At age 35, I quit my job. It was a good job. I was paid well. I worked with a team of hard-working, intelligent people whom I respected. I had female boss that inspired me. I had a generous 401K and great health benefits. We had decent company parties. I traveled a lot. And I loved it.
Yet, I wasn’t happy. I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I was afraid to ask myself, “What do you want? Who do you want to be? What do you want to spend your life’s moments on?”
When I finally answered those questions, there was no choice. I had to quit my job.
Recently I was invited to attend a Girl Scout Brownie troop meeting to talk to the girls about writing their personal stories. I decided to have them write a letter to their future self.
I asked the girls to imagine their hopes and dreams, to think about the places they want to visit or the jobs and activities that that make them the most excited. I asked them to think about something they really want to do, even if it scares or intimidates them. Even if they’re afraid of someone making fun of them. Then to set those fears aside and imagine what they would do if they could do anything.
In the future, they are artists. They are teachers. They garden for people who can’t. They volunteer at the Food Bank. They are dancers, models, world travelers, homeowners, mothers, and wives. There wasn’t a lid on their dreams.
I too wrote a letter to my future self. In the future, I am published. I am not broke. I am not crazy for walking away from a job to write. And I write every day.
As I read out loud the last line from my letter to the girls, “You are strong. You are beautiful. You are brilliant. I am so proud of you,” one Girl Scout flexed her arms, repeated the chant, kissed her flexed biceps, and laughed. So we all did. We all chanted.
It’s inspiring what young girls can dream up. It’s humbling what they say when they’re asked to find their chant.
“I love myself.
“I’m beautiful with my freckles.”
“I’m powerful and good.”
Below is the entirety of my letter, as well as images of the girl’s letters and drawings to their future selves. (For more on letters to your future self, see Kelly McGonigal’s site).
Dear Future Self,
It’s admirable this life you’ve built. It was when you became so clear about what you wanted in life and love that you could see the path and take it when it mattered most. It wasn’t easy, but you were patient. You were deliberate. You knew that to achieve your dreams you had to focus.
The books you wanted to write, the way that you wanted to live—in moments, not in debt but in love with life, with the people in your life, with the choices in your life—you manifested this. You published your first book because you gave the writing life a chance.
You knew that you were going to struggle, but that was the only way. You knew people would not understand, that not everyone would like what you do or what you write, and that it was okay not to be universally loved.
You are strong. You are brilliant. You are beautiful. I am so proud of you.