Sooooo, I’ve been slacking on that writing challenge, haven’t I? I always start things the same way: jump in with both feet and a lot of enthusiasm, not considering all my previous obligations or the level of time commitment needed for a new venture. Not the best way to live life. I’m working on it, don’t judge.
I’ve never written a letter to my younger self. Isn’t it a pointless exercise, when it’s too late to change anything? It’s not as if my younger self could actually use any of this advice. All it would accomplish is to make me rehash all my mistakes and regrets and wish I could do it all over again. That’ll lead to a downward spiral of misery that will last a week.
But if I had to say one thing, it would be… START.
(Fair warning: I’m going to say “start” so many times in this post, it will no longer look like a word in any language.)
There’s a proverb generally attributed to the Chinese, specifically attributed to Confucius – though who knows who said originally said it. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” It’s always been more depressing to me rather than motivating like it’s intended to be. Being a cynical pessimist for most of my life, it would lead to thoughts like, “Why didn’t I start 20 years ago?” (never mind that the first time I had this thought, 20 years ago I wouldn’t have existed) and “Well, what’s the point in starting now?” Safe to say, I had a lot of non-starters.
But I’m turning over a new leaf this year. Being a cynical pessimist didn’t pay very well, so I’m switching careers. I would like to try my hand at being a realist, occasionally even freelancing as an optimistic realist. (It’s too much to ask of me to become an optimist right off the bat.)
So why the letter to my younger self?
My whole life is essentially a variation on a theme. I keep coming back to the same regret: that I didn’t start earlier. No matter the regret, not starting was always part of it.
Putting words to paper has always been a significant part of my life. Yet I didn’t start taking writing seriously until this year. I didn’t start dancing until it was too late for me to be a professional dancer. And I didn’t start cherishing my relationships until people started dying.
It’s easy to say “start now,” much harder to follow through. I heard something on the radio today (I’m paraphrasing cuz I can’t remember it verbatim): The days are long, but the years are short. We live by the day, and we remember by the year. It gives the illusion that we have time, that we have time, that we still have time, until it’s too late, and we no longer have time.
I guess this post serves two purposes. One, as a letter to my past and future selves. To my past self, an apology. To my future self, a reminder to start now. And two, I recently learned about a word-of-the-year exercise that people do. Essentially, it’s setting an intention for the year, by using a single word. I hadn’t picked a word; I was already trying to do too much, did I really want to add something else on top of that? But some of the best things in life, I’ve stumbled across accidentally, and this is no different.
My intention for the year is to start. No matter what it is, whether it’s some passing fancy or the greatest passion of my life, I’m going to start. The second half of last year, “now” resonated very strongly with me. So it’s fitting that I work on “start” this year. Here’s to reducing regrets.
What would you tell your past and future selves? What is your word of the year, and why did you choose it?