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Goeun Park: Older self, you’ll figure things out in time

Last summer, I wrote a letter to my younger self.

It was a fun piece to flesh out so I want to do something similar: A letter to myself three years in the future. If letters to the past are meant to dispense belated wisdom, this will hopefully serve as a welcome reminder.

Dear 22-year old Goeun,

I am writing this in the middle of July, 2014. I recently bleached my hair orange and paid a man with more tattoos than bare skin to stab a needle through my upper left ear.

The piercing still stings a little. It’s an unnecessary pain for an unnecessary gain but it was something I chose for myself. I recognize that that’s still not a very good reason but the satisfaction of doing things to my own body on my own accord was worth it.

I’ve been away from home for almost a year; I should no longer be so giddy about making my own choices. Yet, being alone and independent is still thrilling. Perhaps three years from now, it’ll feel more like a burden, a responsibility.

I wonder about you a lot these days. Sophomore year is coming up and my friends and I are calling it the Undecided Year. There are so many decisions to make — declaring majors, finding internships, looking at studying abroad — and it all looks depressingly daunting. Emphasis on both depressing and daunting.

Sometimes, it’s just too much and I console myself by imagining how you’ll have it all figured out. I have daydreams of what you’re doing with your life now. I’m sure you’re laughing right this moment at all my grand and naïve fantasies involving London and fellowships and San Francisco and espresso machines.

But I bet you’re a little jealous, too. I have time on my side to entertain such delusions, you do not.

There’s a good chance that you’re unemployed or severely underemployed and have moved back with the parents or living with five other people in a tiny apartment. (This is assuming that you graduated by now. If there’s one thing in your favor, it’s our college’s four-year graduation rate.)

Last summer, I would have considered your likely scenario as failure. A derivation from the master plan. Since then, I’ve gotten a taste of miserable mediocrity and crushed expectations. I am starting to learn that things don’t always work out as I expect. Setbacks are not only a possibility but a probability. I am getting better at accepting life as it comes.

I hope you are much better at dealing with failure than I am. To take the author Neil Gaiman’s advice: I hope you have failed often. I hope you got rejected by graduate schools and scholarships and writing contests and that boy from your freshmen English seminar because that would mean you went for it. That you tried.

And I wish for you the same thing I wish for me every year: bravery, dedication and humility. The bravery to pursue the unknown, the dedication to pursue it to the fullest, and the humility to accept your losses when it doesn’t work out anyway.

Maybe it looks bleak from that end, but the future seems bright from here. Uncertain, but bright. Even if you haven’t mapped everything out (and you’re only 22, I no longer expect you to), between you and me, I have faith that you’ll figure things out.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.