While on the Twitter-sphere this morning, I stumbled onto a letter that Frank Ocean had penned to himself of 5 years ago. A fan asked him, "Explain your current situation to your five-years-ago self." Frank (yeah, we're cool like that) delivered something humble and deeply moving. I thought, "What would I say to me of 5 years ago?" because often we're too busy with the motions to look back and see the distance between here and there. So...
It is August 2011 and you are in love with someone who loves you not for who you are but for who they think you could be. Don't worry, you will discover this in a few months and though it will take you a few tries, you will eventually leave. Because you too love her for what she is and not who she is. You will leave her for someone even worse, but at the time it will seem like what you need. THIS. This will be the relationship that tests the limits of who you think you are.
You will lose yourself in this relationship. You will do things and become someone you never thought you were. But because of this, you will be forced to define the limits of who you are. You will be shocked so deeply by the depths this relationship took you and you will begin to write. You will write to make sense of it, of her and of you. This will be the first article you will ever have published and it will go on to be listed as one of the "top 20 personal essays" that website will publish that year.
You will write more. You will write incessantly. You will not know what you are doing, but somehow everyone else will. Oh, I forgot to mention that you will be accepted into a graduate school program, actually two; one in Rome and one in Pittsburgh. You will not go to either. You will feel disappointed by this, but deep down inside you will know it is not what you wanted. And by the time you are 27, three years removed from August 2011, you will be learning to stand firmly by the things you want and those you do not and you will accept that you made the right decision. You will be becoming more fully you.
That dead-end job you're working at now with its false promise of upward mobility that is middle-management? You will be fired from it but you will tell people that you quit it because in reality, you left that job months before they realized it and made it official. You will be devastated briefly when this happens, but because you are older, wiser and you are starting to realize that words are your bread and butter, you will see this as the opportunity it is; the opportunity to be yourself with no excuses.
You will commit to the writing fully, wholly. You will be hungry, figuratively and literally, in the months after this decision. The woman who is starting to love you, your friends and your family will hold you up during these months. You will know that you have only yourself to blame for your success or your failure now. Because hunger is the greatest motivator and you cannot let yourself fail, soon enough you will find yourself living your dream. You will be making more money than you ever have, you will spend more time traveling than in the homes you rent, and you will be, truly, genuinely happy with your life for the first time in a long time.
You will mold the world into the things you want and attract goodness and excellence everywhere you go. People will offer you things you ask and have not asked for because they see the light shining brightly in you. You will be paid to travel the world (literally). People across the globe will read your work and tell you how much it means to them. They will affirm that you are telling our stories. And today, today, you will be sitting in Nairobi, riding off the high of meeting acclaimed artist Michael Soi who you will interview next week, simply because you asked.
So Kari from 5 years ago, do not fret. The best, as they say, is yet to come.
Sincerely, with love, adoration and respect,
What would you tell yourself of 5 years ago?
Cover photo courtesy of JSchwindy Pics.