When I was an awkward eighth grader preparing to leave middle school, our English teacher asked us to write letters to ourselves describing how we thought the coming year would go. “Think about the changes you’ll experience,” he said. “Write some advice you think your future self will need to hear.”
I was 13. Though ninth grade would definitely prove difficult, I wasn’t prepared for how the change of schools and loss of friends would manifest itself in the years to follow. I’m glad I didn’t know, of course; knowing something difficult is hovering just above you, ready to tear up your world, doesn’t make the transition easier.
The letters we wrote in eighth grade were mailed to us at the end of the following school year. I don’t remember what I said exactly. Ever the deep and melancholy teen, I’m sure it was something about how time marches forward and we must go with it. My mom had a favorite quote, even back then: “Give new situations a chance to turn out well.” I was nervous about high school, that’s for sure, but prepared to embrace the bonfire.
I just found a modern extension of that project — and it comes at the right time. I’m not one to really make New Year’s resolutions. Vowing to do something tends to have just the opposite result; the more I pledge to take some action, like writing more or going to the gym, the less I actually want to do it. And then the guilt follows, reducing me to an anxious mess.
So I’ve stopped making “pledges” — to myself or otherwise — and choose instead to be mindful of the things about myself I don’t like. Lack of patience, for one. Tendency to get overly emotional or dramatic. My desire to procrastinate at work and get in over my head on projects. All things I would like to change.
But there’s plenty I like about me, too, and that’s what I try to focus on. I put them all in a love letter . . . to myself. I found the World Needs More Love Letters project before Christmas and immediately jotted words of comfort to folks who could use them at the holidays. And now the site is asking for love letters as part of their time capsule project.
“Throughout the month of January, MoreLoveLetters.com is collecting love letters through the PO BOX for the first ever New Year’s Love Letter Capsule,” they write. “We are giving you the entire month to find that time to sit down with your best stationery (because you deserve it!) and script a love letter for yourself. What do you want to accomplish in 2012? What are your goals? Who do you want to treat better? Write a love letter that will last longer than the typical New Year’s resolution.”
I want to be mindful of change, I thought. Of how I know life will morph and shape into something new this year, and everything might not feel good. There will be challenges. Plans might change. My ability to be happy will depend on whether I can roll with these things and embrace them, even when they’re hard.
Write a love letter to yourself, too. Visit the site for their address. Like my eighth grade teacher, the More Love Letters team will mail your note back to you next year. You can be serious or silly, pensive or funny — it’s all up to you. Just include your address and a stamp so you can recognize your own handwriting next January.
Embrace the bonfire, I wrote again. Embrace it. Step forward and embrace it.