A letter to my future self

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Hi, it’s me. It’s you from the past – though not so far back in time to when you were a constantly irritated teenager, just far enough to be writing to you as a somewhat (self-proclaimed) wiser, 21-year-old.

We both know you never took it seriously at school when teachers told you to write a letter to your future self. You thought it was stupid. Why should a younger version of you give advice to a future you who will know so much more? But we do know that you love looking back, so here are a few things I gathered from 2021 that I thought you might be interested in reliving and reflecting upon.

I know you’re trying really hard to control your emotions, and it’s difficult – I’ve been there. There were moments last year that got out of hand, and in some cases, people got hurt. You regret them, especially since you never meant to cause any harm, but you’re too stubborn to admit it. Thank you, though, for apologising to them afterwards. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to apologise to yourself? I’ll help you out a little – I’ve stored away some warning signs for these outbreaks and meltdowns in that brain of yours, for when similar situations arise again. That’s all I can offer. You’ll have to work out the rest.

Here’s a new goal for 2022: when you’re having a rare good day, try to spread the joy

I must say, I applaud how you kept on finding delights in the smallest of things. I mean, you literally bought a bird feeder because when you see garden birds enjoying this little addition outside of your window, it makes your day a little bit brighter. Some people might see them as bizarre tactics to cope with your crippling mental health issues, but it makes you happy, and that’s what matters. Look to your front, don’t be swayed by other people’s opinions. Though here’s a new goal for 2022: when you’re having a rare good day, try to spread the joy. I reckon it’ll make you, and others, feel even better.

What we know you don’t enjoy, however, is looking to the future. As we finally figured out last year, we’re not scared of change, we’re just terrified of the unknown. Heck, we can’t even read a book without flipping to the final chapter first. Not knowing what the future holds, stepping into anything with a certain level of uncertainty, is probably our worst nightmare. So, just to soften the blow, I’ll write the following section – what I hope for you in 2022 – in the sarcastic, snarky tone that we use when we’re scared.

You’re going to graduate. Yes, you. It might be virtual if coronavirus decides that it hasn’t taken enough from you yet – but either way, it’s going to happen. Actually, I’m telling you now that you’re going to make sure that you’re definitely graduating because, otherwise, your parents (or more accurately, your parents’ ashes) will be rolling in their graves. Make them proud, please.

In order to excel, you’ll have to work on your confidence

Graduating also means leaving behind this newfound home in Durham. You’ve got plenty of experience dealing with change, but that doesn’t mean you’re not mortified by things such as not being able to see your beloved housemates daily again. Unfortunately, that’s how life goes. Promise me that you’ll keep in touch with those you’ve had the pleasure of befriending. They’ve shaped your experience here and will always be the best group of people you know.

Oh boy, then here comes the good bit – you’re going to be a postgrad. Your plan is to stay in education for as long as possible, right? So, you’ll be researching and learning more about immuno-oncology because that’s your passion. You’ll finally not need to study plants (on that note – maybe try to remember to water your houseplants). Yet, in order to excel, you’ll have to work on your confidence. As Clare, your research project mentor, said, “you know what you’re talking about and it’s correct, so just sell it.” Don’t constantly doubt yourself, it’ll only hold you back.

I know what you’re thinking – nothing is finalised and you don’t know if you’ll get that master’s or PhD position, nor do you know what else 2022 has in store for you. But hey, you made it through your toughest year in 2020, and you powered through 2021 (somewhat like a lunatic towards the end, but we can ignore that). You have loads of loving people around you who will be with you every step of the way, too. Don’t worry, no matter what happens, you – we – will figure it out together.

Here’s to an adventurous and brilliant new year,

Michelle, January 2022

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