Long before emails, text messages, DMs and voicemails, people kept in touch by writing letters. Letters allowed people to reflect on their days and to communicate their thoughts, feelings, and lives to those who were far away. Because we are living in an unprecedented time, no matter our personal circumstances, we are experiencing life in a really different way than we have before. In this exercise, we’ll write letters to our future selves ten years from now. Think of it as a time capsule of this moment. What would you want future you to remember about this particular moment in your life? In what ways are things changing, both inside you and in our world? What is most important to you know? What do you want the world to know about how you feel?
This writing exercise is a time capsule. If you want to make it into a digital time capsule, after writing these, you use the website Future Me to actually send these letters to yourself at a future appointed date.
Grown-ups can lead this writing exercise with the kids in their lives. Older kids can follow the instructions on their own, but I recommend this exercise be done in community with the person leading it reading instructions aloud and allowing for time to write in between prompts. One important thing to note to both those facilitating and those participating: There is no “right” way to do this exercise. All the guidance is a jumping off point and whatever way this works for you is great!
Materials: You need something to write with. You can use this paper to write your poem or a separate one if you would prefer.
Step 1: Write a letter to your future self! What would you want yourself ten years from this moment to remember?
I’m going to include some questions/ideas but don’t answer these like you would questions on a test. Just use them as potential jumping off points to brainstorm if you need ideas.
What are you learning about yourself right now?
What are you learning about others right now?
What emotions has the Coronavirus brought up in you? In others?
What emotions have the uprisings around the harm caused to Black people and the need for Black lives to be valued and protected in our culture brought up in you?
What have you found is helpful for you to navigate this time?
What moments from particular days stand out to you (be specific!)?
When you are feeling sad or lonely or angry, what helps you soothe yourself?
What do you think you would want to remember about this time long after it has passed?
What are some sights/smells/touches/tastes/sounds from your days?
What gives you hope right now?
Brainstorm here, if you want. Or if you’re ready, get straight to writing.
Dear Future Self,
Writing Into Scary Times is a four-part series.
Lisa M. O'Neill is an essayist and journalist who writes about social justice issues, politics, and popular culture with an intersectional lens. She is the founder, host, and producer of The MATRIARCHITECTS, a podcast and platform which highlights change-makers who are building a culture that respects, values, and celebrates women. A native New Orleanian and current desert dweller, Lisa received her MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Arizona, where she taught writing in the English Department for a decade. She teaches in-person and online community writing workshops and designs and leads classes as a teaching artist in juvenile detention. She also works with writers as an editor and creativity usher, helping them discover their stories and and usher them onto the page. Her writing has appeared in Bitch Media, Bustle, Diagram, defunct, Edible Baja Arizona, Everyday Feminism, The Feminist Wire, GOOD, Good Housekeeping, Salon, Terrain.org, and The Washington Post, among others.