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To follow up on my first letter, I decided to write a second one to my older self.

Dear Anya-of-the-future,

Just wanted to drop you a line, let you know that I am thinking of you.

It’s hard figuring out priorities, predicting outcomes. I wish you would write me once in a while too, share your insight. But no, you sit there enjoying retirement while I garble my way through life blindly. I am not bitter though, I understand you have other things on your mind, like aching limbs, forgotten spectacles, grandkids. Still, it’d be nice to receive a word of encouragement.

As for me, I am thinking of you, trying to save up for your medicare, make some investments, raise children that will take care of you in your old age and share their own children with you. Funny how I get all the work, and you get all the play. I wrote Anya-of-the-past recently too, and it seems I am paying for her play as well.

I don’t have much to tell you that you don’t already know….(although you might have forgotten it). Mostly I just have questions: is it scary being close to death? You probably have come up with some zen philosophical view on it that makes it tolerable. I, being still far off, am scared stiff. What really happens to your body as you age? How do you feel inside? How do we end up handling menopause? Do you go crazy? Just tell me, I’d rather know.

What do we end up doing with the rest of our life? Is there something I should change right now? Do you want me to write a will and pick out a plot to be buried in? I actually like those biodegradable tree bark caskets – what do you think? Or will you take care of that yourself? I am pretty open to suggestions, like I said – you can drop me a line from time to time. Just keep in mind that I am trying to live here as well, to make all the work that Anya-of-the-past put into me worth her while, and to make all the aching, broken bones and white hairs that you have worth it for you too. Bet you have lots of good memories. No need to thank me – it way my pleasure.

Hang in there, the end is in sight.

– Anya

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She replied too:

Dear Anya-of-the-present,

I do thank you for your ever-so-tactful approach to my senility. Your sensitivity is to be lauded.

I haven’t written in the past because I thought you should figure life out on your own, and for the most part I still hold to that. However, there are a few minor things I can’t resist to mention.

First, about life: 90% of what you’re doing won’t matter thirty years from now. You suspect that already, don’t you? You have an inkling, a gut feeling, but stubbornly you prod ahead. I tell you: listen to that gut feeling, and stop everything else.

Secondly, about my health: I have not lost my senses, I still have our memories, but I should warn you – many of the ones that come later are difficult ones. Still I cherish them. My body, our body (you may as well get used to thinking about it as such) is not what it used to be. And I have you and that younger self of yours to thank. Now I carry in me all the scars of your adventuring, your carelessness, your conviction that you will live forever. You should have spent less time worrying about death and more time doing stretches before climbing trees. Yoga is your friend. Donuts are not.

And finally, since we’re on it, death: I don’t think about it much nowadays. I’ll tell you one thing: I have to get dentures soon, and tomorrow I am going to the dentist to get my last real teeth pulled. Our last teeth. Now that is terrifying. I am scared stiff. You really should have flossed more, woman.

Okay, go live your life now. Oh, and spend more time on the beach.

I love you,

Anya-of-the-future

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Lately I’ve been thinking of the relationship between my various selves: who I am now, what I owe to my younger self, what I should do for my older self. So I decided to write them both a letter. Here is the first one:

Dear Anya-of-the-past,

First of all, don’t worry. I’m not going to spend this whole letter scolding you. Okay, maybe just a little. But I want to say the good things first.

I really appreciate that you paid attention in school. This might sound trite, but it actually made a huge difference. The things you learned there proved the most useful in my life – like fractions, and elementary statistics, and geometry. It was great that you paid attention in your honors history and literature classes, because the man that you, I mean I, am with now, just happens to be a philosopher, and you – I wouldn’t be able to even feign understanding if we didn’t know some basic concepts or names.

Also, thank you for sticking with orchestra all through high-school, and for piano. You don’t know how much joy I am still reaping from the experience and knowledge gained there. And in case you’re wondering, neither you nor I will ever really regret not going to parties or getting drunk or wasting away our teenagehood. But for that I guess you or I should thank our parents and friends – that lifestyle was never even a temptation.

Now about you-know-what. Those student loans of yours – ouch. I understand you were not very well informed. And I understand your situation perfectly. I’ve been there…. I know. But you should have thought of me. YOU took them out, and I am left paying them, only now they are much larger, and now I have children to support. And unlike you, I am actually thinking about Anya-Future: she’s gonna be old and feeble, and won’t be able to support herself, so I have to put some money away for her too. If you had gone to community college your first two years, you would have saved me, and us all, a lot of grief. But alas, you were consumed by your present self, which is typical.

The other thing I’d like you to think about is this: why do you do the things you do. Now I know what you’re gonna say, so don’t bother. Just think about it. Some of your undertakings will prove long-lasting, others will prove a waste of time. It would be nice if we could tilt the scale in favor of the former.

Overall, though, you’re doing good. Take care of yourself and spend more time at the beach.

– Anya

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Surprisingly, a few days later I got a response in the mail. In a hurried, scribbled chicken-scratch is said:

Dear Anya,

Thanks for dropping me a line – I appreciate the sentiment, although it is kind of weird hearing from you. I’m glad the stuff I learned ends up being useful. Don’t take it personally, but I was doing it more for me, the process of learning was enjoyable.

As for the loans, I had to do what I had to do. You’re reaping the benefits of my education now, and so it’s only fair that you should pay now. I will try to take it easy once in a while, but life is so short, you know? And there is so much for me to accomplish, to try, to experience. I have to run.

Catch ya later,

Anya-of-the-past

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