BY MARY ZAHRAN
Many people see a new year as an opportunity either to make resolutions for the coming year or to reflect on the previous one. But why stop at reflecting on a single year when you can reflect on your entire past? With this question in mind, I have decided to write letters to some of my former selves as a personal reminder of how much my perspective has changed during the course of my lifetime.
Dear 1960 Mary,
I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure that the police will not arrest a kindergartener for accidentally spilling mercurochrome all over her friend’s leg while attempting to administer first aid. So, catch your breath, dry your eyes and stop hiding in the bathroom.
From one worrywart to another,
Dear 1970 Mary,
You have miraculously managed to be photographed during the 15 minutes when you actually look pretty fetching
in a pair of hot pants. Enjoy your youthful metabolism while it lasts.
Dear 1971 Mary,
In a contest between a brick building and a 1969 Ford station wagon, please understand that the building will always win, no matter how much swearing you do while attempting to ease your parents’ car through an alley that is, and always will be, too narrow for such a maneuver.
Dear 1974 Mary,
The next time you have a choice between sleeping late or attending a private seminar with Aaron Copland, please resist the urge to sleep in. How many times in your life will you have a chance to sit in a room with only a handful of people and enjoy an intimate chat with one of the greatest composers of the 20th century? Fortyseven years later, I still want to kick myself for this missed opportunity.
From your sadder but musically wiser friend,
Dear 1977 Mary,
The next time you have a choice between seeing “An American in Paris” just to admire Gene Kelly’s physique or spending three hours on the telephone talking to a guy named Sam, do exactly what you did this time — skip the movie. Forty-four years and two daughters later, you will never doubt that you made the right call.
From one lucky girl to another,
Dear 1978 Mary,
Sometimes married couples argue. Get over it.
Still in love after all these years,
Dear 1980 Mary,
Eventually, your infant daughter will figure out the difference between day and night and adjust her sleep schedule accordingly. You will look back on these sleepless nights with great fondness when your teenage daughter keeps you awake for entirely different reasons. For now, enjoy this sweet miracle before she grows up.
Wishing you patience, joy and a good night’s sleep,
Dear 1983 Mary,
While you are currently upset about leaving your life in Raleigh and moving to Fayetteville, you will soon come to love this city and embrace it as your home. You will meet interesting people from all over the world, and some of them will become good friends. One day, you won’t be able to imagine a time when you didn’t love this place.
Wishing you grand adventures,
Dear late 80s and early 90s Mary,
Big Hair. Big shoulder pads. Highwaisted jeans. Ugly Christmas sweaters worn without a trace of irony.
Whatever you do, make sure you avoid being photographed.
With fond memories and a touch of embarrassment,
Dear 2010 Mary,
Nobody ever said home renovations are easy or fun. There you are, crying like a baby, sitting on the floor of a kitchen that has been stripped to the studs and doesn’t have any running water or heat. And we could sure use some heat as we endure one of our coldest Decembers on record. Believe it or not, this renovation will eventually be finished, and you will be able to enjoy your new, spacious kitchen. So, dry your eyes and carry on. This situation is only a problem if you make it one.
From your older and tougher self,
Dear 2020 Mary,
By any conceivable metric, you are now officially an “elderly” person. Some people think that being in this age group entitles them to offer their advice and “wisdom” like a Pez dispenser spitting out candy. For heaven’s sake, don’t be one of those people. Hold your tongue when it is wise to do so (which is probably most of the time) and speak your mind only when your words will make a difference. Too much speech dilutes the significance of all speech. And whatever else you do, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Here’s to our next adventure,
“You can never step in the same river twice.”
Mary Zahran, who thinks everyone should write letters every now and then, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.