In 2019, Sal Khan wrote a letter to his past self as a reflection exercise and made that letter public and published it on his blog. Thanks Sal.
Inspired by his post and this reflection exercise, I decided to write a letter from my future self (Matt in 2029). In other words, I wrote the letter from future Matt (2029) to present Matt (2019). Of course, I wrote this letter before the global pandemic, before my first daughter born. So much has changed since a year ago. That being said, the exercise is super valuable and allows me to gauge whether I am walking the course that I had once charted.
And I think you should also do the same reflection exercise. Set aside about an hour. Just lay it all out. Then, set the letter aside and revisit it six months from now, a year from now, five years from now. You’ll be surprised how accurate (and inaccurate) your predictions are.
A letter to myself
Dear 2019 Matt,
You see that wife of yours? Go give her a big wet kiss on the lips. Then throw your arms around her, giving her a big bear hug. Hold it. Now tell her you love her — I’ll wait while you do it — because you really don’t tell her enough. Have no fear: she’s not going anywhere. And while you are at it, kiss Metric on the nose and pat Mushroom on the head. They’re both in doggy heaven now, smiling down on me, 2029 Future Matt.
Moving on, here are some suggestions.
First off, up your Vietnamese speaking skills (and your written skills while you are at it). Seriously. You are a Vietnamese American man. Vietnamese — the mother tongue of your two, refugee parents. Use the language to connect (and reconnect) with your loved ones, friends and family, especially your grandma. It’s important Matt — she’s no longer around. Don’t make the mistake of not being able to not only articulate and share your thoughts and feelings and your life story, but listen to her stories. How did she do it all — having kids at 19 and then fleeing Vietnam without a lick of English? Separately, don’t you want your children to speak the language as well?
Next up, get involved with the community. I understand you are naturally introverted and insular. But you aren’t alone: join a community of like minded people. People who care about the things you care about. Cannot find that community? Make one. Like your wife tells you — you are a community builder. You have this ability to attract and bring people together, make them feel comfortable under their own skin (since that’s something you’ve worked so hard on: learning to accept yourself).
Keep up the singing and guitar lessons. They’ve come in handy. No — future you is not a rock star and you are not touring across the globe. But you’ve breathed music into your children’s lives. They’re constantly yanking on your t-shirt, inviting you to sing and dance. And of course you do it because you not only love them to pieces but you want to teach them how to be comfortable under their own skin. That’s important to you because you know what it feels like not feel completely okay with who you are.
Keep plugging away at that Computer Science Master’s program from Georgia Tech. It’s serving a couple purposes. On one hand, you are doing it because you are mastering your craft, learning the ins and outs of your discipline. On the other hand, you know there’s shadow side to why you are doing it: you can feel a bit insecure at times (even though you don’t let it show) since you are in the big leagues, working at Amazon and being surrounded smart folks with their fancy degrees. But once you finish up that program, use that lunch time to actually have lunch with folks instead of studying.
Now, on the emotional side, keep walking that path of forgiveness. Remember that Oprah interview you watched, the interview with Wade and James, the two brave men speaking out about their sexual abuse from Michael Jackson? Remember what James Safechuck poignantly said: forgiveness is not a line you cross, but a path you take. With that quote in mind, learn not only how to forgive yourself for the things you’ve done and people you hurt but learn how to forgive others around you — like your father. Yes, he’s still around but he’s old now: 70. He doesn’t have that much time left on this earth. Basically, keep up with what you are doing: you no longer imagine what life could be if things were different. No. That’s not you anymore and future you is proud.
One more thing: reintroduce meditation to your life. Cause 2029 is crazier than you’d expect, even more so than now. You think Trump being the president is ludicrous ? Can you guess who is the president in 2029?
So far, I’ve been naming a bunch of things for you to do and for to think about. But also take it easy on yourself. Acknowledge how far you have come. You are piling so much on your plate: you are working full time as a software engineer at Amazon, playing husband 24 x 7, walking the dogs at 06:30 AM every morning (from your cozy 2 story Northgate house to Maple Leaf park) because the dogs deserve daily exercise to keep them healthy, taking singing lessons every Tuesday evening, mastering the fret board of your guitar, refining your writing skills.
I know your mind constantly races. You want to be a good husband (you are). You want to be a good son (you are). You want to be a good brother (you are). You want to be a good father (you will be).
2029 Matt is really proud of you