I've spent the past several weeks waiting for something like a sign, an opportunity to move life along in the direction I think it should go, and perhaps even to be rewarded for having spent the better part of one calendar year committed to a worthwhile endeavor. I'm basically looking forward or looking back, and it doesn't seem to be getting me anywhere.
This has happened before – I’ve realized that I’m trying to get ahead by living in the past. So I’ve decided to write a letter to my future self, to let him know that I’m aware of his existence, and to remind my current self that the path to the best version me is to live in the present.
Dear Future Ben,
Hey Pal! I thought you should be aware of some things that may explain why you are where you are. At times it didn’t seem like we’d get there (it’s surprisingly easy to fall into the same traps), so in order to prevent history from repeating itself, I’ll share with you the following wisdom:
You never regret waking up early to do something worthwhile in the morning. Like, never. Mornings are a gift and a treasure.
Conversation is like a gateway drug to the most satisfying human experiences. Conversation is not a waste of time, especially with someone you don’t talk to very often.
Really, the only time I can imagine it’s good to be alone is when you’re reflecting on the people, conversations, and moments that were inspirational or valuable learning experiences. Wrap your brain around the value of them and then go find another human to talk to.
Try to avoid asking people lame questions like, “What’s going on?” unless that’s really what you want to know. Instead, ask them, “What’s the best thing you’ve done this year?” or “If you could go anywhere right now, where would it be?” Everyone has important ideas to share – don’t let your lazy questions stifle them.
Don’t ever compare what you do to what someone else is doing. But always work hard, whatever work is for you at that moment. It’s most likely important to someone else. Work with people as often as you can, because people are your work.
Every day is a story to be written. I don’t mean this in a “motivational cat poster” way, but I’ve seen you spend enough time waiting for someone else to write your story for you, or wishing someone else’s story was yours, or hoping the next event on your calendar will unlock some magical door to success.
Don’t forget that you only get today right now. That’s all you get.
You can try to live off a feeling you had recently, or try to recapture a moment from the past. But you don’t get yesterday again. You don’t get tomorrow, either. You only get to try to be that person you want to be today.
Your overall life story, like the one they tell at your funeral, is made up of little stories – a compilation of past todays. Yesterdays are footnotes, and tomorrows are just tentative stories and built on nothing but a foundation of thousands of todays anyway.
Wake up early, go outside, exercise, travel, eat and drink and work and converse with friends and strangers. Take care of other people, because all you’ve ever wanted was to be taken care of.
Then sit and think about it all for a minute, mentally catalogue today (or write a poem or take a picture or tell your wife about it), and rest a bit so you can take on the next today.
You can only ever be the sum of all your todays.
See you in the future, Ben!