Saturday, August 29, 2009

Letter from the past

When I was about thirteen I used to gather every week with a small group of girls from my church. We'd meet with two twenty-something women, counselors of the junior high youth group, in one of their homes. I can't really remember if we studied the Bible or what, but I do remember we would talk about anything we pleased, with our counselors contributing a bit of insight and maturity to the conversation.

One night one of the counselors said that she'd been having a bit of a dilemma, a struggle to know God's will, and she had happened to read her old high school diary. There she found a letter to herself. "Dear Brandi," it began, "for the future..." There followed some things her high school self hadn't wanted her future self to forget. It turned out that the issues on her mind back then were the same ones she was dealing with now. Brandi found the advice of her younger self to be exactly what she needed.

I thought that was pretty neat and never forgot it. In fact when I was seventeen I shared the idea with my sister and a good friend of mine, and before long we were sitting down together at a table to write letters ten years into the future. My sister provided blank sheets of paper and pens in rainbow colors, and we got to it, silently scribbling away, switching colors for each new paragraph, saying nothing to each other of what we were writing. When I was done I folded my three pages into one of the origami shapes we girls always used for passing notes at school. On the front I wrote: "To Rachel: Do not open until 2005 (if you can wait that long.)"

Some months ago, as I was clearing out my old desk, I found the folded fourteen-year-old note. I immediately remembered writing it, but couldn't remember a thing I'd said. Eagerly I opened it, expecting to read something like, "Are you married yet?" followed by a list of the qualities expected of my future husband. I thought perhaps I'd have a laugh at my past self's girlishness.

To my surprise the letter was nothing of the kind. It was about something else entirely, a certain moral issue, which happened to be exactly the issue I was currently dealing with. I'd completely forgotten that I had pondered the same problem in high school, but reading what I'd written (and how I went wrong back then) helped me reinforce my intention to get it right this time. Talk about help from an unexpected quarter....

Now if any of that inspires you, check out this site for sending email to your future self. :)


Anonymous said...

Whoa. That's cool.

I found your blog via your comment on "Conversion Diary." I couldn't tell you what your comment even said now, but I thought your icon was so cool I had to check out your blog!

Gary Keith Chesterton said...

You will find that her icon is the just the beginning of her cool. That's our Rachel!

Rachel Gray said...

Aw. :) Thank you, guys!

I love that icon too. It was painted by Chris Buzelli (who's letting me use it) for an article on gene therapy. The girl is levitating a therapeutic virus and more are entering her head. But it sort of looks like she's levitating a sea urchin and has infused knowledge flowing into her brain, and she looks vaguely like me (if I were turned green and Buzelliized), so I really wanted her for my blog.