To Be Opened on 09/18/2023: A Letter to My Future Self

Danielle Dahl, MSML

A story about life, love, loss, and the zero year curse.

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Previously published in Women Writing Memoir

Dear Future Me:

Well, it is September 18, 2023. You are now officially 40-years, one month, and 16 days old. This means you have walked this earth one day longer than your mother had the chance to.

I have tried to explain to people how it feels like to reach the age a parent was at the time of their death. My words fail me, just like they are now.

Maybe, by the time I reach 40, you will have written a fantastic piece about that. For now, here is a letter of the things I think you need to know (or more like an affirmation/reminder?). The time travel aspect of this is a little outside my wheelhouse!

I know you have thought about this moment a lot, but please stop stressing about that 0-year curse. As I type this, I can remember listening to mom explain how every birthday with a zero in it had ended terribly. How anxious she was to turn 40.

I thought her fears were unjustified. At 18, I still had that teenage sense of invulnerability. She was crazy, I laughingly taunted…and then one month, and 15 days later, she was dead.

The trauma inflicted by a drug-addicted and absent mother and the shock of her sudden death by a car accident collided. Her death was the embodiment of broken promises, and I wasn’t sure I would survive it.

I thought about that “curse” when I turned 20. It was one of the best years…and one of the worst. Then, when dad turned 50 and died EXACTLY one month later, I couldn’t help but wonder…However, 30 came and went, and I remained relatively unscathed.

My emotions about turning 40 are much more complicated. Midlife crisis aside, I can feel the irrational sense of doom looming. I no longer feel invulnerable; instead, I feel old and creaky. My undetermined autoimmune disease doesn’t help. (Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, you can insert a name for what ails us).

What if mom was right, and the zero years really are cursed? What if, like her, 40 is as far as we get. My brain can’t help but go there, so I want you (me?) to know a few things, just in case.

You are the daughter of a rebel and a dreamer, and a brilliantly flawed man.

Embrace The Thought That Trauma Has Impacted Every Decision You Have Made

Yes, your therapist is right. I am just starting to wrap my head around this. Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, we have a good grasp of the concept. I hope you are at a place of peace (years of therapy between now and then should help).

I also expect that we keep writing about it and that our words impact others who are struggling. There are so many people that live with the scars of childhood trauma, more than I ever thought possible. Maybe, just maybe, your voice has been a little glimmer of hope.

Publish That Book

We have talked about writing this book for nearly THREE DECADES. Please tell me that we did it. I imagine that by the time you are reading this, you have published several books, articles, and stories.

You might even be on your way to deliver a motivational speech or promote a new book at this exact moment. If you haven’t written the tell-all about your childhood in one cohesive place, stop what you are doing, and get it done.

Don’t let the sunset on this “zero” year without doing the work. By now, you should know that this writing thing is far more work than I ever dreamed of as a teenager.

It seemed effortless and fun in high school. It is not. It is an entrepreneurial gig that requires you to use marketing skills, manage social media posts, learn to write better, and manage your time.

Put this Master’s degree to good use, please, because I am tired of taking these classes. I have two left, and I hope you think it was worth it.

Take The Risks

Girl, now is not the time for fear. If you are still working for someone else, it is time to stop. You will not get to be a bestselling author by cramming writing into the weekend; or the few hours between work and life.

Don’t let the uncertainty of failure, or the lie of security and stability, hold you back. You are the daughter of a rebel and a dreamer, and a brilliantly flawed man.

Despite their parenting failures, that blood runs through your veins. They were made up of all things wild and impulsive, propelled into the world by unharnessed trauma. You have been afraid to tap into all of that abandon before because it may consume you. LET IT. Let it be the driving force.

Look at all the things we have achieved. Think how much more you can do if you stop trying to keep the “crazy on a leash.” Free up those hands and write!

Relax and Enjoy the Wonders of Your Life

September 18, 2023, you will be just a few months shy of your 21st wedding anniversary. (There is no traditional gift for year 21, so the modern recommendation is brass or nickel. Now you don’t have to google it. You’re welcome!)

Revel in how rare it is for two people to find real love in this world and hold onto it. Let alone two people with difficult childhoods.

Paige is going to be 20 in a matter of days…are you doing alright with that? I hope so because her growing doesn’t mean she will leave you. I’m tearing up as I type this because I am still learning that. I hope you aren’t sad and that she is as beautiful and unique as I envision her.

Jackson is going to be 15. I don’t think I envy you raising a teenage boy! I’ll go hug and cuddle our little dude as soon as he gets home from school because he is approaching the “hug me less age” already.

Mostly, I hope that the years between this instant and the second you read this were kind to you. I wish you were kind to others. Remember that dreams can only die at the hand of the dreamer, and I’m counting on you to keep them alive!

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Words matter. Sharing the pain and evolution found in our life stories compels others to investigate, “How they came to be who they are?” Delving into the events that shaped us as children creates a level of self-awareness each of us can use to establish enduring and essential change. I use my personal history, education as a Management professional, and training as a Life Coach to write insightful articles about leadership and teams, personal development, and everything else that pertains to growth, both professionally and personally.


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