Dear Future Kenya,
If you’re reading this, then that means either two things. Either a.) you were bored and were going through your old stuff, or b.) you're going through some rough stuff right now. As of today, I am writing to you to tell you that everything will be okay. I know you probably don’t want to hear it, but you’ve gone this far so just hear me out. We all wrote letters to our future selves just like we did in the fourth grade explaining our future hopes and dreams. It’s crazy how you wanted to be a cardiologist, barely knowing what that was, and now you’re a creative writing major in New York City. Well, you only wanted to be a cardiologist as a kid to get money, and in your teens, you thought music would bring in more money. Now you know it doesn’t, but you still felt passionate enough to take bass and guitar lessons and become a songwriting amateur musician anyways. It’s too bad I never got my letter when I graduated high school as they said I would, but it’s probably some generic stuff about never giving up or wanting to become rich. We know young me better than anyone, but that was about thirteen years from now. Time really goes by, but from this point, I am at least a bit more mature and can give you a more complex and sophisticated point of view on things.
Remember the first letter you wrote, telling you to follow your dreams? It was in the summer of 2019. You wanted to move to Los Angeles to become a musician so badly that you saved every little dollar, got a copy of your birth certificate, put our social security card that you asked mom and dad to hold for ‘your job records’ in your folder with all your other tax forms. You dreamt of going since you were nine years old and nothing was going to stop you. Or at least so you thought. It was all nice and dandy having everything planned out, until the seeds of doubt started to get planted and you started to second guess yourself. It definitely didn’t help that nobody in your life was backing you up with them saying you weren’t ready. It was a bit of a knock on my confidence when you felt like you didn't have anyone to completely have your back, and you let it get to you.
You saved enough money, quit your job at the fast-food restaurant you busted your back too long for, found a temporary apartment room to stay in until you got a job, looked at used car prices, and wrote a note to mom explaining why you were leaving. On that very Sunday towards the end of July, you had all your books packed in your suitcase, your clothes jammed in your guitar case, your Xbox One and controllers popping out of your backpack, and the plane ticket you got online the day before, but you just couldn’t buy the Uber to take you to the airport. It was the last thing—the only thing—between you and the next chapter in your life, but your body kept stopping your finger from making the early morning Uber request. You had no problem getting the plane ticket, attempting to relieve your nerves by counting down from ten and pressing confirm, and ignoring the sound of your heart dropping in your chest, but you couldn’t get the Uber that day. It was fine, just cancel the ticket you bought within the twenty-four-hour window to get your money back, unpack everything, act as if nothing happened, and do it next Sunday. Then next Sunday came around and you were sitting in your dimly lit room with your stuff packed up again and you couldn’t do it. Then it happened again, then one more time, then the bitter realization that despite all of the motivational videos and dreams telling you to do it, you didn’t have the strength to pursue your dreams after all that hard work.
Your dreams slipped away, all that hard work was for nothing, regret started to build up, and you laid in bed with tears filling your eyes because you felt weak. So then what? You still had the dream and you knew what to do now and you knew what was stopping you. All you needed was an inner voice to believe in you, so you did what you knew best; you wrote your feelings. One minor setback wasn’t gonna stop you and you just needed a voice to support you in the future. A letter to your future self would do the trick for a large escapade like moving, so that’s exactly what you did. This is something everyone should do because if anyone is going to believe in you it has to be you and I even got the letter right here. It says:
“Dear Future Kenya,
Come on! You made so much progress; don’t stop now. Think of all the things
you wanted and what you’re giving up if you back out. Remember what you missed out on and had to endure as a result of not moving out in August 2019? The jobs, the concerts, Coachella, making new friends, holidays, going out with new friends, going to the beach, pursuing your dreams head-on, a nice car, a decent apartment, maybe a Valentine’s Day date, making money on my own terms, along with tax problems, driving through the snow, voting registration, and hiding in the shame that I didn’t make the move and knowing deep down it’s all your fault. The shame of facing people and saying you didn’t move should be reason enough to do it this time. Why suffer through the nightmare of a reality you made yourself for the sake of others? You still have time to turn it around. What matters is what you can do now, ’cause the best time to do something is today. You knew you needed to get out of this mind-numbing routine a while ago so if you want to see a change, make the change and take control of your life this time.
You hoped it was what you needed to do, and you tweaked your plans to move the next summer and make good use of your time, doing as much research as you could. Other people’s doubts or words were not going to stop you. At least or so you thought (again) until 2020 rolled around. Of course, your plans–like everyone else’s–got stifled and put on hold by COVID-19. Things were looking hopeless, but in a way it was probably a good thing you didn’t move because being across the country during a pandemic where people lost their jobs would have been a disaster. Despite it, the little question in the back of your head couldn’t help but bounce around. What if I did? There were so many what-ifs in your life before that that I still think about now. What if we didn’t move from Cicero, New York to Liverpool, New York and stayed in my old elementary school? What if my family moved to Virginia Beach when I was nine instead of moving to Liverpool? What if the car that almost hit me when I was seven actually ran me over? What if I had done theater earlier in life instead of sports? What if I was more outgoing growing up instead of being too socially crippled to say hi to new people? What if I had the courage to ask the people I had crushes on out instead of just dropping hints? What if I had decided to go straight to Marymount Manhattan College instead of going to community college first?
There are still so many ‘what ifs’ from each small decision you made in your everyday life and major what-ifs I’m facing now. At least you have time, despite some people saying twenty-five is somehow ‘old.’ I hope not, but even when you are old, it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying life and your passions because other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter. And just like our brother said, don’t think about what if, just keep doing what you do. Obviously, calculate risks before you take them, but life is all about taking risks, otherwise what’s the point? I finally got the courage to take a risk and come here (even though I had to drink a few cups of alcohol to get that courage). I still did it and ended up moving forward in life. Granted, I did decide to move to New York because it’s closer and it’s easier to get to from New York to LA than vice versa, but forward progress is still progress.
Well, I can only imagine how old you are reading this now, but future Kenya, don’t let a number define you. Not your age, measurements, bank account, height, the number of romantic partners, scars, demons, or amount of mistakes you made. Do you know what defines you? Your heart, what you do for others, and your character, so make it a character you can be proud of. If you learned anything important in college, it’s definitely that you don’t need male validation, or the validation of others for that matter, since most people are inconsistent and don’t even know what they want. So what if you're not up to their ever-changing standards?
Also, take things slow. Good things take time, and if you ended up rushing through life, you would’ve missed the moments that made life worth savoring and miss the people worth waiting for. These are still things you need to work on now and if you haven’t already fixed those problems then I can only hope that you’re on the path to mastering those things as you read this.
I hope this helps, but I have a feeling that it will and I know you will probably write another letter to yourself when you feel like giving up on your dreams, after you get cheated on for the first time, or after something traumatic happens to you. Be sure to write plenty of them because God knows I wish I had some letter from my future self right now to comfort me. As always take care of yourself, exercise, take your vitamins or medications if you’re on them, and call someone and tell them you love them. As always, take care.
You, Past Kenya
P.S. That thing that you've been putting off? You should start doing that right now.
Kenya Sumter was born in Syracuse, New York. Ever since she was a child, she knew she was different and had an interest in storytelling and being in other worlds despite being seen as shy and bashful. In high school, Kenya discovered her calling as an artist and writer, as she pursued music through learning how to play instruments and taking classes in creative writing even through college. Kenya’s goals for the future include creating more art, inspiring others, and making the world around her a better place.