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Goeun Park: Letter to younger self: Future is OK

Three years ago, a teacher made the class write a letter to ourselves in the future. That future was last week.

Back in ninth grade, I was even more sentimental than I am today, so the letter sounded like a script from a bad soap opera. Back in ninth grade, I was also legitimately afraid that I wouldn’t graduate high school. In fact, the first line of the letter cleverly states, “I guess if you’re reading this, you made it. Graduation!”

Oh, sweet me from the past. I made it.

Graduation was last Saturday but it feels so long ago; I can barely remember it. There were some speeches here, some walking across the stage there and a cap-tossing towards the end. The details are fuzzy. 

See, there’s a concept called jamais vu which is the opposite of déjà vu. Whereas déjà vu is the feeling that something is familiar from the past, jamais vu is the feeling that something that should be familiar isn’t.

It’s the sensation of having a word on the tip of your tongue or a memory hidden in a corner of your brain. It’s a brain-trippy kind of feeling. A post-graduation kind of feeling. I digress.

Back in ninth grade, I was incredibly doubtful about everything. While I’m only in a state of mild anxiety in any present given moment, I used to be overwhelmed with worry back when I was two inches shorter. If only I could console two-inches-shorter-me!

Well. Until I find a time machine, a column must suffice. This would be my reply:

Dearest Ninth Grade Goeun,

I graduated! Yay me! Or yay you! Sorry, jetpacks and hover cars aren’t in the consumer market yet but I swear they’ll be a thing eventually.

Let me quickly relieve all your worries in one sentence: Yes, I still have friends and no, I didn’t fail math. The future is strange and normal, all at once.

That’s pretty much it. However, letters aren’t truly letters until they drone on about something completely unrelated and unremarkable so how about this. Last winter, I went through an existential crisis. (I went through several existential crises, actually, but this one was by far the silliest.) I wondered nonstop about perpetual nuclear winters and claustrophobic Uranium atoms in metal containers.

You don’t know this, but there are enough nuclear bombs to blow our society into smithereens. In tenth grade, you’ll learn all about the Cuban Missile Crisis and somehow get it in your head that the government hid half the world’s nuclear warheads in North Dakota somewhere.

Then you’ll look outside, past the parking lot covered in a feet of snow and towards where Minnesota stops and North Dakota begins, and you’ll shiver. You’ll blame it on the cold.

It’s not the weather, kiddo. The world is a scary, terrifying and dangerous place, especially for sheltered children like you. Dragons and salesmen are thirsty for your naive optimism and hungry for your oversimplified enchantment for life.

This world will eat you alive. Yet, there are worse things to be than stubbornly optimistic so stay that way for as long as possible.

Even in northern Minnesota, winter doesn’t last forever. A nuclear winter would be colder and crueler, but that too will pass. For as long as I can remember, adults have warned how quickly these carefree years will fly past us.

I am 18 and my childhood is officially over, but I still can’t say that I share that sentiment. Those childhood years did not fly as much as they painfully crawled their way to the present. That’s okay.

Our concept of time is calibrated too slowly for this fast paced world of ours so we might as well stretch and savor life’s moments.

You are so young. I am still young. I may still wince at the memories of the awkward things I’ve done in my youth but I have so much more regret for the things I didn’t do. The things I talked myself out of doing.

So here is what I wish I’d known earlier: Your heart is a muscle. One builds muscle by tearing it. Don’t be afraid to break it because it will mend, stronger and better than before. I promise.

Love,  Goeun

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School last weekend.

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