I finally got the email I wrote to myself in April of 2005.
Matt Sly and Jay Patrikios from DearFutureMe.org included my email in their published collection Dear Future Me: Hopes, Fears, Secrets, Resolutions (pp.152-153), which was pretty fun (yes, they did ask my permission first).
I’ve edited out the amount of my student loan and the number of years it took me to complete the Ph.D. here, but here is the rest:
The following is an e-mail from the past, composed on Sunday, April 3, 2005, and
sent via FutureMe.org
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Your past me is at a crossroads. The Ph.D. is done, but appears to have been a waste of time. I hope that I am wrong and that later events will show that everything was good and necessary. B will be five in May and I’ll be 41 in a couple of weeks. Everything is beginning to bloom and I’ve planted ferns from Gramma – we just visited her to celebrate in our small way her 88th birthday.
I’m looking at this tome that took up so much of my life – and looking at the lack of teaching positions, the chances for me to get a job here that will allow me to pay back most of my debt before I die and feeling as though I should have gone to law school. In the future, will I still feel this despair? Will I see a meaning for this path I chose?
All in all, I would rather have been enjoying my life instead of living in dread and insecurity all those years. I am writing this to you, future me, so that you can review the situation (cf. Oliver!).
The simple things are what bring me the most enjoyment. Look around. What surrounds you now? What have you chosen?
I don’t feel like the Ph.D. was a waste of time, although it took too long and the long-term financial costs are extreme. I never did get a full-time academic job, but I am very happy with my technical documentation admin position. I’ll be 44 in a couple of weeks, and Gramma is still doing great living on her own (although she did recently have a pacemaker put in). Law school is still something that I wish I had done, but I don’t feel regret about it the way I did a few years ago.
My humanities training turns out to be excellent life training, and my experiences carry an inner richness that wouldn’t have been possible without learning how to tolerate and even relish the dynamics of complexity.
All in all, I like my life and I like me – much more so than I ever did before. What have I chosen? For the most part, pretty good stuff.