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Letters to the Future December 21, 2005

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.

Letter writing   A new web service allows you to write letters to yourself that will be delivered at a pre-determined time in the future. Future Me will deliver e-mail notes up to thirty years after you click the “send” button. 

I used to engage students in writing using a similar technique, so my first thought on the matter was that writing to me in the future would be fun. That opinion quickly changed. I discovered I was unprepared to dig around in my psyche for bits of melancholy or disappointment I might be experiencing today, commit them to print, and then timidly inquire of my future self if things have changed. 

When we write to our future selves, we engage in an act of hope. We are hopeful we will still be around to read it. Even more profoundly considered, we optimistically write to ourselves with the awareness that many things could change in our lives for better and for worse. I randomly reviewed dozens of letters on the site and found this gem that sums up someone’s existential pondering after ennumerating a long list of fears and health concerns: 

I’ve set this e-mail for your birthday a little over 3 years from now, when you’ll turn 40. If you make it. Hopefully things are better now. 

We have friends with whom we spend New Year’s Eve and sometimes write message to our future selves on the cusp of the New Year. We then tuck the letters into the last sheets of next year’s calendar to read them together a year later. I have never been too impressed with my own letters: short lists of resolutions, a few problems to resolve, and a desire that we will be healthy. Perhaps we will use Future Me this year and e-mail ourselves.

Profound life change can come in tiny increments, often unnoticeable from day to day, or arrive in a catastrophic or calamitous moment that forever changes everything. Writing to my future self reminds me that some of these changes are out of my control. If my future self reads the letter in good health and prosperity, with family and friends intact and happy, then that future self is some lucky son of a gun. 

I would remind my future self that if life has not worked out quite the way I had imagine it would, then my future self should just get over it and move on, laughing at the naiveté of my past self. Remember, the Earth is round so we cannot see too far ahead.



1. Zs - December 22, 2005

You see I thought it is only me weird that I write letters for my future. I never thought of looking on the internet for other ones :-)

I have an envelope, has a letter I wrote in very dark days of despair of my life. On top is written “Open January 2003” I think I intended to have it open for my birthday? I did not open it. I even don’t remember anymore is it a letter of hope or is it a letter of pain? I just guess is like the one you quote here “If you open it that means you made it” I am almost sure this is the message inside. I did not open it and it seems I will wait. More than that is weird I postpone in purpose the opening, just to see if I make it one more year.
In the same time I am aware it can be a time when I won’t be there next January to open it. Yes life changes suddenly. We are safe and sound one moment and the next in ICU and then flying hapilly ever after in the tunnel of light. Am I ready? Hmmm… I would not like to leave Taylor alone :-) better write one more letter to myself:

“When you read this remember life is based on the choices you make. Remember: there are always new choices available!”

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