A letter to my future self, who will forget these things that seem so obvious right now
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
— Annie Dillard
Do more of this stuff
Good Reading: Stop dicking around on your phone at night before bed, and pick up the book you started. You can read a novel for 10 minutes just as easily as you can read Facebook. Trust me, you can. (If you aren’t enjoying the book you’re reading, put it down and pick up another one. It’s okay to stop doing things you don’t like.) You will remember that book for decades; you will forget that Upworthy list by the time you brush your teeth tomorrow morning.
Free Writing: Putting your thoughts into words, every day, is one of the most powerful gifts you can give yourself. You have great hopes and great fears. You have small ideas that might one day grow into something great. You have a list of errands a mile long. Get it all out on paper. Writing puts familiar shapes to the nameless things that live in the void inside your head and makes room for hope and wonder.
Unstructured Time: I know you love making to-do lists, but you will not get lost between the couch cushions if you spend an afternoon staring out a window or idly flipping through a magazine. Remember when you were a teenager, and you’d spend hours lying on your bed listening to the same album over and over again? Nurture yourself. Rotate your spiritual crops. You will burn yourself out if you don’t stop and replenish your inner resources.
Honest conversations: You are not a special snowflake alone in an empty world. Other people are struggling with the same things you struggle with – go talk to them. Listen to their stories. Ask questions. Share what you’ve learned. Rinse, repeat.
Do less of this stuff
Reacting to the day-to-day: There will always be email to reply to. There will always be a doctor’s appointment to reschedule. There will always be a deadline to (almost) miss. This is small stuff. Don’t get tunnel vision on your Inbox or your next deadline. Keep your head up, look ahead, and remember the bigger things you’re trying to accomplish.
Listening to your insecurities: Learn to recognize your inner critic and shut it down. You can’t drown out negative self-talk by stressing out or working harder while it whispers in your ear. You are human – flawed and imperfect. And your work is not you: your work is just work. Acknowledge your fear, and then let it go.
Comparing yourself to other people: When you’re lost in the woods, the first thing you want is a map. Don’t mistake the map for the territory. Other people are not the measure of your worth, and you will never know all the dimensions of their lives – their losses, their failures, their disappointments and compromises – the way you know yours.