I Wrote an Email to My Future Self

It was a Powerful Experience

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

What do you write to yourself in ten years?

I was suddenly choked. Blood rushed to my fingers. My hands felt heavy over the keys. What to type?

It’s difficult to convey how powerful the experience was. I write emails every day — dozens in a work day. But not all emails are created equally.

I had recently stumbled on a new feature on Gmail that you can schedule emails. I’m a frequent self-emailer. My inbox is always open, and it’s easy to send yourself files and reminders that you can pick up elsewhere. This time, “elsewhere” was an unknown place in ten years’ time.

I thought it would be an interesting idea. I’ll drop myself a note that I’ll pick up in exactly ten years. But what started out as a fun idea stirred up the deeper, darker depths of the cauldron of memories and feelings inside me. These unsettled depths have swirled around inside me for days since. With my fingers poised, it suddenly dawned on me that I may not even be alive to read the message.

I’m having a child in less than a month’s time. My partner is 38 weeks pregnant. Our lockdown together has been a daily reminder of the miracle of life. Life kicking from within. It didn’t seem real until the rainy day we sat in a clinic for a scan. My partner squeezed my hand and I literally gasped when that little person appeared, its tiny heart beating as fast and insistently as a locomotion.

We don’t know the gender of the child. It has been entertaining thinking of names. When my future self reads the email the name we decide upon will be a cherished word to me.

With this, among other things, in mind, I feel I’m at yet another juncture in life. What kind of home would I want for my child? How could I provide for them as much as I possibly can while having as much time with them as I possibly can? How do you achieve equilibrium again when a new human being lands on you?

I started with a joke. To break the ice. “I hope you’re still alive to read this”, I wrote. Morbid, I know. But considering things like this is more important than we realize. A message to your future self brings to the surface the question that hangs over us all.

It all came gushing forth from there. My fingers grew stiff, yet tingled with feeling. My eyes were ready to let up tears, but they never came. I forgot to breathe from moment to moment. There was no let up. I wrote about my hopes, I considered where I live, my health, my relative wealth. It was a dispatch from the time of pandemic, an odd thing to do in a strange situation. What will I think of this time looking back ten years from now?

My parents had come to say hello that weekend and I mentioned them too. I reminded myself of how beautiful my partner is. I wrote about lockdown, the strangeness of life in what I hope will be an unrepeated experience. I thought about our child, as yet unnamed, who will be nine years old when that message from the past surfaces. What will my child be like? Perhaps we’ll read that email together. What world would I want for my child? What man am I going to be when I’m a decade wiser? And what will I think of myself as I am now?

I told my future self about what was happening now, even mundane stuff, because everything was suddenly so important. All those moments in life rain over us. At that moment they were like an exhilarating downpour.

But you can’t catch the rain. The message I typed was longer than I imagined, but shorter than seemed adequate. I clicked send. It blinked away. My untidy inbox, a pile of routine business, appeared in its place.

Typing that email was like a reset. All those thoughts that had settled deeply for so long were still swirling around in my mind, and would start to sink again. As for the message — those electrical sparks lie dormant, waiting for release. A timer counts down.

I sat for a moment, staring at all the mundane emails in my inbox. The hope that the future would be better overwhelmed me. I was strengthened by that hope.

The lessons of philosophy and history, their practical benefits for your life and work. Feel free to get in touch: stevengambardella@gmail.com

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