Prompt: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)
December 21, 2015: I hope that at 42 the grays coming in at your widow’s peak have clustered to give you one of those great streaks some women can rock. And I hope you can rock it. I hope Roger is coloring the rest of your hair and you are manufacturing one if you have to. I hope Roger is still spouting politics and you’re still nodding mm-hmm, mm-hmm—a stylist who can keep those curls in submission is someone you should fight as hard to keep as any other friend.
I hope that at 42 you still spend part of your week on this website, and that people have found it and love it just as much as you do. Or that it’s become whatever websites are in 2015; I can’t even imagine what technology will be like then. As long as you and Heather are still manufacturing inspiration, making time for it and each other. Hannah will be eleven then, and she will have grown up in front of an audience of indulgent surrogate aunties, every flashing smile captured in this place where we reach for beauty. She might have a brother or sister by now; wouldn’t that be amazing?
I hope that at 42 you are able to remember what life was like now, for me. By then you will have been in Canada ten years, unless you’ve become independently wealthy and moved your pale-as-pudding husband to a sunnier climate. If you have, make sure he uses his sunscreen. You, too, for that matter.
I hope you have not gone too long without a pet in the house. I know that you won’t have found a new one right away. But five years ago on this day, it was the winter solstice and you brought your little silver beastie home with four shaved spots, stitches he promptly pulled when he leaped up on your bed, spraying his blood on the clean sheets. This is life, on December 21, 2010. You know how much time he has left and I do not. Oh, I wish I were in your shoes; I hate not knowing.
I hope that at 42 you have moved past this book into the book about the farmland that was for sale that won’t be for sale, and then past that one into the book with the hook that Uncle Robert gave you on Easter Sunday. I hope at least one of them is in print, that people like it, that someone writes to you and tells you that they enjoyed it, they couldn’t stop reading until it was over and they still wanted more.
I hope you are healthy, and busy, and optimistic, and loved. I hope you are doing the things I hope for you, or something better—I like the thought that you might see this, look back and think how little I knew of what the world and my life would be in five years. I like the thought that you might be as indulgent with me as I am when I think of myself at 22, at 32. Oh, you make big mistakes, loud ones, and apologize later if you need to, but live first, damn it, live hard. Don’t let me go quiet.
and if you think I could pass up a bonus you just don’t know me at all
December 21, 2000: Wake up early when you can. Look out the sliding doors that lead to your porch, and look at your mesa. For the next three years, it is as much yours as it is anyone else’s. Let it fill you in pink sunrise mornings and face the east when you pray, if praying’s what you call it. Let it fill you in pink sunset evenings.
When you leave that place—extricate yourself; you cannot and must not and will not stay—you will remember those scarlet and orange skies and nothing will remind you of your small and enormous human life like those memories.
At work, you are doing the right things. Keep listening. Keep trying. Don’t let that student teacher in your classroom; she’ll let Harris throw a basketball at your computer and it’ll never be the same again.
Outside of work, drive out into the desert. You cannot get lost. Count those stars. Count them. Stay awake and give them a number; someday you’ll wish you could see those stars again. You’ll live amid pollution and drywall-and-vinyl houses and so many white people that it will feel confusing and wrong like a nightmare. You will remember the torrents that came around every autumn during monsoon season and the sheer, stultifying heat of the summer. You will not get to escape snow forever. Drive to Phoenix. Drive to Tucson. Drive to Puerto Penasco. Drive to California. Drive. These days look strong as adobe, but they are a vacation from the rest of your life.
Call your mother. Tell her everything.