To my Future Self,
Breathe. You must be thinking, seriously, my teen self is acting like an old fart of a teacher telling off overstressed kids, but seriously, breathe. Stop. Pause. Listen. It's your heart beating. It's telling you, I'm beating so damn hard, I might just kill you one day.
Okay, let's digest. There can only be two reasons for your heart to beat like that. One reason is because I wouldn't have changed- I would still be that overzealous, neurotic, depressed teenager with a penchant for word thieves, dream catchers and moment makers. The other reason would be just the opposite: it's beating with life, with purpose, with hope.
I hope you'll be that second person.
Because being that second person means being serenaded by Chopin in a boy's car, travelling down to Bondi Beach watching sculptures rear out of the sea and you're feeling like, maybe, love may finally find you at last. Being that second person means you just won't shut up talking to patrons at a writer's festival overlooking Sydney Harbour, as the sun paints your excited face orange and bright with your passion for words. Being that second person means laughing with the Martians with Markus Zusak, your literary hero.
Remember that? Remember all that? I hope there are many more moments out there. Because every year is just going to get better. If you are true to yourself, and you told yourself, "That's it, I have enough" of seeing life pass you by in a tangle of Facebook posts and narcissistic misery, and you did something about it, then hell, at 50, I'll be so happy for you. Just don't be like Mum. At 50, she's a terracotta warrior, her face entombed with lines of misery and traces of regret about dreams never pursued. About one too many sacrifices made to give you life. I hope you'll treasure what she's done for you. But I also hope you'd have turned your back on her expectations and followed what your heart said instead too. No one has a monopoly on your "best interests". No one.
So I want you to read this and say, "Yes, I've done it. Yes, I'm still doing it." I want you to read this and drag out the digital archives and tell me, look, I've written my first novel. I've travelled the world and tasted the Mekong in my soles. I've paddled across the Atlantic and sought the Great American Friendship Dream and I got it, the day I touched down in an American airport and get glomped by a giant whose heart beats life and purpose and grit and beauty, all at once. I've watched Ludovico Einaudi open and close my heart with a teasing ripple of his piano genius, I've watched the Northern Lights blaze open the heavens and I've seen a white Christmas- I've seen snow pile on my doorstep waking up on that special day of the year. And I want you to save the best for the last. I want you to teasingly rip out a page from notebooks (undoubtedly, anachronistic by your own time, but ever the Luddite, you will keep holding onto these precious moleskines) and write in purple letters: I am a writer. And then, you'll sit me down, and say, Rachel, that doesn't mean a wide-eyed innocent gal who thought words could always save lives. That means a word thief with a flame of life clutched in her fist. And she'll strike at every turning page of her life story like Zeus and his lightning bolts, and it would be better than being a god, because you know you're going to die soon. You're going to be vulnerable. You're going to grieve and be hurt and be lost and be found again. And then, you'll realise, that's the story of life. That's the quest of life: to be a master of one's uncertain destiny. Then tear it all to pieces and say, Rachel- actually, I was lying to you all along. No one knows the answers. You have to live first.
And so, that's what this letter is for. To remind you. To infuriate the hell out of you. Because even our best intentions go astray and the cynicism of harsh experience hardens like cholesterol. There is no ladder to climb in life. It's just a constant hopscotch whose boxes twist and flex like a liquidised version of snakes and ladders and you struggle to keep your footing. But that's okay. Because with the danger, there will be fun.
Or maybe not. Surprise me, my friend. Laugh at the youthful assumptions that litter this letter. At least you took a deep breath to reflect on this turning point of your life. Now do me a favour. Write me a reply and tell me how terribly wrong I am probably going to be.