4 Letters to Our Former Selves—Because Summer Is Ending, and We Feel Nostalgic

Updated 09/06/18

Life moves so remarkably fast, building in speed each year we're alive. Adults always said it would, but in some ways, I never believed them until now. This past summer felt like the longest season I've ever lived yet somehow was gone before I could blink. Summer has a way of doing that I suppose, feeling never-ending during the morning commutes yet euphoric and long-lasting on groggy Sundays and sticky beach days. Upon reflection, I realized a lot had gone down in my life over these three months and I wanted to look back at the person I was before it all started.

Similar, of course, because no enormous amount of time had passed, but really different just the same. So I wrote a letter to the person I was then and asked my co-workers to take part in the exercise as well. 

We've all had different experiences but could agree on one resounding thing: We're feeling nostalgic. And thoughtful. And below, you can take a trip back in time with us to before August hit and sent us into a fall-related tizzy. 

Amanda Montell, Features Editor

@amanda_montell

Dear Amanda,

It’s April, and you’re four months out from your epic, earth-shattering breakup. You’re doing great, kid. Emotionally tougher than a spiderweb. Proud of you. You also think you’ve found new love. You think the universe is sending you a sign that you have nothing left to learn from singlehood, that you’ve found a truly great guy already, and who are you to argue with the universe? But oh man, there’s so much more to come. In fact, I think you can sense it. You’re not done exploring. Because the universe isn’t deciding shit.

You and you alone are creating your story and identity and setting the course for your life.

Repeat this to yourself: Every day you are independently out in the world, Amanda, living that deeply considered and forward-moving life of yours, is better than a day spent cooped up in a relationship that is just “good enough” or “better than the last one.” Don’t sell yourself short. Give yourself room for your standards to rise. You think you skirted that breakup without any damage to your confidence or self-worth, but you’re still telling yourself you don’t deserve to find someone who’s going to meet you at your level, help you fulfill your true potential intellectually, emotionally, sexually.

That person (or people) who is going to make you feel the most yourself you’ve ever felt is still around the corner.

Here’s the truth: You are going to have a frustrating early summer (that guy with the abs and the quippy banter that you think you love can’t challenge you, you’ll discover, and he’s going to exit the picture and be forgotten quicker than he entered). But then, you’re going to have a late summer filled with the best, most fulfilling, eye-opening sex and intimacy of your entire life. And you don’t even know it yet. Imprisoning yourself with someone who doesn’t push you and then meet you there does nothing but inhibit your progress as an individual.

This isn’t dating; it’s data collection, remember? And you belong out in the field. You are doing everything right, so surrender to the rest. Your mind and body will thank you.

Victoria Hoff, Wellness Editor

@victoriadawsonhoff

Dear VH,

You've always counted your years in summers, those summers in mental polaroids. Your scraped knees after spending hours playing hide-and-seek in the rocks at the lake. (You still have a scar in the shape of a smile from that day, lest you start to forget that fearless joy.) Ice cream dripping down your fingers under a bruised sky at the shore. Dawn at the beach, fingers interlocked with the best friends you'll say goodbye to weeks later when you all leave for college. Dancing for hours under the stars with a newfound family in a city that seemed so vast and unfamiliar just a year or two ago.

Life has never failed to continue after these long, warm days, but for some reason, this is always the time when you feel most alive. And that's probably why the nostalgia that sets in with September, without fail, feels so heart-achingly palpable—as real and moving as the golden cast that tints the world at the start of autumn.

I have wondered how it might be possible to live a life less beholden to the memories that grip me so easily. It's the hazard of being born a daydreamer, to not only lose myself in a moment that doesn't at all resemble the present but one that might not even resemble the past it supposedly represents. It's easy to tint it all in rose. To touch the scar on my knee and forget the tears. To forget the fear I've felt, several times over, of leaving a life I knew for a fresh start. But perhaps the real lesson is not that I have a delusional view of my past, but that the struggle, while so necessary to who I have become, is almost always eclipsed by the sweetness it begets.

So, Victoria, you worry at the beginning of each summer that it couldn't possibly live up to the happy reel of your memory. The truth is that it can't and never could—and yet it always does, and always will. I remember how, in May, you thought the months ahead might be more challenging than ever. You were painfully aware that you were on the precipice of necessary, life-affirming change. You were right. And on this late August morning—the first morning in months that I have felt a bottom to this endless L.A.

heat—I have never been more certain that come next year, we will look back at these moments as some of the most beautiful yet.

Maya Allen, Assistant Editor

@mayaalenaa

Dear M,

You haven't slowed down once this past summer—let alone this past year. It's been a whirlwind of fleeting emotions and experiences. You always feel like time is slipping away from you, so you're trying to squeeze in every single ounce of every single second to make the most out of your life. I want you to remember to take your time. It's okay to enjoy the ride and to stop rushing to get "there" when you don't even know the final destination yet.

I understand, though, you never feel like you're doing enough. You're trying to make everything count like crazy with high hopes it'll lead to something amazing. But listen, you gotta take time for you. To be that power woman you want to be who kills it at her job and is winning at life, you must prioritize loving yourself first. I get it—you always want to excel in your career, be there for your family and friends, and put your health first, but you can't forget about the core of it all, which is you.

You set the bar very high for yourself and get clouded in the expectations of what you should be doing. In turn, you feel jaded and you forget to appreciate the present moment. Be proud of yourself; it's okay to do that. It's okay to say no; it's okay to push a commitment back; it's okay to not answer a text or go out with a friend because you feel depleted. Focus and take time to look inward. You'll be amazed at all you've yet to uncover within yourself.

Hallie Gould, Senior Editor

@gouldhallie

Hey Hal,

I know you get that Parent Trap reference because you’re, well, you’re me. I’m writing because I know you're feeling scared and sad. You’re struggling with a bit of heartache and as a result, beginning to pick yourself apart, limb by limb. This isn’t the first time your unrelated emotions have gotten caught up in your body image, and I know it won’t be the last. You have hope though; you always do.

During this particular time, I want to tell you to be kind to yourself. It’s the only way you’ll be able to get through it. You can tell you're different this time around. You've learned to file away a toolbox to sort your emotions, grabbing from it whatever you need when it's useful. I can't believe I'm saying this, but you feel more like an adult than ever in that respect. And a little spoiler from the future, you turned your sadness into determination and committed to lead a healthier lifestyle.

And it worked. You feel so much better.

You’re still wrapped up in the heart stuff, the missing someone stuff, but that’s just you. You like to ruminate. But your body feels strong and your insides feel whole. You learned so much about feel-good foods and what it takes to consume ingredients that nourish you. That is a feat, my friend. It’s not easy. You once used loneliness as an excuse for destruction, but you're not doing that this time around. Instead, you remember how much you cherish your friendships; those kids are your family.

 You'll sit outside no matter how humid it feels. You'll cook more so you have better control over your meals and food begins to trigger you less. You'll lay on the beach and feel the warm ecstasy of the breeze drying the ocean from your skin. You’re going to have a really good summer, and you’re going to miss it when it’s gone. Things are good; you’ll be good. Keep on hoping.

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