The five-year-letter is an exercise we've been doing in the Self Knowledge Symposium for many years. Imagine who you may be in five years. Now write a letter to that person. What ambitions to you hope you will still hold dear, and what compromises are you afraid that you might make?
Students are writing theirs this week, so I suppose I should write my own.
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You are now, lessee, almost 43 years old. The boys will be eleven and eight. (Funny, how your kids become your primary means of tracking the passageÂ of years. . . ) And who knows, there may be more . . . but regardless, you and Janet will probably be out of the business of diapers and babies. I hope you did not miss their growing up. Everyone marvels at how quickly their kids are grown and gone, and I imagine you will be no exception. Just grab enough of those moments, unclouded by distraction, when you see them for who they are.
I'm really hoping you're well underway in your writing career by this point. For years I dreamed of being a writer, but didn't act on it because I couldn't see a path, a realistic way forward to that dream. I kept waiting for the right opportunity, the right situation, the right constellation of risk and reward to emerge. But really, I knew better. As Emerson said: "Fools! Paths are made by walking." I started blogging, with no expectation, no direction, just a blind groping towards living the life that I really wanted. And I kept writing, for the better part of two years, practicing the craft. Eventually I knew that my hope was more than a vain hope; I knew I could write every day, and make it the focus of my energy. But stillÂ I hesitated. Only when I saw the student groups stumble did I realize that I was wasting my life. How could I keep going through my work-a-day middle-class existence, when the things that matter most to me were wasting away?
And so I began to make writing a profession. By now you should have the results of the experiement. Either you've found a niche, and know you're in the right business, or you've given it up for a bad job and gone back to the salt mines. Either way, I hope you feel good about trying. If you succeed, I hope it was for the right reasons, and that you're writing what's most important to you and not just what sells. If you fail, I hope you didn't give up too soon, succumbing to the need for ego-gratification and social status at the expense of a better calling. Most of all, I hope that your ambitions to be a writer don't eclipse the desire that spawned it -- the desire for real spiritual wisdom. "What profiteth a man, if he gain his life, and lose his soul?"
I've recently found how important it is to have a rhythm to your life -- not a fixed routine, necessarily, but a conscious pace and procedure which will allow you to be completely present with whatever you need to be doing right now. You've spent the first half of your life being perpetually distracted. I hope that spirit of franticness has become a dim memory by now, a person you barely recognize.
I hope and pray that you will have found more than just new words for the things you already know. I hope that genuine wisdom born of spiritual experience has found you, in its due time. May happy accidents be yours.