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A Letter to my Future Self,


What you know is memory but also something else.

What I know you know is when the letters arrived. When the sky broke. I know you know how many times we cried between now and what is now for you. You know something I cannot think about yet. You know if I got the nerve to call. (I hope I did.) You know if I found a way to help. (I hope I did.) You know who is at home. You have a new fear. You have been to the grocery. You have (I imagine) watched the kitchen fill with steam as the water boils for tea. You have better not let the ginger spoil, your father bought it for you – its long and twisting body jointed on the counter.

My future self you have a memory – I am just in the midst of it, where you decide what distance looks like. You have, I think, two options unless you come up with another.

Oh, my future self have you learned that not every car you hear turn onto the street is someone you know coming home?

I hope you are still writing your lists in the evening, just 10 pieces of the day. You don’t need fear to try harder to remember.

My future self, you feel younger than me since you don’t exist yet, but I know that is backward. You will have spent more time at home, more time in silence, more time mishearing the news and the radio, more time listening again.

Maybe this letter will shape who accepts it later. Maybe this is a way to define where I want to be, just by asking, just by looking for you.

Here is what I hope you will have found or learned by the time this letter reaches you:

a way to help that is sustainable outside of quarantine, 5 new ways to ask (how are you), knowledge on how to begin a conversation that should have started weeks ago, a way to show love that isn’t saying I’m sorry again, the capacity to be humbled and grateful outside of guilt when guilt is not necessary, how to lend a hand at a distance.

My future self – in the moment of writing this, there is red paint on my finger, and I cannot get it off and I wonder if it will still exist faintly for you when you read this. Future self I am reading my first book by Paulo Freire. This is maybe historic; this is something you will not have. This is a moment that is particular to time and I will treasure that in a strange, oddly shaped pocket of gratitude because that is the easiest place to put it.

My future self, today my mother described to me what she would do if she won the lottery and I swear if you do not give her your full attention if she talks about it again I will yell at you. What could you be doing that is more important? Nothing. Full attention always.

These are maybe the big moments. Maybe these are the big ones. If you do anything now, listen.

My future self, I know that I know little. I do not know what is coming. I am not in the future. I hear the rattling of tin cans up the street, curbside. I hear the rain, I hear the news playing quietly all through the evening. What I do know is what I am seeing day by day. The good and the beautiful and the generous and the bad and the deeply unjust. I don’t know who I will be when this reaches you – but I hope you find a way to accomplish what feels right and necessary and good.

What you accomplish is what you accomplish but, in the meantime, I will ask others what they need in each way I can. I will ask myself what I need in all the ways I know how.


Much love, May

2 Responses to “Full Attention Always…”

  1. Z

    reading this feels like my emotions have been turned into words – remarkably touching. beautifully put, and incredibly apt.

  2. Sean Hernández Adkins

    “You have better not let the ginger spoil, your father bought it for you – its long and twisting body jointed on the counter.”
    There is something remarkably tender about this thought; it feels somehow deeply important.
    “My future self, you feel younger than me since you don’t exist yet.”
    I think you’ve got this right, and I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.
    May, what you’ve written is beautiful and profound.
    -a UNC grad student


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