Guo: Letter To My Future Self

by Clara Guo | 5/24/17 2:20am

Dear Future Me:

I am stressed right now. I am taking the MCAT in a week, and I am worried that I’m going to fail.

Future Me, are you less frightened of failure?

In less than three weeks, I will graduate. I’m ready — I think — to start a new chapter of my life. I believe it will be better, but I worry that I have fallen victim to fictional finalism.

When I was in eighth grade at Kilmer Middle School, we wrote a letter to ourselves that our English teacher, Mrs. Stacy, mailed us four years later when we were seniors in high school. I wrote nearly six typed pages about boys (well, one boy in particular) and teachers and high school.

Even then, I was nervous about my future.

On First-Year Trips, we handwrote a letter that was delivered to our Hinman box a year later. I wish I still had mine.

It seems silly to write a letter to my future self when I have written for myself every week of every term. Writing this column has instilled a habit of weekly reflection far more regular than my previous journaling.

Last week, my column was titled “When I Grow Up.” It felt like a finale — hopeful, excited.

But a part of me knows I have already grown up, at least a little. Dartmouth has forced my independence and self-sufficiency.

Future Me, do you still remember the stressful moments or has time painted your memories happy?

I was privileged enough to enter Dartmouth with a background in neuroscience. In high school, I dissected Aplysia, manipulated ganglia, analyzed habituation and wrote a mini-thesis (okay, an extended lab report).

At Dartmouth, I fell in love with neuro — not immediately, but gradually, exponentially. I’m frustrated that I have to leave so soon. I am just now learning to clarify the discrepancies of amygdala response during extinction and question failures of emotional identification via analysis of prosopagnosia.

Future Me, does science still excite you?

I am glad that I ran for captain of the figure skating team.

Being captain wasn’t always easy. At our second qualifying competition, I cried. Everything went wrong that weekend, from Friday’s trip to Emergency Care to my disappointing performance to the 24-hour flight delay before finals. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. On Monday, after spending the night in a dingy hotel room, I stood in an airport bathroom stall for ten minutes, crying, my sister waiting outside. When I finished, I ran into another skater. My eyes were red and puffy. I was embarrassed.

I was supposed to be a leader. Leaders don’t cry.

Eventually, I learned how to balance my priorities and those of the team. I learned how hard it is to veil my stress and how important it is to provide a strong foundation for others to rely on.

Future Me, what kind of leader are you?

As a freshman, I knew I was going to rush. The upperclassmen on the skating team loved their sororities, even if they were only minimally involved in them.

I was told that everyone cries during rush, but I promised myself that I wouldn’t.

I cried — during and after.

I didn’t understand why fraternity brothers treated me differently when I attended tails with my new sisters. They were so friendly just a few months prior. Did this new label that I did not even consider a part of my identity really define how others viewed and behaved toward me? How naïve was I to believe that these friendships (or, rather, associations) would withstand the power of stereotypes?

Ignorantly, I believed that the prestige attached to in-groups would fade. I learned how easily one is defined by membership in a Greek society, and I learned, even more quickly, how self-perpetuating stereotypes can be. Dartmouth insists that I define myself with just a few nouns: premed, skater, Kappa Delta, consultant.

Future Me, what part of you do you value most?

Emma and I talk every day. She complains a lot, but I suppose I do, too, when we’re together.

I love her unconditionally. I would do anything for her.

Future Me, what kind of big sister are you? Do you still keep up with Emma? Has she fallen in love — with academia or her job or her friends or a special someone?

The night I saw my first shooting star was the night I realized that the one I fell for did not want me back.

My friend made me avocado toast in her apartment to soothe me. We talked about love and boys and the pressure to do sophomore summer right.

I walked behind Mass Row on my way back to Gile and decided to sit in the parking lot.

I missed stargazing.

The first shooting star I ever saw was beautifully otherworldly.

Future Me, are you in love?

Does time really heal all wounds?

Have your old wounds scarred?

What new wounds adorn your body?

Future Me, I hope you reflect upon your anger and heartaches and failures. I hope you choose to document those moments, along with the laughter and warmth.

Future Me, I hope you choose mobility in the face of stagnation. I hope you strive for wholeness and happiness. I hope you love and are loved.

But most of all, Future Me, I hope you are kind.

All my love,

Clara