Letter to the 2016 version of me:
How many days were just stepping stones to you? You traded hours like tokens at the arcade, thinking this accomplishing this goal or checking this box would make you happy. Did you think you’d feel fulfilled after you had this title or that money?
This is Matthew from 2021. It didn’t work.
How many times did you put yourself last? You put everyone else first just so they wouldn’t leave you. You left undone so much you wanted. You could have stood up for yourself, you could have lived your own life instead of the life you thought someone else wanted you to live. Did you think that would keep them from abandoning you?
This is Matthew from 2021. They are all gone now.
How many hard decisions did you put off? Maybe because you didn’t want to hurt people. Maybe just because you didn’t know what to do. Did you think those problems would solve themselves if you put them off?
This is Matthew from 2021. They didn’t, they got worse.
I don’t hate you. I know you had a reason for everything you did. But I also know these decisions were made out of fear. You did not choose the path towards what you wanted, you chose the path away from that which made you uncomfortable. But here’s the thing, Matthew:
The things that we fear are often what we most need to do. You can’t change how hard a decision is, but you can change how long you spend putting it off.
I learned from all those mistakes, and I won’t repeat them. Those days were not wasted, they were lessons. I’ve learned that if I can’t enjoy today then I won’t enjoy the day I reach my goals. Life is just a series of moments and enjoying life is a frame of mind. The frame of mind that has to earn joy or accomplish things to be good enough will never be happy. It will always be looking for ways to get approval from others. Just like the frame of mind that puts off hard decisions out of fear.
There are mistakes you need to make to learn these lessons, but you can decide not to repeat them. This is Matthew from 2021, and I’m deciding that the letter I write in 2026 will be different.
What bad news would you give the 2016 version of you? Will the 2026 letter be different?
Further Reading: If this post resonated with you then I highly recommend you look into The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I have spent most of my life analyzing the past or fantasizing about how happy I’ll be “someday.” Tolle very artfully takes us back to the present and gives you tools to actually live your life. This makes your life better because the past and future hold a lot of anxiety and things we can’t control or don’t know. It’s a lot easier to find joy and peace in the present, and this book has brought me more peace than I’ve ever known.