Today is the 31st Day of the #Write31Days challenge. I made it to the end and only missed posting on 8 days this last month. For me, this is an epic win. First, because there are so many posts I never wrote in the past years of wanting to and Second, because I’m generally a procrastinator and also a starter of things that get halfway done…and this got way more than halfway done.
But I’m ready to move on to writing about things that are happening in the now. It was hard for me to push through the last week of posting because, honestly, I started to get a little bored with writing to my former self because my former self can’t really do much with any of that knowledge. But my now self is always learning from my past…and my present, which is a pretty fabulous thing if you stop to think about it. We can choose to learn and grow through every situation our entire lives.
Not everyone does that.
I know some of these people.
And I don’t want to be like them.
I like being like me. (Most days. Check again tomorrow.)
As I’ve been writing this month, I’ve kept coming back to the idea that on day 31, I would come up with a list of things that I wouldn’t tell my younger self. I’ve been thinking about all the things that I would have considered not doing in the moment if I had known the outcome…and what a sad, boring life that would be. And how much my now self would have regretted not experiencing the things that my then self would have been afraid of.
Dear Chris (age 33), On day 3 of your 10 day trip to Israel, you’re going to step on a crack in the sidewalk and sprain your ankle pretty badly…and then have to walk around on it for another week…and two years later find out you’re still in pain because you actually tore a tendon. That was not fun. But if I would have let that pain stop me from taking that trip, I would have missed out on the beginning of a major (6+ year) shift in my faith. I would have missed the lesson of needing to accept help from others and knowing I was worth enough to be loved on by total strangers. I would have missed out on an extremely impactful travel experience that included walking where Jesus walked and getting a glimpse into a new culture and profound moments of growth and challenge and way too many precious memories to put in one paragraph.
Dear Chris (age 37), Your body hates altitude and this is going to be more difficult than you’re even imagining. Call this “things I wouldn’t tell myself…twice”. Once because I would have missed out on the gifts I got on a mountain in the Sierra Nevadas. Two, because I would have missed out on the gifts I got climbing more mountains in Peru which taught me that I was stronger than I thought I was and that I am capable of doing things that feel insurmountable even when I feel alone, that there is power in telling yourself that you can even when you think you can’t, that I had conquered much more difficult things, that help and encouragement comes from unexpected places, that the only way up (or down) the hardest mountains is one step at a time, that it really does feel good to get to your destination through valiant effort while other people hop a train, that the world is still full of mystery and wonder…and that one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is pretty damn cool.
Dear Chris (age 22), These next two years are going to include both a good amount of debt that will last you longer than you think it will and the worst experience of your life. But I wouldn’t have gone to grad school and I would have missed out on a group of amazing people who will be my friends as long as we’re on this planet together. I wouldn’t have worked with the military in Tanzania to shoot an AIDS prevention video or lived in Spain for three months or road tripped around Croatia. I wouldn’t have put up shows in theatres all across the country and I wouldn’t have ended up in LA.
Dear Chris (age 25), Your first year in LA is going to suck. You won’t be able to find a full time job, you’re going to feel abandoned by God, you’ll go into credit card debt and you’ll cry almost every day. But if I would have known that and would have safe guarded myself, I wouldn’t have the life and experiences I’ve had in the meantime. I wouldn’t have silly stories about doing extra work on tv and movie sets or having lunch with Matthew Perry’s dad or witnessing a porn convention red carpet ceremony in Las Vegas. I wouldn’t have the even wider group of amazing friends I have and over 1000 former students, some of whom have become family to me. I wouldn’t have been exposed to so many different ideas and types of people and walks of life. I wouldn’t have been in a city that was so uncomfortable for me that it left me feeling turned inside out and upside down…which left me open to deeper levels of healing from my past. LA can be a bitch but it’s part of me now.
Dear Chris (age 38), Foster parenting is going to be way harder than you imagined. Late night feedings and angry babies and crazy toddlers are going to give you a run for your money and you won’t be sure afterwards if you actually want to be a mom. But if I hadn’t tried, I wouldn’t have known what an amazing community I have around me and how much love is possible between strangers. I wouldn’t be aware of the foster children in our country and in my city and i wouldn’t be writing a script about the young people that age out of the system with no place to go. I wouldn’t have an expanded heart and memories like these…
Dear Chris (age 28), You’re not going to find your soul mate online. Let’s face it, my awkward dating stories are priceless, I’m pretty sure you love them, and I’m glad I have them to tell. And I wouldn’t have been able to experience any of it without the internet.
Dear Chris (always), Don’t leave your cell phone lying unguarded around your guy friends. But then I wouldn’t have all the blackmail pictures I keep in a folder on my desktop. Don’t hate me, Jer. 😉
I’m human. I want to know all the outcomes before I try something new. I sometimes keep myself from doing things because of the fear of the unknown. But those are imagined fears and imagined fears suck.
I want to live my life unafraid of sprained ankles or unwanted outcomes or anxieties about money. I want to accomplish more things I think I’m incapable of…or that others think can’t be done. I want to hold on to the reality that even if we suffer or make “wrong” choices or embarrass ourselves that those things are all able to shape us for the future, to make us stronger and more resilient and more capable of loving others.
So, dear future self, some hard stuff is going to go down. Your heart and your body might get broken. Your wallet might be empty. But let’s do our best not to worry too much about it ahead of time, m’kay? Let’s take one day at a time and live in the moment as best we can. Let’s go balls out. Let’s let go of the past…but still keep writing about it because you and others seem to enjoy that…and keep living life without regret.
Are you in?