BY HANNAH MORPETH
I first wrote a letter to my future self at the age of eighteen in the summer after my A Level exams, awaiting results that would determine the next three years of my life at a time of conflict in family relationships. I wouldn’t have pictured the way my life would change over the next six years or the fact that I’d be writing about this experience.
In the summer of 2012 despite physical health difficulties I was having at the time I was able to go on a three week Outward Bound course in the Scottish Highlands which was all things brilliant: I hiked the north face of Ben Nevis, rock-climbed and bizarrely spent my eighteenth birthday getting sea-sick whilst kayaking (yes that’s a thing, no I wouldn’t recommend it as a birthday party).
My biggest weakness is how difficult I find it just doing nothing and that was put to the test in a twenty-four-hour solo experience at Outward Bound. I semi-successfully spent twenty four hours completely alone, with no electricity at all and with items to make a shelter and a meal with, and pen and paper.
I remember spending what seemed like a life time pottering around wondering the time (we weren’t allowed a watch) to decide if it was time to eat yet, time to sleep yet and generally what to do with myself. I do wonder what it would have been like to have been a fly on the….grass watching me. My “campsite” was at the top of the cliffs at a very windy Scottish coastline, I lay in what couldn’t possibly be referred to as a tent half expecting myself to land in the sea. I was cocooned in my day-time hiking clothes, water proofs included, inside of a sleeping bag which was inside of a bivvy bag on top of tarpaulin. This is what can only be described as the slipperiest situation, each inch I moved I felt myself sliding away towards the cliffs. I couldn’t have slept for an hour all night between the sliding, the wind, the rain, the fear of death (I was a little dramatic!). Only to be awoken by the sound of sheep baa-ing in my actual ear. I gazed up to see a sheep right in my face, causing a catastrophic amount of sliding in my man-made cocoon and slinging a hiking boot in the general direction of the sheep out of fear. Even I am surprised that I could manage to cause such utter chaos, alone in the middle of nowhere, but stranger things have happened.
Despite feeling scared and worried, I felt a strange vein of peace and serenity punctuating the fear. A degree of peace and serenity that allowed me to write my first letter to my future self. There hasn’t been a moment since this when my future was so unknown and undetermined, making it the perfect time to write to myself. I remember receiving this letter back around a year later and it gave me that same peace I felt when alone in the middle of nowhere. Never had I been kinder to myself than in that letter but equally as important was the perspective it gave me on the changes within my life in that time. It’s easy to get caught up in life and have the attitude that nothing ever gets better and nothing ever changes but a letter to yourself changes that.
I could spend time writing about the research behind narrative therapy techniques or the benefits of owning your life story but the only way you will find out is to give it a go. With all of this in mind, I do hope you are convinced by the idea of writing to yourself, if nothing else it means you receive post that isn’t a bill you need to pay. Below are my top tips on writing to yourself:
- Give yourself some undivided, luxury writing time.
- Start by talking about your current situation, try being as objective as possible. It can be easy to look back on things and think nothing has changed, this could give you concrete evidence of the contrary.
- Talk or think about what things in your life are causing you stress or worry at the moment.
- What is the driving force in your life right now, what are you striving for and what do you value right now?
- It is normal to struggle a little with this one because we are conditioned to think the opposite. But try writing down either things that are going well or what you feel you are good at at the minute.
- What needs to change in your life? In six months time what would you hope to be different and what do you hope to remain the same?
- Finish off with a dose of optimism or positivity, be nice to yourself. What would you of the future like to hear if he/she were having a tough time?
- Either give the letter to someone you trust to post to you in at least six months time or staple the letter in your diary in six months time.
Give yourself a little time and get writing to yourself.