A Dialogue with Yourself: Past, Present, and Future

When the world—inner or outer—seems upside-down, journaling is often what saves me (here’s a real example).

My girlfriend recently found a gem in “The Isolation Journals,” a project by Suleika Jaouad (@suleikajaouad) intended to be “a 30-day creativity project to help make sense of challenging times.” Each day for 30 days, you receive a journaling prompt from some of Suleika’s favorite writers, artists, and musicians.

Below is a sample from Rachel Cargle (@rachel.cargle) that I simply loved. You can sign up here, and you can find past prompts here. Full disclaimer: I don’t know Suleika at all, nor her future plans, but I think this 30-day project is a wonderful way to stay and feel connected… both with others and yourself.

Both Suleika and Rachel have given me permission to share the below.

Enter Rachel Cargle

Lately, I’ve found comfort in appreciating the various versions of myself thus far. That younger me who was brave enough to make the big move to the city. Child me who opened her heart to curiosity and found hobbies that I still indulge in today. Teenage me who was scared often and instead of pushing myself into discomfort I cared for myself with a confident “no” to things I preferred not to be a part of. That version of me just a few years ago who found little morsels of joy even in the midst of what felt like the biggest storm. 

I smile and look at her (those younger versions of me) with my mind’s eye. I hug her, I dance with her, I tell her I am proud of her, I forgive her for the things she was pitting against herself, I let her in on secrets about her future that she can only imagine.

I also have been indulging in the practice of praying to future versions of myself. The version of myself next year who will be fresh off of surviving a global pandemic. The version of myself who is 40 and will be benefiting from the choices I’m making now. The version of myself who is 50 and taking stock of how I’ve been existing in this world. The version of myself who is 70 who may be celebrating deeply in the friendships I am investing in now. 

I pray to those versions of me. I ask her to be gentle with me, I coax her for hints on what to come, I list for her all the ways I am caring for her, right now—with that expensive face cream, through weekly therapy, by taking a few risks in business. I make promises to her, I speak my desires for her. I get energized and inspired knowing that she—that sage and grounded version of me—is waiting to meet me finally. 

Take some time to reflect on all versions of yourself. This is a deeply intimate and revealing practice that can offer healing, insight, and hope. 

Your prompt for the day:

Write a letter to your younger self. Thank them, praise them, scold them, comfort them—engage in whatever way you feel led with one or many versions of your younger self. Whatever comes to mind. 

Now, let’s shift to exploring your older self. What would you want to say? To ask? To request? Tell your older self what you are doing now in service of them. Tell them what the ideal situation might look like when you finally meet—where might you be living, what type of work might you be doing, who you might be spending time and space with. 

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Quick afterword from Tim: Here’s one more related prompt that I regularly use myself: “Imagine that you’re suddenly the older version of you — 5, 10, or 15 years in the future. If you sat down over wine or coffee with the current, younger you, what advice or observations might you offer?”