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dear past me by Mel N. '24

stay kind

One of the events for the class of 2024’s second round of orientation01 because this is our first time actually being on campus was to write a letter to our future selves with FutureMe, to be delivered at the start of the fall semester. That reminded me of the letters I’d written using FutureMe02 i found out about this website through an old high school classmate's finsta post where their middle school self had sent a letter to their senior year self, making some very bold assumptions before–looking at my inbox, I’ve apparently written three of them, although I’ve only received two so far. I have absolutely no idea when the third one is going to arrive (my guess: when I finish my first year of college?) but I thought I’d share the two that I have and do some reflecting on who I used to be.

Sent: June 3, 2018

Delivered: June 5, 2019

dear future missa,03 missa was the nickname i went by in middle and high school

congratulations. you’ve finished your junior year. i’m sure it was tough with all your aps and stuff, but at least you didn’t have to do fencing or umtymp04 University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program, which i participated in from eighth to tenth grade. it was a good program that taught me a lot, but it was a hefty time commitment, and after completing the calc i portion, i decided i wanted to spend those hours somewhere else or the musical this year!

Dear sophomore Missa,

Junior year definitely was a rough time. Most of high school feels like a fever dream, but junior year especially, because so many things happened. It was the hardest year for me academically. I was filled with uncertainty, trying to keep my GPA up and balancing a variety of extracurriculars on top of that, although I did drop the ball on a lot of them.

The main one I want to talk about is fencing. I had a complicated relationship with fencing throughout high school. I’ve never been an athletic person–growing up, my mom signed me up for a million different sports. Softball, ice skating, skiing, basketball, gymnastics (for like, one day), ballet, tap dancing, soccer, swimming, badminton, ping pong, cross country: I’ve tried it all, and I’ve been bad at all of them. In eighth grade, as a last ditch effort, my mom registered me for fencing classes at the local fencing club, and I actually thought it was really cool, so I absorbed it into my personality that year. I liked waving my foil around and having an excuse to stab people (safely).

I moved to a different city the next year, where I found out that my high school offered fencing as a winter sport. I signed up, and it was definitely fun, but I still wasn’t an athletic person. I lost most of my bouts, whether they were during practice or tournaments. Which I expected, but it was still demoralizing. On the first day of the 2017 state tournament, my team (women’s foil, which consisted of a grand total of three people) suffered a series of losses and misfortunes to the point where we cried together in the hallway afterwards and collectively decided not to compete the next day because we were so emotionally exhausted.

By the time sophomore year rolled around, I was enjoying fencing a lot less, and I started skipping practices, hiding out on the fourth floor of my school on Wednesdays until 6:30 came around and I could call my mom to pick me up. I decided that I wasn’t going to continue fencing in junior year because it wasn’t making me happy anymore.

Except…I ended up still registering, and I can’t really remember why. I think it was because I felt bad disappointing my coach, because he was such a sweet and encouraging person. So contrary to what my past self wrote, I still had to attend some fencing practices in late October and early November before I quit for good. At this point, it wasn’t just because I was bad at fencing. In fact, I’d made peace with my abilities by then. What ultimately decided it for me was the people. I wasn’t clicking with anyone on the team anymore–my closest friends had either graduated or quit.

During one practice, our warm up exercise involved doing some sort of relay race, and naturally, that meant picking teams. I was feeling antsy about it from the moment it was announced, and my fears were confirmed five minutes later when I realized that I was going to be picked last. I watched the number of people standing next to me slowly dwindle. And then I was the only one left. There was silence. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me. Finally, one of the team captains called my name.

I went home and cried about it. I felt so stupid for getting overly emotional about it, too, because it literally didn’t matter–this was the sort of scene that would only be a big deal in a children’s book–but to me, it was my official sign from the universe that fencing just wasn’t for me. I emailed my coach, returned my equipment, and never touched any of it again. My emotional health improved by leaps and bounds.

After coming to MIT, though, I’ve found myself wanting to try it again. I haven’t completed any of my PE requirements yet because I’m waiting until we’re fully in person, but one of the classes I’ve been thinking about is fencing. I’ve heard so many good things about the MIT fencing team, and I think that I’m in a better state to try and unpack my relationship with it now. My main reason for quitting was because of the people, but I’m not submerged in all the baggage that comes with attending a tiny high school anymore. I love MIT for the people and I think that if I do pick up fencing again, I’ll be able to make myself at home this time.

i want you to remember to always be kind. i wasn’t always kind this year, but i really hope you will be a beacon of light going into senior year.

I think about this a lot because at 18-almost-19 I try my best. I say hello to people I see in the halls and in the food line and of course they can’t see me smile under my mask so I do a little wave. I help people out whenever I can. I love and support my friends. I want to channel love and joy.

But, you know, I get selfish and jealous like any human being, and then I find it particularly hard to forgive myself because I feel like I’m failing a part of myself. I withdraw for a while, stop responding to texts because I feel like I don’t deserve kindness from others when I’m having those selfish and jealous thoughts.

The cycle repeats. And that’s not sustainable. I think what I’m failing to realize in trying to fulfill that promise to my 16-year-old self is that always being kind also involves being kind to myself. I’ve unlearned most of my self-deprecating catchphrases, I abide by the “fake it till you make it” technique when it comes to self-confidence, but self-forgiveness is what I’m still working towards.

So to 16 year old me, I say, “I’m trying. But I want you to remember to take care of yourself, too. It’s okay to not be at your best. It doesn’t diminish your worth.”

i’d recommend not showing this letter to any of your friends because, well, it’s kind of embarrassing isn’t it?

Sorry to disappoint–I did end up showing snippets of this to my friends on my finsta when I first received it, and now I’m showing it to strangers on the internet. Funny how that works.

i hope you have a beautiful summer. congratulations on finishing your exams.

love,
sophomore missa

Enjoy your summer too–it’s one of the best ones you’ll ever have. This is the summer where you’ll attend a biology camp, make new memories, and fall in love with Boston for the first time. I’m still chasing those highs.

Love,
College Mel

 

Sent: June 7, 2019

Delivered: June 8, 2020

dear senior melissa,

CON(GRAD)ULATIONS!!! YOU’VE FINALLY GRADUATED, YOU GENIUS!!!!

Dear junior Melissa,

Thank you! Actually, when this letter first arrived in my inbox, I hadn’t graduated yet–in a normal year, I probably would have, but last year was anything but a normal year. Since there were only ninety people in my class, my school managed to get the city’s approval to make it an in-person ceremony at the last minute, so it took place in mid-June.

Graduation was mostly a blur, but the main thing I remember about it was that it was originally supposed to be held outside on the front lawn, where seniors traditionally graduated, except it hadn’t happened in the past few years because of construction. My class was supposed to be the first one to return to that tradition in a while, and it went fine at first.

Halfway through, I felt something fall from the sky. It was starting to rain. Because of course it was.

Everyone pretended like it wasn’t happening for like ten minutes, the principal continued giving his speech, and meanwhile I was making increasingly pointed eye contact with my friend as the rain picked up. Finally, I guess they couldn’t ignore it anymore, and they herded us into the auditorium like wet sheep to continue the ceremony. I was trying to stop myself from laughing hysterically the whole time, because obviously this sort of thing was going to happen. I don’t know why any of us expected otherwise.

So yeah, that was on par for June 2020. I finished high school. It was underwhelming. I got a free Bundt cake and custom M&Ms05 a few years ago when they were building a new science building, they held this ceremony to celebrate its construction and afterwards the cafeteria prepared froyo with our school colors and blue and gold m&ms with our school logo on it. it became a meme immediately. out of it. Mostly, I was eager to put the past four years behind me and barrel on towards the next stage of my life.

I was pretty jaded coming out of my senior year, but after reconnecting with some of my high school friends, I’ve realized that there are certain things I miss about it. I guess that’s why I decided to revisit these letters.

i really want to know where you’re going, but i guess that’s just something i’ll find out in a few months…i hope you have an amazing time wherever you’re headed!

You know, I think I am. I mean, I’m writing this at 2 AM (3 AM now) after speedrunning my 18.02 and 5.111 psets earlier today (thank god for TSR^2 and office hours), and I’m probably gonna be getting up at 9 to camp out at another 5.111 office hour session because I haven’t finished the written portion, and I’ve been holed up in my room doing work for the past few days unless you count getting food from Walker Memorial and COVID tests from MIT Medical, but…

I’m here. Sometimes that still blows me away. Like, I’m here, on campus, at MIT, and as much as I might complain about all the work and stress that this school piles on me, a part of me is still filled with the same overwhelming joy that I had when I got in a little over a year ago. I’ve met so many talented people. I love all the weird little things about East Campus, and even the weird clanking from the radiator in the room next to mine is just another feature. I love my dorm and all the decorations I put up. I’ve finally met my friends in person after a whole year. I can go out and look across the river whenever I want. There’s this happiness that’s constantly thrumming through me at a low hum and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

today was prom, and oh my god, it was WILD! we (gavin, lucia, and i) got caught in the basement trying to do makeup by ms. kerman and it was the most AWKWARD thing ever.

Yeah, I remember that. Definitely awkward.

the food was alright, and the dancing was okay (the DJ kind of sucked though…there was one period where he was just nonexistent…and people kept changing the songs which was kind of annoying.)

I don’t think there’s ever been a good DJ at a school dance in the history of school dances.

anyway i went with lucia and it was a really fun time! the afterparty was great too.

Prom was a good time. I’m glad that I got to experience it at least once with junior prom. One of my favorite memories was filing out of the venue and being handed a rose, then making our way to Mickey’s Diner for milkshakes at midnight.

what am i most excited for this year? i’m REALLY excited about GOING TO SEE MXMTOON WITH QUINN!!!

That was in October 2019, and honestly such a great experience. It was my first concert ever, actually, and I even got a press pass to take photos and write an article about it for my school newspaper. Truly magical.

mxmtoon concert photo

one of the photos i took at the concert

also the DC trip, except jeffrey06 one of my friends that i made at bio camp in 2018 won’t be there because his teacher’s dumb and they’re going to nashville instead, which is majorly sucky.

Actually, he did end up coming! We met up at the convention center and it was really nice to see him again.

The JEA/NSPA journalism convention in DC was one of the highlights of senior fall. I think journalism conventions are what I miss most about high school–they were such a constant in my life for all four years, running around with five minutes in between sessions, and I’m a little sad that I probably will never get to experience them again. What’s even sadder is that while I was away last semester, my mom threw out all of my old journo sweatshirts thinking I didn’t want them anymore. I cried for a whole day afterward.

High school journalism has a special place in my heart. Recently it’s been tinged with a little bit of guilt, though, because I came into MIT thinking I would be 100% devoted to The Tech, but I ended up writing a couple articles and getting too hosed to continue with it. Instead, my main extracurricular (other than blogging) has actually been helping out with MIT Science Olympiad, which took place last month.

Scioly’s also something I did in high school, but I wasn’t involved in it to the extent that I was with journo, and it’s a little ironic how it’s flipped around in college. I guess I have to recognize that things can’t always stay the same.

i’m also excited for homecoming (my first homecoming dance??? please tell me you went),

I did! Homecoming was one of those things that I never actually participated in until senior year because I didn’t really get the hype, and then figured I should probably try it out before it was too late. It ended up being fun, though. It was my first time watching a high school sports game in person, actually. As for the dance, it was cowboy themed, and that gave me an excuse to go wild at Spirit Halloween.

the senior girls lip sync,

A homecoming tradition–there’s a lip sync competition held every year, and the senior girls usually do a group song. We wanted to do Truth Hurts by Lizzo at first, but that didn’t get past approval, so we ended up dancing to Toxic. Our choreography included the Macarena.

being over with college decisions,

The best thing that happened to me in senior year was being done with all my decisions by Early Action. I was going to apply more schools that I hadn’t started the essays for, but December 14th took an enormous weight off my shoulders.

the winter dance (maybe it’ll be fun this year!)

It was actually so good!

and of course PROM.

Ah…

monkey puppet awkward look meme

i’m typing all of this out at like 3:52 am–i just got back from the afterparty and i’m feeling kind of R E F L E C T I V E so that’s why i’m doing this. hopefully it’s a nice read for you and i’m not that incomprehensible because i am not going back to proofread this…i do not have time for that!

Yeah, I can feel the exhausted but excited energy rolling off your words–this is a pretty drastic change in tone compared to the letter from my sophomore self. It’s sweet, though. I can tell that I was genuinely so happy when I wrote this.

anyways i hope graduation went well and you didn’t trip over your own feet!

I think I almost did…

wait, also i hope your senior speech went well! i’m kind of nervous for that honestly but i’m sure it’ll be fine.

Everyone had to give a speech in order to graduate at my school. Mine went alright–I wrote it about Halloween and representation in media. To be honest, if given the opportunity to do it over again, I would take it, because I feel like I could have executed it better. People liked it, though, and I felt like a mini-celebrity for a whole week afterwards because they kept coming up to me in the halls and being like, “Oh my god, I loved your speech!”

anyway! i should go to sleep! good night! sweet dreams!

love,
junior melissa

I should head to sleep too–it’s getting pretty late. But it was interesting to visit these specters from the past, and to process some of my feelings about who I was in high school versus who I am now.

Sweet dreams, junior Mel. Senior year’s not going to be an easy one, but know that you’ll turn out alright in the long run. You are so loved. Just hang in there.

Love,
College Mel

  1. because this is our first time actually being on campus back to text
  2. i found out about this website through an old high school classmate's finsta post where their middle school self had sent a letter to their senior year self, making some very bold assumptions back to text
  3. missa was the nickname i went by in middle and high school back to text
  4. University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program, which i participated in from eighth to tenth grade. it was a good program that taught me a lot, but it was a hefty time commitment, and after completing the calc i portion, i decided i wanted to spend those hours somewhere else back to text
  5. a few years ago when they were building a new science building, they held this ceremony to celebrate its construction and afterwards the cafeteria prepared froyo with our school colors and blue and gold m&ms with our school logo on it. it became a meme immediately. back to text
  6. one of my friends that i made at bio camp in 2018 back to text