Remember how afraid Marty is of meeting his past-self and future-self in Back to the Future? Doc Brown made it sound really bad: he could explode the universe. Or disrupt the space-time continuum. Or erase himself. Or something crazy. Perhaps the effects of such a meeting would be less dramatic in real life.
You never know.
My past-self (though likely not the universe) might have imploded if she were to realize that none of her dream-children would ever be born. After all, she spent months, if not years, very carefully crafting the names of all her future children:
Anastasia Monique Chantal
Charity Ellsbeth (alt. Charity Elisant)
Little girls, perhaps you live in an alternate universe somewhere, wearing pretty pink dresses and hosting tea parties, or scorning pretty pink dresses and joining the Tea Party.
Today an envelope arrived in the mail. I looked at it, turned it over in my hands a few times, and then put it on the side table. Later, The Scientist came home and said, “Hey! You got mail!” Before I could stop him, he opened it. But to his surprise, inside the envelope he found another envelope.
Which is what I expected.
The second envelope was my reprieve. My chance to say: “Don’t open it!” My chance to collect myself just a little bit more. Not that I haven’t had 13 years to collect myself.
A few minutes ago, at The Scientist’s prodding, I decided to open the inside envelope. The one I had addressed all those years ago. The one from my past-self–Past Princess.
The letter was written near the end of the last century. It was written during a “mentor meeting”–one of the meetings I had with a college teacher who had greater experience than I, and who was an inspirational figure who taught me how to teach. And, apparently, to reflect. Because this letter was my assignment. “I’ll send it to you in 5 years,” he promised. “Just put it in an envelope and use an address that you’re sure will still be valid in 5 years.” I didn’t know that it would take him 13 years to put that envelope in the mail. The family house–our famous house with a Chai (we lived at #18)–has long passed hands, and passed hands again. It has been renovated inside and out, gained an addition, and even bears a new facade, not red brick, but gray stucco. It’s there, but not there, a big stucco sign of what once was. The letter should have disappeared into the recesses of the universe in all this time, like my childhood house.
Of course, I couldn’t forget that little assignment, and so, being the pain in the butt that I am, I found that brilliant mentor on Facebook (where else does anyone find anyone?) and asked for my letter-to-self, hoping, against all odds (13 years–who knows how many moves? how small the New York apartments? how tight the storage space?), he had retained it.
So there was my letter, ready to be read, and I was holding back. The reason I was so hesitant to open this letter is because I suspected some things: that I had had great ambitions that weren’t fulfilled. That I hadn’t been nice about The Scientist. That I had been nicer about the guy I was dating–some Law Student who had a number of strange quirks. (On the first or second date, he latched on to the fact that our birthdays were 9 days apart, just as his parents’ birthdays were, but when I casually mentioned a few dates later that I had no plans to change my last name upon marrying, he flew into a blind rage and declared that HIS wife and HIS kids would bear HIS name. I’m not really sure why my last name was so relevant to him–he hadn’t so much as given me a peck on the cheek at that point [did I mention this was the 5th or so date?]. Fastforward a passage of time, and we’re on another date/post-date/past-pecks: he picks up the phone to call his dad in California while we are in the middle of engaging in an activity that was not eating dinner to ask Dad about the potential effects of certain meds on certain parts of his body [Dad was not a doctor, by the bye]. . . . The relationship didn’t last long.)
I remembered correctly. I did write about Law Student. And I am pleased to see that rather than declare my sappy, pathetic enthrallment with him, I made a brief prediction and was pretty much dead on: “As for our [Law Student], future icon of the bourgeoisie, I can only imagine he will just be the vaguest of memories . . . some lawyer out in California that I knew . . . once.” CHECK, Past Princess!
As for The Scientist, I was a little off. I claimed that he preventing me from meeting my bashert. How could I have known that he was my bashert? Even then, not dating him, barely speaking to him, I write: “I love him today and have loved him for oh so long!” And yet I didn’t know he was my bashert. How silly I was.
I mean, really silly. Because it was not that I was so ambitious then, but so wrong about how I ought to be pursuing my ambitions. I thought graduate school the holy grail. And yet, I thought, in writing my letter, that I was going to leave grad school, and this idea terrified me:
“What will I be doing 4 mos. from now nevermind 4 years? (Consulting? Studying? Teaching?). It scares me so much to leave this place despite the ‘I’m going out to the real world to make money’ bravado.”
Oh, 24-year-old Self! You should have gone out into the world and made money!
Alas, I did not. And so I became the Poor Princess. Although, also, the happily married Poor Princess.
* * * * * * * * *
I end with an assessment of my world, a philosophical summing up of all that is important, and a question that I think significant enough to allow my future-Self to truly reflect on Life and all that it’s worth:
“Today I’m 24. My grandmother is alone and lonely. My brother-in-law just had his 32nd birthday. My sister is 9 months pregnant. My rent is going up to $1430US next month. Kitty is 12. Daddy should be retiring soon, and Mom leaving her school. And that’s my life, I suppose.
“PS: Oh by the way, Dear Future Self — Do you still do those teeny bikini waxes, leaving only an itty-bitty Hitler ‘stache?”