A Letter From the Future to 30 Year Old Me
On Children, A Pandemic, A Divorce, and Being Asian to Celebrate My 40th Birthday
Dearest 30 Year Old Nami,
Happy belated birthday and congratulations on your engagement! You’re only four months away from tying the knot. Didn’t think it would ever happen, did you?
If we had told 20 year old Nami she would be engaged and living in Los Angeles in ten years, there’s no way she would believe us. But here you are.
By the way, don’t stop taking care of your skin. So far, we’re doing great in the wrinkle department. But maybe stop smoking sooner than later. I know it’s our only vice, but there are other joys in life. (Crystals. Yoga. Sipping Tea…you’ll be more of an Angeleno in ten years than you’re expecting to become. Though, thankfully, your punctuality will remain intact.)
I gotta tell ya, the future is pretty bright in a lot of ways. I can’t wait for you to experience the fully digital age and your mastery of remote work. The friends you’ll meet. The joys of watching your kids grow and your parents retire. There’s so much to look forward to. Anyway, all in good time.
There’re also some other things. It’s the main reason I’m writing you.
The fact is, I don’t know if you’re ready to hear all of this, but I’m gonna tell you anyway because this is a letter from the future and one would expect more interesting tidbits than that you’ll love crystals in a decade.
Let me start by saying that as of right now, no one in your immediate family has died. So, that puts things into perspective. And as far as I know, I’m healthy albeit sleep deprived.
So, right now I am…we are finalizing my divorce.
We have two daughters — a free-spirited, easy-going almost-two year old with a speech delay and a great sense of humor as well as a highly emotionally intuitive five year old who is wise beyond her years. We’re going to be a single mom in two days.
Our parents live with us and though they’re in good spirits and healthy as of this moment, I’m definitely thinking about the future and readying myself to take care of them as they get older. Pop turns 80 this year. By the way, be extra nice to them always because they’ll be one of the only reasons you’re actually standing in ten years.
Also, get ready because you’re going to be 24/7 IT support for Pop for the foreseeable future once they’re living with you.
There’s a global pandemic happening, so we’ve been in lockdown — that means we essentially haven’t left the house — in over 400 days. Millions of people have died in the United States and globally. Hundred of thousands of people have lost jobs, the economy is a disaster, homelessness is a reality for a lot of people, kids have been pulled from school and are doing everything virtually and we’re all trying to balance work, house, and childcare without having daily nervous breakdowns. Unsurprisingly, divorce rates are at record highs.
When it all comes down to it, I think the general consensus is that lockdown has just sped up the process of the inevitable for a lot of couples. So, keep that in mind because I can feel you panicking. (Breathe.)
Consider buying stocks in a teleconferencing company called Zoom when it comes out.
Oh, and because the virus came out of China, there’s a wave of anti-Asian violence happening (I’m talking innocent, 90 year old Asian men being slammed to the ground. Honest, hardworking Asian women being gunned down. Verbal harassment galore.) It’s causing every Asian person in America to come face-to-face with the trauma they’ve been denying their entire lives — both personally and from a community standpoint — and are ill-equipped to actually process. Going out to do anything gives me anxiety and the thought of Mom, Pop or the girls being in danger makes me spiral out of control. Pop texts me incessantly when I’m out walking the girls and has taken to carrying a big, wooden stick with him when we go take walks.
Fun Fact: I wake up at 5:45am every day just so I have time to journal and do 10 minutes of yoga before the day starts. (This is going to feel luxurious for you when the time comes.)
So, that’s how things have changed.
I’ll give you a minute. That was a lot all at once.
If you’re wondering if I’m ok (because you’re me, so I know how your brain works), the answer is yes and no. Really depends on what’s happening at any given moment, but overall, I’m doing much better than a few months ago. You’ll deal with nightly panic attacks for about two months, but that’s what meditation, breathing exercises, and ASMR videos are for. (When ASMR shows up in pop culture, jump on that train, sister.)
You’ll get through it. We both know this isn’t our first rodeo with severe anxiety. It’s just a clusterfuck of really momentous things. No more than that. And look! I’m here. I’m still standing!
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happened and how to prepare you. I’ve been thinking about the list of decisions you should or shouldn’t make. For one, I really don’t think you’ll be able to control a global pandemic coming out of China. You also probably won’t be able to control the anti-Asian hate that surfaces from it.
…although…Listen. Donald Trump is gonna be president for a while. If you can stop that from happening, you might actually save millions of people. Keep that one in your back pocket.
But back to what I was trying to figure out about what to tell you to change. Here’s my advice: Don’t change a thing.
I’m not going to tell you when and where you should make a different decision. Anyway, we’ve seen all those time-hopping movies. If you change something, inevitably something a thousand times worse will occur later.
I know it seems illogical considering your hopes and dreams are wrapped up so tightly in your relationship and the pursuit of fulfilling work and family life. Trust me, they change. MY hopes and dreams are different. Similar, but make “relationship” plural and add your relationship to yourself and the universe in there.
I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, but there are few things I truly regret.
The last decade has been the most difficult, but also the most rewarding and eye-opening. Without the struggles you’re going to face, — and trust me here, things are going to get really dark and you’re going to feel very alone a lot of the time — there’s no way you’ll uncover who you really are and be honest with yourself about what will make you whole and who you want to be.
You’re going to finally put yourself first after a lifetime of trying to make everyone happy. You’ll set boundaries and not take shit. You’re going to be able to let go of what doesn’t serve you even if it hurts because you know it’s the right thing to do. You will understand your own worth. I just don’t see another way for you to really get to this point. All I know is that you need to get here.
I do ask that you try to be present. Cliché, I know, but time does move fast. And there’re things you’re gonna want to savor.
No matter what, the feeling of your hands in Charles’ will be something you cherish and love for the rest of your life. The memories you make when you two are at your best will always be some of the happiest in your life, so focus on making those memories and just being there with him. Don’t question your love for each other. Just enjoy it and know that it is real in every single one of those moments, big and small.
I know you’re probably asking why it’s ending in divorce. The hard truth is that love is not enough, but know that we gave it our all and this decision is, in a lot of ways, the final example of how much we care about each other. I think we both want the other to be happy and we know that’s not going to happen together.
Rest assured, we’re doing it just about as gracefully as a couple could.
Every time your oldest daughter tells you she loves you or brings you a drawing or hugs you, stop and take it in. Be with her in that moment. She’ll shower you with so much love, your cup will overflow, but don’t take it for granted. When she asks for one more hug, give it to her…give her ten more.
She will see you for who you are and understand you deeply. In those dark hours, she will be a beacon. Wise beyond her years. She’ll share her most vulnerable feelings with you. Listen, acknowledge and honor those emotions. Nurture her because the child she is now will be her inner child when she’s older. Protect that child’s empathy, grace, kindness, and vulnerability. It will undoubtedly serve her well in her adult life.
And when your youngest daughter howls and cries in her early days and you’re desperately searching for a shred of hope in the middle of the night, remember that she just needs you. You are her comfort and safety. Take a deep breath and hold her through the night. Let her rest. Don’t worry about the morning.
She is the child you will need during this part of your life. She’ll give you many nights of sleep…much more than any other baby I’ve ever known. She will be shockingly easy-going and fiercely independent. She’ll make you laugh as she oh-so quietly whispers baby gibberish in your ear in the dark. You will dig deeper than you’ve ever had to dig when this little one comes along and it will open your eyes to your strength.
Beyond all of this, a few quick things:
- Listen to your gut and don’t doubt what you’re feelings. Speaking of which, in 2015 when your wisdom tooth starts bothering you, do not let your dentist get away with trying to convince you otherwise. It’ll save you two molars and many thousands of dollars in dental work. (I really hope this advice doesn’t trigger some horrible future occurrence.)
- Anger takes up too much energy. Keep moving forward with love and consideration for others, but don’t leave yourself in the dust. We’re really good at suffering. It’s generational and cultural. Break that cycle. Give yourself that love and consideration too. (See above: Don’t take shit from people.)
- Continue lifting people up. I can’t wait for you to see all the beautiful, loving relationships you have. These relationships will be here when you falter.
- When you think you’re alone, know that you’re not. All you have to do is reach out to your village. It’s there. You’ve been nurturing it your whole life. And it’s been waiting for you to nurture yourself.
- Find your seat at the table as a Japanese woman. Speak up and be proud of who you are. Be humble, but know your value. I know you’ll convince yourself of this, but believe me when I say it is not luck that will get you to where you’re going. You’ll get there because you do the work and do it well.
- Oh, and I know we’re the queen of anxiety and we get wrapped up in being prepared, but — this is going to sound very woo woo — trust in the universe. Trust it. It’s got you.
I know, I know. This is all very scary.
Personally, I’m terrified. 50 year old me hasn’t showed up to tell me I’m not going to completely fail at this…But I’m also hopeful for myself for the first time in a very, very long time and I can’t tell you how good that feels.
All My Love,
40 Year Old Nami