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‘Dear Past Self’ … A Response to a Letter a Hall High School Grad Wrote to Her Future Self

Maren Beverly received a letter to her "Future Self" written as part of an assignment at Hall High School, and she replied with a letter to her "Past Self." Photo credit: Maren Beverly

When Sean Passan taught AP Government at West Hartford’s Hall High School, he asked his students to write several letters to their future selves, and while he didn’t read the letters, Passan said he knows the world likely looks even more dramatically different than what his former students likely anticipated. One of those former students, Maren Beverly, is interning for We-Ha.com while home on winter break, and here’s her reaction to her letter.

By Maren Beverly

I recently received a letter that I wrote to myself my sophomore year of high school, from the spring of 2017. Mr. Sean Passan, a former AP Government teacher at Hall High School, had us write them as part of a long-standing class tradition of his. We each wrote three letters to ourselves: one for the end of our freshman year of college, one for our first year after college or career, and one to be opened in 10 years. It felt apt to receive the letter now, at such a strange moment in life. Not to mention, there exists a clear parallel between being a sophomore in high school, and now, a sophomore in college.

Despite the excitement of receiving the letter, I had no idea what I would find inside this time capsule, this glimpse into my 15-year-old brain. What did I even care about enough to write down? The memories I have from that spring are now but disintegrating wisps in the tangle of my subconscious.

“Dear Future Self,” I wrote – and so, followed a neatly typed page and a half of jumbled thoughts and hopes.

Some parts were poignant and touching, others random and insignificant. It was bittersweet, to see which dreams had come to fruition, which had been dashed by this pandemic. The 2020 that I had in my mind when writing the letter is a daydream compared to the nightmare reality of this year.

Nonetheless, I wish I could talk to that girl, 15-year-old me with her braces freshly removed. I wish I could laugh with her. Cry with her. Give her a hug and tell her that I’m rooting for, that she should be excited for who she is growing into.

And if I could talk to her, I would tell her this…

Dear Past Self,

A lot has changed in the world since 2017. A lot has changed in your world, too. I should probably get the bad news out of the way. Remember that movie you watched in AP Bio, Contagion? The world looks a lot like that movie right now, enveloped in a global pandemic. This past year has not been the kickoff to the Roaring 20s like you envisioned, but there remains hope – they have begun to distribute the vaccine.

Living through a pandemic has only solidified what you already knew to be true: the future is unpredictable and fluid. Which is why I encourage you to stop obsessing over it so much. There will always be good coming your way, sprinkled amongst the pockets of bad.

For instance, you got into the college you wanted to, Wake Forest. Some of the schools that you talked about denied you. Trust me, none of those denials ended up meaning anything. Despite what everyone told you, the college you end up at won’t really make or break your future. They all give you a degree and student loans and new experiences. I know you are stressed about grades and exams and making varsity teams. All that hard work will pay off. But one day, you will wonder if it was fair to be so stressed out that young. After all, those AP exams won’t actually affect your future. (No, really, trust me – the College Board just wants your money.)

You predicted college correctly, although there are still some things you got wrong. I know you wrote that you wanted to be a lawyer. Eventually, you will decide against this career path. It seemed too much like accepting a marriage proposal from a man you never loved. You’re going to major in English, instead. I’m not sure if you are surprised by this, considering how much you loved The Great Gatsby sophomore year. And anyway, you realized that being a lawyer doesn’t actually look like an episode of “Law and Order: SVU.” I am still young and inexperienced, I will not purport to be otherwise. But hear me out: life is too short to not pursue your passions. Continue with what you love to learn about. The doors will open from there.

Oh, and you still have the same great high school friends that you write about. Of course, there were some fights throughout the years – silly debates about who was going to prom with who. Now I look back on these moments and laugh and try to remember what it felt like to have the biggest stressor in the world be prom. You still love these high school friends as much as you did then. Of course, you will grow distant from some after leaving home. Don’t cry about these losses, this increasing distance. It is only natural, a growing pain from leaving your hometown for something bigger. You still love these people – even if you no longer know them like you once did. When you are home from college, you will drive by their houses and the outlines of your memories together will be a hazy figure in the window.

Above all, while the future may be unknown and intangible, you are right to remain hopeful for it. I’m cheering you on.

Best of luck,

Maren

P.S. Appreciate Lox Stock while you can. North Carolina just doesn’t make bagels like Connecticut.

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