmates are nice. So are the teachers. Everything just seems so… legitimate, compared to before. People actually want to learn, want to teach, want us to succeed. And get this: we are!! Succeeding, that is. Even with the hard stuff, the stuff you actually have to study (and yeah, we’re not much better at that yet, but we’re still working on it).

We ended up taking a geology class, since we needed two science courses to graduate. (And how ‘bout that! A college with actual academic requirements! No more “math is an elective and our only science is a horticulture class taught by someone with no degree” here!) It ended up being super neat - really neat, actually. “We decided to minor in geology”-level neat. Oh, and that’s the other thing - we changed our major. There wasn’t enough fun wiggle-room for interesting classes with just “art”, so we made a whole crazy interdisciplinary thing where we had to construct our own graduation requirements and chase down professors and department heads for like a month. It was wild. But now, you (circ. 2019) is now officially an Art and Creative Media major with a Geology minor.

Okay, you’re probably thinking: what the [expletive redacted] are we supposed to do with that degree? Well, to answer that I’ve got some more good news! We finally figured out what we want to do for a career. And yeah, yeah, I can already hear you saying, “oh, like when we decided we’d be designers, or that other time where we decided we’d be journalists, or-” Shh. No. Listen. It’s different now, I swear.

We got a new job working at an art gallery, and fam? It’s actually awesome. It’s the first time in a long, long time we’ve had a job we completely, entirely, no-strings-attached love. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work, but it just feels… right, you know? It’s like every odd job and discordant talent throughout our entire lives, secretly, it was all just getting us ready for this. We belong in a museum, and for once, that’s not a comment on how we always seem to like things no less than 5 years out of date. (Oh, speaking of that: you finally watched Pacific Rim, and it’s awesome, and we’ve written a non-zero amount of fanfiction for it. People are into it.)

And, hey, you know what some of the things people put in museums are? Art, yeah, but also cool rocks, and dinosaurs and junk. So really, the art-geology wombo combo is perfect for the future. (And we decided on the minor before the museum thing, so like, dang. Fate at it again.)

Gosh, what else can I tell you about… well, you (circ. 2019)?

Well, we’re still writing, for one. That’s big. We’re writing, and we’re writing all kinds of different things, and we haven’t stopped writing, and somehow people actually think we’re good at writing, which is wild? Our friends want to read our stuff. They recommend it, unprompted, to other people. We took a screenwriting class and worked on something for a comic, and our professor wants us to approach it like a legitimate pilot script because he thinks it’s good enough to be a legitimate pilot script. Mads found all our The Adventure Zone stuff and loved it even before she realized it was us, and she still prods at us sometimes to finish that one. (You know the one. Yeah, we still haven’t finished it. Yes, I know.)

What else, what else. Um, I guess not everything’s sunshine and roses, but what else is new, right? We miss our friends. We’re not doing so hot, money-wise. (We’re actually doing, uh, a lot worse, money-wise, but it stings less with the rest of life going kind of okay.) We’re still going to therapy, and it’s still helping. The anxiety’s better. The depression’s way better. Our head’s still fuzzy and we can’t concentrate half the time and keeping a to-do list still feels like juggling a bunch of eggs while sliding around on a single roller skate over a lava pit, but we’re working on it, which I think is the important thing. We have asthma, it turns out, which explains why our stupid soft body is so weak. We went to the Grand Canyon and hiked into it, even though we have asthma and a phobia of heights. We talk more in classes. People seem to like us. Oh, and we changed our hair again. It’s like a gradient blue now, and the undercut’s shorter than ever, which is a blessing.

Why am I sending you this letter?

Well, that’s the sad part, I guess. And I only realized it recently, and I had a lot of mixed feelings about it, and I thought maybe writing to you would help.

Recently, I think I stopped being you.

It’s happened before. You know that. Looking back on old photographs, or remembering high school, or our first go at college, and some little part of our brain just goes, who is that? Something changes, or a lot of things change, and suddenly us starts to turn into me and you. That weird little detachment where we know, logically, that it’s us, that they’ve all been us and they’ll always be us, but there’s a distance that wasn’t there before. Sifting through memories and feeling more like they were stories someone else told us. An outsider looking in. An outsider with really good seats and a pretty insightful understanding of what was happening, but still an outsider.

You were the first one to step back and really notice it was happening. The detachment, that is. Which I think is why I feel so sad that it’s happened to you now, too.

I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to leave you behind like this. And frankly, I don’t think it’s fair, that you worked so hard and pulled yourself up out of the dirt (or, I guess pulled yourself up into the dirt, because of the geology thing), but it’s me, the different me, the me (circ. 2019) who gets to reap the rewards while you (circ. 2018) get left behind. If I could, I would stop it. I would keep you and we wouldn’t become me and you, we’d just keep being us.

But I don’t know how to stop it. Neither of us do. And I’m really, really sorry.

Do you think it’s going to keep happening like this? That in another year, I’ll join you and all the other old me’s in being detached and different and not-quite-me? Do you think this happens to other people? Do you think we’ll ever finally figure out a way to make it stop?

Do you think we should want it to stop?

...I will say this much, though: this is the first time in a really long time that it happened because things got better. And again, that does partially make it more sad - you struggled through so much and worked so hard, you should get to experience the good parts yourself - but I’m so glad things got better. It’s still a long, long road ahead, and a lot of things are still pretty [multiple expletives redacted], but holy [expletive redacted], it finally got even just a little bit better. I hope that doesn’t stop. I hope it keeps getting better, even if it’s just a teeny tiny little bit at a time.

I hope when I do become different and stop being me and join the rest of you guys, it’s because things kept getting better.

Well. Guess I’ll see you in a year.

Yours,

You (circ. 2019)

Illustrations courtesy of author.