Dear Future Self, twenty years from now, wherever you may be,
Hi there. It would appear you have me at a disadvantage, since you know me, but I don't know you. To you, I am a little brother. To me, though, you are a dimly-recognized stranger, one of those faces I'm sure I've seen somewhere before, and the name's on the tip of my tongue, but I still can't remember where I met you. I feel proper introductions are in order, but since there's no one around, we might as well dispense with protocol and get comfy. I'll bring the beer.
I'm writing to you from the wee hours of insomnia, and since we've been an insomniac all our life, it wouldn't surprise me if you were still up at this hour. That is, if you're still alive. I'm sure you are. Remember how I made that chilling prediction that we would die at age 76? Probably knocked it down a few years by the smoking, but probably brought it back up by quitting meat and high-fructose corn syrup. Either way, chances are you're still around.
You are 43 years old, going on 44, and we've both been struck with the persistent sense that we might have been happier if we were born in a different decade. Since you still have your memory, I won't belabor the point any further. Suffice it to say that right now, I feel in the right time, but not necessarily the right place. But you probably feel neither.
For me, all this is a little exciting. We grew up in apocalyptic discourses, from Sunday school to all the Time-Life books published in the 70's, to the scruffy liberals you found yourself hanging out with in college, to now, where I'm at, watching the world tumble into a flat spin. All I can do is hang on and think about letting go just long enough to experience the exhilaration of uncertainty.
But we were never very good at dealing with uncertainty. We grew up thinking we would be somebody, but then we learned a whole shitload of theory and understood why the poor can never be rich and the powerless can never be powerful, and why the system is fucked beyond repair and for me to invest anything significant into it beyond what would directly and immediately benefit me and mine would be a waste of resources and time. So we told ourself that we're content with what we have here.
Frankly, I thought my early twenties would turn out different from this, but I always knew what sort of person I would become. Still, I don't feel the least bit confident in guessing what sort of person you are. We are the product of our environment, and whatever agency we exert only is allowed to us by structure. But I'll guess anyway.
You're definitely still alive. You probably have children. You probably are still with your wife, if you chose her carefully and took a long, long time to unlearn all those hyperactive defense mechanisms. You might even be happy, or some close approximation of it. You figured out where you fit into all this mess, and have learned to let go of the strings and fall, with full confidence that you'll land on your feet or die trying.
Or, you might have clung to your fuckedupedness with all your strength, in which case, you definitely don't have a wife, and no children, and are a very bitter and lonely middle-aged man. If that's the case, you're probably not alive. You would have hung yourself at the first grey hair. But the anthropic principle leads me to believe that if you're reading this, you're still alive. Since I can't get any sort of empirical evidence to allow me reasonable certainty of your reading this, I'll just have to take it on faith.
Write me back, if you can. If not, I'll wait.
You, twenty years in the past