Why did this have to be this week’s theme? I considered outright skipping this week’s theme post and taking my punishment of writing four posts next week instead. It’s a good topic– which is why I’ve been working the last couple weeks on a piece that treads the same waters in essay form for my thesis. So here goes me trying to see it from a different angle.
Dear K aged 17,
In about four and half years, you will hold on as a train rattles through the London Underground, earbuds bringing you occasional snatches of music. Pretending to listen gives you the excuse to zone out without people thinking you’re paying attention to their conversations or inviting people to ask questions. You didn’t sleep much the night before, perhaps because there were more sirens than usual or because someone threw a party just outside your door again.
The train rounds a corner and it throws off your balance, forcing you to step back and look up. There’s graffiti above the door that turns a warning into the command “obstruct the doors/ be dangerous.” You’ll smile and laugh to yourself over the childishness of the destruction, caused by a passenger tired of rush hour overcrowding and trains breaking down.
You’ll remember the sign again later in the day, and for the first time you will consciously realize that you’ve become someone who laughs at small things. You will realize how rarely you end up in bad moods for long because there’s always something to giggle over and be happy about. You will look back that day, in 2006, wondering when you started to find joy in the little things. For awhile now you’ve giggled before class over literature or with friends over a game of hangman on the classroom chalkboard. You’ve walked by the graffiti Oscar the Grouch near your apartment every day with a smile and a nod for the trash can grump. The list of things you find worth smiling or giggling over has become too long for you to remember when it began, though you know even then that it doesn’t stretch back much farther than age 20.
One day soon, teenage me, you will walk outside at sunset and see a great blue heron in the pond, and this will be your first memory of seeing something you are awed by in quite a long time. It will make you smile, spontaneous and unplanned. It’s yours, and yours alone. Remember that feeling. Keep it. In a few years you will find joy and awe in so many places, they will no longer be so uncommon it takes you a couple minutes of staring at the water, the heron, and the sunset pink sky to finally name and understand the emotions.
The point of this is simply to say that it will get better. You will become a person who is content, and often happy, with her life. You’ll be able to put the last couple years in context and realize that you made the best decisions you could with the information available to you. Right now you’re fairly sure you won’t complete your associate’s degree in two years, and you’re not even sure you’ll finish it at all. You shouldn’t worry, because really. How many other 17 year olds have completed a year of college with a respectable GPA? Of those others, how many do you think are clinically depressed and still struggling to find a medication that works? And I promise, you will graduate. You just have to go at your own pace, and there shouldn’t be a rush.
I feel like a letter such as this should contain helpful hints, advice, more anecdotes. But there’s a reason time travel leads to paradoxes and misery on sci fi shows. We work with the information available to us at the time, and right now, you’re already doing the best you can. Making a change for you would require rewriting scientific advances, and really, that would be like trying to perform surgery with a baseball bat. Things would break in so many ways.
Love from the future,