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I Wrote A Letter To My Teenage Self, And He Smarted Off At Me!

April 19, 2014
 (image via Wikimedia)

(image via Wikimedia)

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of people are writing letters to themselves in the past.  Usually, the letters are to their teenage selves because the teen years are almost always pretty rough.   The letters are meant to be encouraging, I guess, or to offer advice, and I remembered my teenage self. He had some social issues and self-esteem issues and there was some family stuff going on, so he could have used some encouragement from his future self.

As intrigued as I was about writing a letter to my teenage self in the past, I knew I had to be careful with it. I didn’t want the letter to be very specific. There was a slight chance that my teenage self would read it, and any information that could change my past behavior might lead to incalculable alterations in history or cause a butterfly effect. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from reading lots of science fiction, it’s to not mess with time and history. If my letter caused me to change anything I did in the past, it could completely change what’s going on right now.

This presented quite the dilemma. I really didn’t want to mess with the possibility of a butterfly effect. Still, writing a letter to my teenage self was tempting. It would be nice to contact my teenage self.  It would be a good writing exercise, a way for me to get out of my comfort zone (writing is my comfort zone; sending a letter through time travel isn’t). Besides, he probably wouldn’t get the letter anyway. Too many things would have to go right for it to work.

After a lot of thought (at least a couple minutes), I decided to compose a safe letter and try sending it to my former self. If it worked, at least the letter wouldn’t cause any harm. I was pretty sure of that. And it probably wouldn’t work anyway.

So I wrote what I thought was a safe letter:

Dear Jimmy,

This is your future Jimmy about 30 years in the future. I just wanted to say hello and let you know that you’re future is great. Hang in there!


Your future self (I don’t want to tell you what people call you now because that might influence your behavior and cause a time ripple)

As far as letters to past selves go, this one seemed harmless. I found an old hardcover book that I had bought when I was nine–years-old (I was a book hoarder) and placed the book in a shelf that I had when I was a high school student (the shelf had belonged to my grandparents, and I got it when I was in tenth grade). I thought if I placed the note in a book I owned in high school and put the book on a book shelf that I owned in high school, maybe the note would find its way to me when I was in high school.

I know, it was kind of a stupid thing to do, but how many people really have the opportunity to communicate with their past selves? It was worth a try.

A few days later, I returned to the book and found the note, and, as much as I couldn’t believe it, there was a hand-written response at the bottom. It was in my handwriting too. Wow! I was shocked that I’d written back to me. I hardly ever write back to anyone. Even now, I rarely even respond to emails or texts. But then I thought about the implications. I checked my memory. My career (well-paying but unsatisfying) was the same. I clearly recalled everything about my wife and daughters. I was pretty sure nothing had changed in my life with because of my letter. Then again, if something had changed, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell.

Convinced that everything was stable, I read my teenage response.

Dear whatever your name is now,

You risked causing a time ripple for that? Next time, tell me something I can use. And it’s “your future,” not “you’re future.” I guess I suck at grammar 30 years from now. Have you gotten any letters from your future self? I hope “you’re” future self writes better letters than mine.



I folded the note and put it back inside the book. I guess I was a prick 30 years ago, I thought. Maybe I deserved to have self-esteem issues.

And then I realized, I’ve never received a letter from my future self. That’s the problem when you write a letter to your past self, your past self at least knows he/she will be alive in the future, but if you never receive a letter from your future self, then…

Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!

I began flipping through every single book that I owned. After all, if my future self sent me a letter, I would have no idea which book he would slip it inside of.   And my future self (if I have one) would know to write me a letter because he would know how worried I am about having no future self.

Every day now, I flip through every single book I own, hoping to find a note from my future self. I’m thinking of selling off all my books except one (I haven’t decided which one that would be yet.), so that my future self would know exactly which book to put his note in, and it would save me a lot of time every day. If I had never sent that stupid letter to my smartass teenage self, I would not be in this situation now. If I had it to do all over again, I’d never write that letter to my past self, and if I wrote it, I’d never send it.  It really bugs me that I might not have a future self, especially since I don’t know when my future self stops existing.

I wonder if there are alternate universes where I’m thinking about sending a note to my past self. If there are, I’m going to write letters to my alternate selves and tell them not to do it. Those teenage selves probably won’t appreciate it anyway.

So… future self, if you’re out there, reading old stuff that you (and I) wrote and laughing at it, could you please slip me a note and let me know that you (and I) are okay?  I’d feel much more secure.  Please?  Hello?



Have you ever written a letter to yourself in the past?  If you did, how much information did you put in your letter?  What kind of response did you get?  Did it cause a ripple in the time stream, and how could you tell?  Has your future self ever written you?

  1. Haha, my exact thought when I saw your title was: “Oh, but if I change anything about my past I might change my current situation, and I kind of like where I am now!”

    • You know, when we write letters to ourselves in the past, we have to take things like that into consideration. That’s why I was very careful in my letter.

  2. Er, no. I was a know-it-all then (and an insufferable one now). I’m the last person I’d want to hear from…(tongue firmly in cheek)

    • Are you sure about that? I’m confident that there were a lot of people way more insufferable than you (if you were actually insufferable), and you wouldn’t want to hear from them even more than you wouldn’t want to hear from yourself.

  3. I’ve never written a letter to a younger me, but it’s possible that a future me will eventually write to a nearer future me.

    • If that happens, I’ll be jealous. I really want my future me to write me (or a nearer future me). I’m getting worried about my future me (and even more worried about my nearer future me).

      • I think that it’s unlikely that I get a letter from the future, but if I’m ever about to, I’ll just ask for the winning lottery numbers.

        • I wonder, if our future selves gave us a winning future lottery number, would that in turn set off a chain of events that would cause that future lottery number to change? That would really tick me off!!!!

  4. This is quite amazing. This sort of practise definitely allows one to bring down their shield. Amazing.

  5. Seriously starting laughing at this out loud then had to explain what I was laughing about… Got blank stares that turned into a full on discussion/debate about writing letters to past selves and how they would get there….. I would have stopped them to point out that it’s a blog post I was reading…. but it was just too much fun to sit and watch the debates and the outrageous theories….. PLUS I think my friends watch way too much Dr. Who……

  6. Your teenage self is hella sassy. My goodness.

    Never written a letter to my future self, sadly. I have, however, recently discovered an “All About Me” project I did back in like grade 4. It was extremely amusing to get insight into my ten year old mind. Twas a much simpler time. Also, apparently I was quite mean to my little brother. I bought him a bar of chocolate, though, so I think he forgives me.

  7. But if your future self wrote to your present self, then he would remember where he was, as your present self, when he got it/or not in the past/present. If you see what I mean. Therefore, you will either get the letter/or not. Helpful, huh? If he didn’t get a letter, then he may now be trying a different book, or all books. Or maybe he’ll just send you an email. Or not. Have to go now. My brain is collapsing into a black hole.

    • So is mine. This is what I get for writing to my teenage self (and reading his response). Some things (like time traveling notes) are best left alone.

  8. “Every day now, I flip through every single book I own, hoping to find a note from my future self.”


  9. Amazing how this can happen… We were more fearless when we were young. Hugs.

  10. Dang smartass former selves. I was wondering if he was going to catch the “you’re/your” thing. I was sure it was intentional. I’ve never written a letter to myself, except once in college orientation, I think, when it was mandatory.

  11. You might want to consider the possibility that your future self would not use pen and paper. He may be trying to communicate with you on Twitter at this very moment. You just need to figure out what tag a future you might use.

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