Future Me

Every year I write my future self a letter. When I read it the next year, it reminds me to reflect and to break out of what feels like an endless cycle.

Receiving that letter from myself was one of the most intimidating things I’ve ever experienced. Maybe it was because of the fear that I was happier a year ago or that I would disappoint my younger self. Maybe it was the guilt of not fulfilling the goals I had set for myself, or it could’ve been that this past year had been filled with the most change I had ever experienced.

On Sept. 28 2022, I received an email sent from none other than myself. It was dated from Sept. 28 2021. I had used a program called “FutureMe” — a free way to send a message into the future. The memory of writing it filled my mind, bringing me back to my bedroom at my dad’s house; I sat at my little desk pondering what the universe had planned for me in the next year. I remember writing every question that came to mind, knowing by the time I read it again, I would know all the answers.

By the tone of my letter, I was confident that 2021 Lydia knew there was change coming. She could feel the water retreating and creating the tidal wave. But she had no idea how different everything would look after the wave came crashing down this year.

By the tone of my letter, I was confident that 2021 Lydia knew there was change coming. She could feel the water retreating and creating the tidal wave. But she had no idea how different everything would look after the wave came crashing down this year.”

— Lydia Cocciolone

My first read was hard; I couldn’t see through my tears. I felt overwhelmed with sadness and gratitude for her perseverance.

“I am doing all this for you,” she wrote to me.

Reading this letter from my younger self was a moment of reflection I didn’t know I needed. With so much going on in my world over the past year, my mind had gone into survival mode; I didn’t give myself time to process the change going on around me.

Since I sat down that day to write that letter to my future self, a lot has happened: I got my driver’s license; I learned how to drive stick shift; I became captain of the cross country team; I started my senior year of high school; I went to Italy; I applied to college; my parents split up; I moved houses. I grew up.

My past self couldn’t have prepared me for what was to come even if she tried. And she did try. She wrote to me about everything she was doing for my benefit — she was living for me, her future. She did her best to predict what the next year would hold for my family and for myself.

Unable to see it then, I could see now how painful it was for her to be living a life not for herself, but for me. She was overflowing with desire: to escape the obsession of creating a good life instead of living it. She was blinded by her concern for my well-being rather than her own. She didn’t try to hide anything though; she told me all about her longings.

“I want to curl my eyelashes and pet a sheep and journal until when I look out into the ocean, I can still see the lines of the pages I was writing on,” she wrote.

Despite the oddness in the things she dreamt about, reading it now, I still understand. It’s not about those things in particular, but about her desire for uniqueness in a life that feels like an endless cycle. Even after a year, this line still resonates deep within me.

I discovered FutureMe pre-pandemic during my freshman year at CHS. Since then, I’ve received and sent a virtual letter to myself every year on Sept. 28. When I first came up with the idea to test “time travel” and went searching for a program to fulfill my wishes, I was pleasantly surprised by FutureMe; It can send letters decades into the future or just days for free. This year, I received my third letter.

Personal change can’t be measured with a ruler or a scale — it’s almost impossible to measure at all. Reading my letters from the past few years has given me a new sense of power. It’s not a feeling of control, but a feeling of awareness about the hardships and happy moments I’ve experienced. I’m almost ashamed to say I don’t think I would’ve stopped to reflect if my past self hadn’t intervened, breaking me out of my tunnel vision.

The Lydia that sat down to write that letter reminded me not to forget about her. She reminded me of all the goals and predictions I had for the next year. She reminded me to answer all of her questions.

“Are you able to sit on the roof at Mom’s new house?”

“Yeah, it’s amazing.”

“Have you applied to colleges yet?”

“Yes and I’m still working on more!”

“Do you stay with Dad often?”

“Not that often.”

“Did the XC team make it to states again?”

“Of course.”

“Did you get a tattoo with Mom?”

“Yes, it’s beautiful.”

“I really want to go to Italy one day.”

“Your wish came true this summer! We got to go on the coolest Italy trip ever.”

While my year was far from the expected, I feel immense gratitude for the reminder from myself to step back and admire how far I’ve come. It’s beautiful how the writing sits so patiently for 365 days: waiting for answers; waiting for updates; waiting to be sent; waiting to be read; waiting to deliver the past to the present.