Last week, I got a letter from my past self. I wrote it the previous year, on August 5th, 2018.
This time last year, I had lived in my new town a mere month. I had no idea what the future would hold, nor what the school year would be like for the boys, nor how working remotely would work out for Mr. ThreeYear.
But I hoped and I wished. Here’s what I wrote:
Dear Future Me,
What a surprise to get my second letter from the past today! This time last year, I had just come back to New Hampshire from South Carolina. I hoped to have spent my entire trip South there this year. It feels almost unbelievable that we’ve actually moved to North Carolina, that we actually live full time in the South now. We reached our goal a full year earlier. We’ve reached so many of our goals. We paid off our debt. My blog has continued to grow. I am a freelance writer. We have an exciting Disney trip coming up next month. We’ve improved our grocery spending.
In some ways, it feels hard to think about next year at this time. When so many goals and plans have come true, where do we go next? I know I’d like to find a way to make money that doesn’t rob my focus on my family. Is that writing full-time? I hope I’ve figured it out by next year, that I’ve taken my time and figured out the right path.
I realize that when you’re reading this, you’ll be forty. I think you’ve done pretty well for yourself. There’s no such thing as a “perfectly balanced life” but you’re really close. You have an amazing husband who loves you, two great kids who are the light of your life, good relationships with your parents and siblings, a good financial situation. You’re healthy and you’re fit. You’re inordinately blessed.
Just as I said this year, I hope you’ve gotten better at counting the blessings. There are so many. I hope you continue to be filled with hope and optimism for the future, that you face life with as bright and sunny a disposition as when you were a child. I hope this year in North Carolina has been good to you, that you’re starting to make friends, that you’re enjoying your neighborhood, that you’ve been able to travel. I hope I’ve remembered to put your health and wellness first, so you can continue to be well.
Happy forty-first year, Laurie.
As I referenced in the letter, I had written myself notes in the future before. I wrote the first one in 2016. Here are some excerpts (with our Blog Names inserted):
I have had a really good summer this year, Future Me. The boys and I spent a solid month in SC with the fam, and Mr. ThreeYear spent 8 days with us at the beach. It was such a great week. We went boating and spent time boogie boarding in the waves, making ice cream in the ice cream maker, crabbing, and eating boiled peanuts.
I haven’t worked at all. Yay. Next year, I’ll be working 6 hours a week at the boys’ school, which hopefully will give me time to rest, think, and start a blog? I hope I will have started a blog by the time you’re reading this. Just jump in and do it!! Right?
I hope I’ll have been able to keep in budget with groceries, which has always been a long-time struggle ($850 a month!?). I hope, most importantly, that the boys, Mr. ThreeYear, and I are enjoying good health, and our extended families, too. I hope we’ve been able to stay in budget so we have extra money so we can bless others (our Chilean family). And travel, to Chile (at the end of the year you’re reading this?) and on a family trip (Disneyworld, Ireland, Hawaii?).
Hope you’re well, that you’re enjoying deeply satisfying relationships, and that you remember to do just ONE thing per day. Keep up the good work, Future Me! I love you!
I did, in fact, start the blog, just after writing that letter to myself. I started it in October, meaning I’m coming up on three years of blogging. And, thanks to said blog, I was able to bring down our grocery spending by an average of over 20% for the 2018 year.
As happens when I reread my goals, I find myself realizing that some goals take longer than a year to accomplish. As I’ve said many times in this space, one year may not be enough time to accomplish something major, but three years is really an ideal timeframe to set, and reach, or almost reach, a challenging life goal.
After all, I didn’t change my grocery spending by August 5th, 2017. It took an additional year of work. We didn’t visit Disney until two years after writing the letter. We didn’t bring my sisters-in-law to visit from Chile until three years after writing that letter.
Change takes time, and persistence. But if the goals you set are goals of the heart, i.e., they align with your deeply held values, and you keep doggedly pursuing them, then you can and will achieve them and change your life. Slowly, but surely.
What did I write in 2017? Here’s an excerpt:
We have plans in place to move to the South in just under two years, when Junior ThreeYear graduates sixth grade. That means, when you’re reading this, you’ll have just under a year left. How does that feel? Have you gotten the house painted? Have you bought the shed?
Wow. I must have felt so overwhelmed at reading that paragraph. Not only did we get the house painted (but not the shed!), we had sold said house, bought a new house, and moved the entire family, a year earlier than I thought.
I suspect you have a trip to Disney World coming up soon, if that worked out. I hope you have an amazing time. Are the kids so tall? Junior ThreeYear is already so tall, and lanky. He’s been so clumsy this summer. Got in a bike accident and skinned his whole left side. Little ThreeYear has been scared of the strangest thing (going upstairs alone, and that the bed will eat him). These are the challenges of childhood.
Yes, I did have a Disney trip coming up, one that took almost a year of planning. And yes, Junior ThreeYear was so tall last year, but now… now he’s almost 5’3″ and soon, I suspect, he’ll be taller than me. Little ThreeYear is still wrestling with his anxiety, and now, as the seasons change, and a new school year’s approaching, he slips into the bed with us each night, because that feels so much safer.
I hope, FutureMe, that I have had the courage to take on some freelance writing work. I’d like to make money at my writing. I hope my blog has continued to slowly grow an audience. I hope we’ve been able to pay off all our debt, and start a taxable account with our extra $1400 per month. And I hope I’ve been grateful this year, and maintained a positive attitude, and cultivated deep friendships.
In 2018, when I read those words, I had, in fact, taken on freelance writing. And now, as I write these words, I have un-taken it on. Last year taught me that I need a nine-to-five. I need a workplace, social interaction, a boss. I’m glad for that hard-won knowledge, and I’m glad I have a Spanish classroom of my own in the coming year.
As for the $1400 per month, we don’t save that much in a taxable account currently, given our new (higher) mortgage, but we’ll be saving quite a bit more than that with my new salary. So, fingers crossed there. I’ve definitely developed new and deeper friendships since moving, and rekindled old ones, and that has been a balm to my soul.
Much love to you, FutureMe. Thank you for all the courageous decisions you’ve made this year, for your love for our family.
I am kind to myself in my letters, and that is always good to read. I’m hard on myself, and others, at times, but I’m glad that I remember to be grateful to myself for the choices I’ve made and the lessons I’m learning.
Life is a journey, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. My past self often has lessons for my future self, surprisingly enough, and I’ve loved reading the words of my heart, a year later, to see how they compare with what I’m feeling today.
I definitely recommend checking out FutureMe. It’s a free service but you can make donations to keep it going if you feel compelled. I don’t know if it’s responsible for me achieving some of my goals, but writing down your dreams is powerful, especially when you’ll read them again in a year or three to see if you’ve had the courage to act on them.