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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Letters to Katie

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When I was little, I started writing letters to my future self. I hid them in various places around the house—nestled in the extra rugs and old desks in the basement, tucked behind the books in the bookshelf, scribbled in my diary. I wished that future Katie could write back to me, but I knew that that was too much to hope for.

I think I’ve found all of the letters, though I’ve never gathered them up. I find them again and again, and every time, a new self reads them. I am always touched— and surprised—at what I uncover about my childhood optimism and my childhood insecurity. “Please be kind,” I wrote. “Please pick a good college,” I pleaded. “Please don’t let peer pressure steer you down the wrong path,” I warned, “and don’t have sex.” (Duly noted, little Katie, duly noted.) Another threat: “Don’t be too girly.” Where did I get that from?

As I got older, the letters became more nuanced, and I began to have more faith in the person I would become. A crucial switch: I believed tha tmy future self knew what she needed better than I did. The list of admonishments became shorter, and the list of encouragements became longer: “Stay strong, and know what I love you and trust you to live a good life.”

When I look at old photo albums, I am reminded of all of the people that I could have become. Sometimes who I was back then looks just like who I am now, especially in the eyes and the distinctive nose. Sometimes she looks like someone I barely recognize. In spite of that, there’s still some continuity between my childhood self and my present self, just as there is some continuity between my present self and my future self, but it is hard to quantify in either case. I still have my stuffed monkey named Mooch, and I got him when I was six. That’s proof of something, right?

I’ll hide a letter here, I guess. I still believe in my future self more than I believe in me, but that is as it should be. I’ll tell her not to lose herself, whatever that is, but I’ll also tell her not to be afraid to lose herself so that a new self can rise. And if she thinks I’m talking in sappy riddles, I’ll just laugh and say, “At least I didn’t tell you to write back.”

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