A Letter to my Past Self

Dear Mir,

Just want to say to you, my younger self, that contrary to all your beliefs, you are totally fine. I know you hate yourself and are convinced you will never get out of New Jersey. Let me just say you will see the northern lights over Greenland, San Francisco from the back of a motorcycle, and millions of acres of salt flats beneath the moon. 

I know you feel stifled. You want to know about death, and you can relax—you’ll find out a lot about it, maybe more than you bargained for. Do not worry, you will not spend the rest of your life lying on the mildewed couch on your mother’s front porch reading D.H. Lawrence.

You will find more fascinating things to read. You will know monks and poets and junkies. You will have a child, a foster daughter, seven nieces and nephews, and two husbands. You will be in the audience for a play at the state penitentiary, performed by inmates. There will be drink, drugs, waking dreams, hallucinations, koans, and long dull afternoons. 

Terrible things will happen to you—violence, bereavement, fear for others—and you will not enjoy these things but you will not be bored. Women’s clothes are also going to get much better—lots of flow-y ethnic items and big dangling earrings that can be worn to work. You won’t have to wear heels. Women will stop wearing girdles. There are going to be streaming movies and email and blogs instead of mimeo machines. Men will love you—not all men everywhere but just enough for a lifetime of entertainment.

Oh please cheer up, sad and dumb younger self. Do not fall off a roof or overdose or die of swine flu. A lot of things are going to happen to you and you will be comfortably dressed and not in New Jersey.


The Older You


Miriam Sagan is the author of 30 published books, including the novel Black Rainbow (Sherman Asher, 2015) and Geographic: A Memoir of Time and Space (Casa de Snapdragon). which just won the 2016 Arizona/New Mexico Book Award in Poetry. She founded and headed the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College until her retirement this year. Her blog Miriam’s Well has a thousand daily readers. She has been a writer in residence in two national parks, at Yaddo, MacDowell, Colorado Art Ranch, Andrew’s Experimental Forest, Center for Land Use Interpretation, Iceland’s Gullkistan Residency for creative people, and another dozen or so remote and unique places. Her awards include the Santa Fe Mayor’s award for Excellence in the Arts, the Poetry Gratitude Award from New Mexico Literary Arts, and A Lannan Foundation residency in Marfa.