Open This When You're Old

Treat Thompson


Personal Essays

To my future self, from 23-year-old me:

I get so curious thinking about myself as an old man. I can’t imagine what time will do to me.

Do you still feel like a kid? I hope the strain of life didn’t take my soul away. I hope the childlike wonder stuck around.

Am I still the most important thing in the world? I’m the talk of the town in my head. I’m sure that changes.

Right now the stress of the CPA program is consuming me. I bet that’s so irrelevant to you. What else is huge to me now that you wouldn’t even think twice about?

Biggie is laying next to me in bed as I write this. Was she the best dog ever?

Are the memories of Dad strong? I hope you can replay them in your head.

Did I have enough fun? Or did I take all the wrong stuff too seriously?

Is life what I think it’s all about? Not personally, but thematically. Did I get living right? Right now I just care about doing what’s meaningful and exciting. Is that what really matters?

Is it sad to forget the past? Do you remember what 23 was like? I bet your 20s don’t even feel real to you.

Are my high school friends still around? They’re my entire friend group right now. I’m scared that “I’ll check in on him later” turns into a long-lost friend.

Did I make the right decisions when it mattered? I hope I didn’t screw up the big stuff.

Are there any hunches I ignored? Should I have trusted my gut more? Taken more swings at the ball? I hope not.

Are there hobbies I wish I never put down? Can you still play chess? Do you play poker with the boys? How’s your jump shot? When was the last time you went backpacking?

I hope there aren’t endeavours you’re scared to do. At this point, nothing gets in your way, right?

What was I a sucker for? Did I fall for productivity? Was pursuing my passions a pipe dream?

How much did money matter? Do you wish I made more?

Do your kids know the real you? Do they know what you thought and dreamt about every day? Do they know your life has as much depth as theirs? Or are you just “Dad”—a symbol?

Did I stay an individual? Do I still say no to what I don’t want and yes to what I do? I hope I kept my integrity.

Does more life experience make the world seem like a scary place? Is wisdom a curse?

Do you feel like an outcast? I’ve always loved talking to elderly strangers— they’re the most interesting people in the world. Do you feel that same energy given to you?

Maria Popova asked, “Is it a cruel paradox or a heartening comfort that the closer we inch to death, the fuller of life’s beauty and truth we become?” Which one is it?

Did the world outrun me? Does it feel foreign now? When does that happen? What starts the gap?

Jane Ellen Harrison said, “Anyone who honestly wants to be young again has never lived, only imagined, only masqueraded. Of course, if you never eat, you keep your appetite for dinner.”

Did I feast? Did I fill my belly with what life has to offer? Or do you want to be young again? I hope there’s no appetite for more.

Am I worthy of old age? Did I make it through the marathon without growing bitter, sour, and cynical? I hope you’re a beautiful person.

Is it sad that most of your life is in the past? Or is it nice that all potential has been manifested?

Does it feel real that it all ends? Right now it doesn’t. To me, this is a game I get to keep playing.

I always make jokes that when I die there’s going to be no grace—I’m going out kicking and screaming. Leaving here is too unfathomable. Is that the case? I hope you’re not ready to go. It would hurt me to know there comes a point where I’ve had enough.

Thinking of you scares me. I’m scared of what I’ll look like on the other side of life. I don’t want to become someone I wouldn’t like.

Thinking of you makes me sad. It means I have plenty of time to fall in love with new things and people and lose them all.

Thinking of you makes me anxious. It feels like a big presentation at the end of a school year. Except it’s in the form of major self-reflection and I will think back to me now and wish I had done things differently.

But thinking of you also puts me at ease. It’s comforting to know that there’s a point in life where it’s too late to do anything and I just have to lie in the bed I made. I can take solace in “it is what it is.” The pressure to perform is gone. I get to eat the fruit eventually.

I wonder if I’m getting anything right right now.

I guess I’ll see. Sorry in advance.