How Writing A Letter To Myself Helped Me Work Out What I Really Wanted In Life
In a letter I listed the job, partner, and apartment I wanted more than anything. Within two years, like magic, I had them all.
13 April 2013
“We’ll be back soon,” says Tim.
I’m horizontal on my couch, sad, and beyond hungover. I can feel last night’s mascara clumping around my sore, puffy eyes.
“Don’t leave me,” I implore my friends. The thought of sitting up is making my head spin. I start to cry.
Blaze looks over at Tim, an expression of "What do we do with her?" written all over her face.
“We’re going to the shops. What can we get you?”
There’s nothing I can imagine eating or drinking. But they’re gone, out the door. I Snapchat another friend a photo of my blotched, teary face; the melodrama is in overdrive. Blaze and Tim return with Powerade, watermelon, and a bag of potato gems. I peel myself from the couch to join them in the kitchen as they try to work my dodgy oven and slice the melon. I am pathetic, but loved.
Today, like every Saturday before, I am the most hungover I’ve ever been.
The smudged entry stamp from the seedy Kings Cross nightclub is still on my forearm, with no sign of fading. It was the type of place where 18-year-old boys cut in front of you at the bar, while the rest of their group stand to one side of the dance floor filming the flashing neon strobe lights and girls dancing in metallic bandage dresses.
I don’t know why I go to these places. It was just another Friday night and I'm trying to keep up the illusion that I am some kind of “party girl”. But in reality, I'm a girl crying into her couch cushions while her friends try their best to make everything seem a little brighter.
As the sun sets I’m alone, still horizontal, and I can’t help but feel as though I’m living my own personal Groundhog Day. Tomorrow, I decide, will be the start of a new chapter.
It’s strange how well I remember the afternoon after that forgettable Saturday. I was sitting at the dining table in my tiny apartment, the sun streaming in through the glass doors that led out to the balcony. There was a piano player who lived in the building across from me. They were practising.
I started the letter casually, cool, already nervous of future me being embarrassed by whatever it was I was about to say. The date – 14 April 2015 – at the very top of the page was two years on from the date I was actually writing: 14 April 2013.
“Dear Gyan,” I wrote, extremely formally considering I was speaking to myself. “This is just a letter to explain what’s going on in your life now and what’s happened over the past two years.” Like a fortune teller whispering secrets, I wrote down my dreams as if they’d already come true, explaining how my every wish came to fruition in just a couple of years.
I’d gotten the idea from an old magazine article that presented the oh-so powerful wisdom of Oprah, the musings of The Secret, and a whole lot of other flowery examples as proof that manifestation was the only way to get the life you wanted. It was worth a shot, I thought. I had nothing else to do that day.
Tapping on the makeup-stained keys of the white MacBook I’d had since high school, the first thing I told my present-day self about was my job. The year before I penned the letter I’d been working at Cosmopolitan magazine and had aspirations to return as beauty editor, a big step up from the assistant role I’d left to work on another masthead within the same company. I wrote down my new editor salary – which was, again, a big bump up from what I’d been on as a humble PA – as well as the finer details of how I got the gig. The email from the big boss was noted word for word.
I followed with a description of the apartment I lived in, referencing a “home life” Pinterest board I’d made in another hurried manifestation attempt. The bedroom of my dreams was bright, white, and filled with leafy plants. It had a balcony that, of course, housed even more succulents and tall cacti. I even went into details about how often I hung out with my new imaginary housemate: “They have their own group of friends, but you have mutual friends, too. Your place is where they all come together.”
And then I got started on the nonexistent boyfriend. Out of thin air I pulled someone I wasn’t sure even existed. “He just makes you want to be the very best version of yourself,” I typed. Everything I imagined about this boyfriend from the future I noted down: his height, his weekend routine, and how much he appreciated my love for my country hometown. “He didn’t grow up in Sydney either,” I mused towards the end of the very long paragraph.
Within a few days of writing the letter I'd essentially forgotten all about it, completely distracted by my extremely busy, “work hard, play hard” existence. But two years later, to the day, it popped back into my mind. Before I’d even managed to find my old laptop, which was buried in the bottom of my cupboard, I’d already mentally ticked off all of the wishes that had come true. There were a lot: the salary, the succulents, the friends living just a block away, and of course, the one person I now can’t imagine my life without. I promised myself I’d write another letter straight away. I mean, it had worked, hadn’t it? I’d somehow managed to conjure my dream life. But almost two years have passed and I still haven’t written anything.
When I wrote the letter I was juggling late nights and hangovers with a full-time writing job at a teen magazine. I loved it but, typical of most people in the first few years of their career, I was all too eager to figure out my “next step”. Being a magazine editor by 25 was my wildest dream (one that unsurprisingly didn’t come true) and I honestly believed I could navigate the relatively small magazine industry all the way to the editor’s chair. I had everything figured out, no doubt.
My dream job was the first point in the letter, and it was the first to unfold in real life. I didn’t end up back at Cosmo but through an unexpected – and emotionally taxing – company restructure, I landed the beauty editor job at Cleo. My salary? Well, it was exactly $5,000 more than I’d wished for in my letter. Close enough.
I’m not typically the girl who wishes she had a boyfriend. While most of the letter was an obvious attempt to manifest something I really wanted, the love section of my letter was something different altogether. To me, it was a stark reminder to not bother with people who are the opposite of the person I’d sacrifice solo life for.
Hungover mornings and evenings sloshing together vodka and soda before long nights out were often spent analysing: people, dates, habits. My friends had started calling me out on the fact that I got tired of people very easily. To them, it looked like my number one dating habit was randomly declaring that I hated the guts of whoever I’d been seeing. It seemed like I had a split personality when it came to relationships. But typically after a few hours on the phone to my best friend I’d realise I shouldn’t have been dating that person in the first place. Somehow I was missing all the warning signs: the subtly sexist jokes, the trash political opinions, the fact they didn’t own any books.
It was an exhausting and confusing cycle because I was more than happy alone. But then I met my letter man.
Sitting in a bar overlooking Sydney's Darling Harbour, I elbowed my friend. “I went to school with that guy over there,” I said, without even the slightest intention of talking to him. The last time I'd seen him I was in my final year of high school and he was home from uni for the weekend. We were at a house party and ended up kissing, after dancing alone to Modest Mouse's "Float On" in a spare bedroom. After the party, we didn't speak again until that summer afternoon by the harbour. It had been six years since we'd seen each other.
Now we were both grown up and in Sydney, hours from our country hometown, attending a boat party a mutual friend had organised. I remember him standing on the deck of the boat waving at me over a crowd of people. At 6'4" it was hard to miss him. Our first conversation is now a little blurry but we both recall me asking for his phone number as we parted. Hours later I sent him a message, asking him to come to the club I was at. He did, and within a few hours, we were telling strangers on the dance floor that it was our engagement party. We thanked them all for coming and sharing the night with us. We thought we were hilarious. We still do, actually.
Not living in Sydney at the time, he decided he would miss his interstate flight home the day after the boat – and our fake engagement celebration – on the simple proviso we have the “best day ever”. So we did. We went to a Yoko Ono exhibition, ate lunch in shady park by a pond filled with koi fish, and that night we cooked dinner together. Crammed into my tiny apartment’s kitchen we joked that he'd moved in. We stayed up late again deciding what name we’d use on our joint Facebook account when we were old and a little senile – we invented our very own Kimye. It’s now the name on our joint rent account.
The day I re-read the letter, I couldn’t believe my luck. Somehow I’d managed to harness the power of the universe and make it work in my favour. I could no longer remember which magazine I’d torn the story from, but I knew in that moment that it had been telling the truth. I’d told the universe what I wanted, and it had delivered. I owed Rhonda Byrne a thank you.
But really, in retrospect, it is believable. I hadn’t wished for anything that was particularly unachievable: a job I was qualified for, a partner that I’ve never once found boring, a healthier lifestyle, and a better decorated home. Really, the wildest thing of all was that for once in my life, I had the receipts to prove that I got what I wanted. Instead of thanking the wind for blowing me in the right direction, I was able to thank myself for turning the sail at the right moment. While I once might have bowed my head and shrugged that I am “just lucky” to have gotten the job, found the boyfriend, landed the apartment, I was able to explain that all it took was a little determination. A strategy. A plan I subconsciously set into action.
It’s time for me to write another letter, I know that. But this time I’ll be writing it differently. Instead of writing a wish list, I’ll be writing a to-do list, because at the end of the day, that’s what the letter was. It just shouldn’t have taken a hungover breakdown to make me think about what I wanted. There’s a lot I want to happen in the next two years and once I figure out exactly what those things are, I’ll be able to take the first step to making more wishes come true. The biggest difference, I assume, will be that my second letter will be twice as long.