I would like to tell you that everything will be easy, that everything will fall into place and the next ten years will be a breeze – no worries, no challenges, no surprises. It would be nice if life could follow such simple processes; step one, step two, step three … For some people, it does. Finish high school, graduate University, get a job, get a promotion, find a partner, marry, get a mortgage, get a promotion, have children, get a second mortgage, watch those children grow up and find their way in the world, continue on your career path, splurge on a new car at least once, eventually retire.
But I remember you. And I remember what you think of the world, and you already know that this linear life of steps and stages, this middle-class process, is not for you. Not for us.
I would like to tell you that you celebrate this fact, but there are days when you will wish you had gone with the easier option, the career and the marriage and the mortgage.
But then there are days when you are in foreign countries that do not feel strange but feel like home.
I know you. I know you’re terrified of getting it all wrong but you present a facade of knowing what you’re doing to protect yourself. I know you have days when you smile and laugh but secretly hate yourself so much you wish you could simply disappear. I can’t wave a wand and make things easier for you, and I can’t tell you that they will get any easier, but I can tell you that everything you want right now, you have. And everything you hope for your future, you get.
There are days when you will envy the lives your friends have made for themselves – envy their wedding gowns, envy their laughing children, envy their lived-in homes with photographs on the walls and cats curled up on the backs of sofas, envy their supportive husbands.
There are days when you are told that your friends envy your life – envy your freedom, envy your lack of financial commitments, envy the lack of any commitment to anything other than your need to do something different.
There are days when you will regret every decision you have ever made.
There are days when you will recognise that everything you have ever done has brought you to this place – to the steps of the Taj Mahal, to the produce market in Chiang Mai, to the corner cafe in Lyon, to the gelato stand in Syracuse, to the ruins of a great city in Peru … And you have no regrets.
You get to do everything you wanted to do, some things you never thought you’d ever do, and a few things that seemed like a good idea at the time … You learn new languages and experience new cultures. You meet fascinating people and collect their stories. You fall in love. You fall out of love. Your heart will break into so many pieces that it will take years to pull it back together again – but you do.
The next ten years will not be easy. You will love, learn, travel, write, experience … and you will mourn, hurt, worry, fear, whimper.
You will never be homeless, though you’ll spend a few nights in interesting places. You will never be poor, though you’ll have some moments when you panic over your bank balance. You will never truly suffer, though you’ll feel the weight of the black dog in your lap pinning you down on more than one occasion.
What you will realise ten years from now is that happiness is not a permanent state of being. Happiness is in a constant state of flux. Happiness flows in and out of your life because it is not permanent. What I can promise you is that you will come to understand this, and you will come to recognise moments of joy and delight and happiness – some last seconds, some last days, some last weeks. And you will know that, ten years ago when you were seventeen and eager to hold the world in your hands, you could not have dreamed it would actually come true.
You are passionate, wild, and wonderful. Stay that way – for us.
– Future Stef