“Hey Sten, it’s Sten. I was just sitting in the sun outside Fahlman’s here in Helsingborg, slowly getting through some math homework. I realized that almost everything is perfect. It’s just how I never dared hope it would be a year ago. I hope you’re reading this in some faux-old neo-gothic building right in the middle of campus; I hope you’re still blogging and that you don’t overwork yourself … I hope you haven’t forgotten how lucky you are to be right where you are!”
I got this right around finals before the summer from, you guessed it, a younger me. Before I got the email I had absolutely zero recollection of sitting there at the old bakery in the town I used to go to high school in. Most of all, I had completely forgotten how happy I had once been about getting in to Princeton and, honestly, if I hadn’t been reminded of that I don’t know if I would have managed finals at all.
It’s so so very easy, almost inevitable, to lose sight when you’re in the deep-end. In the middle of finals I considered myself the most stressed-out and unhappy person on earth. I had completely lost sight of how privileged I was to be worrying about Princeton finals. Yes, they’re finals, but at least they’re Princeton finals. Of course, this is not specific to me, I’m sure. Anyone would get used to going to Princeton, to being rich, living in Paris or sailing around the world. The first week of Princeton you’re at Princeton, but after that you’re just at school.
Perspective then, is pretty desirable. Recognizing the good things in life, noticing the positive change over the months that go by and removing yourself from problems that, in the moment, feel like they’ll make or break the rest of your life. I realized this when I sent my first-ever email to my future self. It was in the deepest darkest part of the college application when I had just sent in all my applications, leaving me with nothing but my mind. The worst part about that time was that I couldn’t do anything to change my fate. It was then or never. My future lied in the hands of some faceless application officers, I couldn’t bear it and I wrote:
“Sten, when you’re reading this I hope you’re looking at ticket prices for that jet that’ll take you to the rest of your life in America. Then again, know that you’re still awesome even if it doesn’t work out just the way you hoped. You’ll do great things in Sweden too, just continue believing in yourself […]”
While cheesy, it was easier for me to detach myself from my deep and negative thought patterns when I was writing to my future self. In some strange way I felt like I was advising my little sister, my wiser counterpart that just needs brotherly encouragement every now and then to achieve great things. My emails have saved me on many occasions, both when I’ve received them, like during finals, and when I’ve written them, like back in high school. Tonight, in the deep-end of my homesickness, I’m writing a letter for when I finally go back to Stockholm for fall break, so I don’t forget to do all the things I can’t wait for now (the list includes drinking tap water, catching up with old friends and getting to know a few new). It’s all about getting some long-term perspective to re-realize nothing lasts forever, and that there will always be highs and lows. Emails won’t change that, of course, but at least they can make the lows bearable by allowing the highs to seep in.
I’ll end this post with an old Swedish proverb: “Everything has an end. Except the sausage. It has two.”