Letter From My Past Self

Last Friday (4/17), Ms Kim placed a letter on my desk.

“Mail for you.”

“Oh wow,” was my response rather than “thank you.” I was surprised to be getting any mail at all, and curious about what the Fulbright office would be sending me, especially through snail mail. Something about renewal maybe?

I opened the envelope to reveal purple letter paper. It was folded so that “Monica” and a smiley in my handwriting peeked out. The letter to my future self that Fulbright had us write. I opened it, and the writing looked only vaguely familiar. Ah, this is from Gyeongju conference last October, was my first thought. Then I looked more carefully at the cutesy design, and felt a sudden jerk of surprise – no, this is from orientation.

I’m easily distracted at work. I flit from one activity halfway done, to another, and then back. So after opening the letter, I folded it back up, thinking, wait, I’ll finish what I’m doing before reading it. And I guess I wanted the moment to last longer.

I kept wondering what I’d said – what if it wasn’t even encouraging? During Gyeongju conference we received copies of our statements of purpose – submitted when applying to Fulbright. Although it was supposed to be inspirational and remind us of our original goals and dreams, all I saw was a carefully crafted document tailored to what I thought and was told Fulbright would want to hear – to say what I needed to maximize my chances of getting in. Sure, it contained some hopes and dreams, ones rigidly constricted by bureaucratic demands. I remembered how painful it was and how much I stressed when writing this statement.

What if my letter was like that? What the words just rang hollow? I guess it wouldn’t matter in any case. I’d just move on with my day slightly annoyed at my past self.

So I opened the letter. Dear Monica, it began. Look at you! You’re a teacher! I went on to give myself encouragement – not in any particularly moving language, but hey, I’d been under time restraints and had no chance to edit.

In the letter, I admitted to my nervousness, both about teaching and meeting my extended family. I’d forgotten that I was nervous about this from the very beginning. There was also the reminder to study Korean everyday…oops. I was doing pretty well for a while – I promise!

I was proud to see that many aspects of this year lined up with what I was hoping for. Past self, I did find a good church and supportive community. And although you were worried about it, and it’s something I’m still working on, I haven’t let go of art, but that dedication was spurred by things unexpected: the Ferguson non-indictment and my time in Japan.

However, like you predicted, I’m still not so great at keeping in touch with people back home. I still think Skype is awkward, but I’ve used it more this year than I ever have in my life (although that’s not saying much). But don’t worry, I’ve still got another year up ahead. And a little purple letter to remind me when I forget.

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