A Letter to My Past Self

I see you scribbling out words in the bathroom stall, grinning to yourself about the silly thing you’re planning to do. You doubt it will accomplish anything to give a handwritten note to a musician you admire, but you secretly hope that it will. You have no idea if he’ll read this note, or if he’ll consider your idea to add more female voices to the website he and his brother recently launched. You’re feeling nervous about shaking his hand and looking him in the eye as you hand the note to him, but you’re determined to take this risk.

And here I sit, nearly ten years later typing on a laptop at ten o’clock at night, feeling incredibly proud of you. You have no idea how this one little interaction will change your life for the better. You just can’t imagine how many writers and artists and friends you’re going to meet during the next ten years because of this night. You don’t know if this guy will even read your letter, let alone invite you to submit some of your writing for his fans to read. You don’t realize that in a couple of years you’ll be helping plan a conference for this burgeoning community of creative types from all over America and Europe. You can only dream of having your words printed in a book someday, but little do you know that you’re about to take the first step down a path that leads to this very thing.

All because you put yourself out there that night. Because you stayed after the show, stood in line with your friends, and took the time to scribble “to the proprietor” on the outside of a letter you wrote at home earlier that day—at the last minute, in the bathroom, at the church where you saw him in concert for the first time.

It’ll be months before he discovers it in his backpack, before he finally reads it and visits your blog, then sends you an email saying he’d like to see more of your work. So don’t get discouraged while you’re waiting. Don’t give up writing new material, don’t stop telling your stories and sharing your posts on social media. Don’t listen to that insipid little voice that tells you no one cares what you’re doing. And don’t regret obeying your own intuition. That part of your heart that convinces you to risk vulnerability now and again was put there for a reason. It’s the way you connect with other people, and trust me, you’re going to need those people, those connections, that practice of pouring your heart out to others. It’s going to save your life again and again during the next ten years.

I wish I could tell you things will be fun and happy and easy for you in the future, but you probably wouldn’t believe me anyhow. You’ve been around long enough to know that heartache and trouble are unavoidable here on planet Earth. But the good news is that you’ll still find unexpected moments to grin at yourself along the way, to be purposefully silly in the hopes of making someone else smile, to capture beautiful words and fling their light out into a dark night not knowing where they will land.

I’m glad to know your story, Janna Barber. I’m glad you take chances and know how to laugh and care about telling the truth. You may not finish all you set out to do, but I trust you’ll do the best you can along the way. After all, you know that’s all anyone can do anyhow. Now, get back to your seat and enjoy the music, while there’s still air in your lungs to sing.

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