Please Note: The following is the letter I’ll be reading again when I’m 50. Writing this letter was a helpful exercise to reflect on how I’ve grown over the last decade. I highly recommend you do something similar; you could even write a letter to yourself for when the COVID-19 virus is done. I also highly recommend doing the two exercises I share at the end.
Dear future me;
If you’re reading this, you’re turning 50… that sucks. I’m turning 40 today and I’m thinking this is terrible, but I’m sure you’d happily trade places. Maybe the technology will be there and you’ll visit me soon in your time machine or talk to me through an old radio like in the movie Frequency, but I’m guessing there’s a very slim chance of that happening since, you know, they’re not real. There’s a better chance of you visiting me as a ghost, which means something worse happened than turning 50… Do you still have random tangents like 40-year-old me does?
As you’ll remember (hopefully… or you’ll have gone senile earlier than expected), we’re not getting a 40th birthday party because we’re in isolation with the threat of COVID-19. In the last month the world has been bounced around like it’s a shoe in a washing machine. You’ll know the results, but right now we only have a guess as to how long this will be, how many lives will be lost, and how bad the global economy will be after this settles. Fortunately, you’ve been very blessed and you have hope that you’ll be fine. You do video therapy sessions (no holograms yet) and Alyshia is booked for her C-section April 30 for your second daughter whose name is still not even close to being chosen. Hopefully when you read this that’ll be different (there’s a good chance). What hopefully won’t be different is Gracie (two years old) is the light of your world. She’s saying no and can fake cry, but her innocence is a joy to behold. The way she grabs her toy mic and stands on something like the fireplace mantel and sings for people is wonderful (and very off key), and her laugh is the most beautiful sound in the world. Her biggest laughs come when she hears you or Mommy laugh, especially when we’re in the car listening to a stand up comedian.
The past decade has been… well, insane. It started with you looking for a job after being recently let go because the church you worked for couldn’t afford you and dating Alyshia for four years with both of you having high doubts this would work out and then at 35 you were married (the doubts disappeared… kind of; Alyshia still complains you don’t like disgusting food like casseroles). This decade started with being at a special church service that you brought your youth group to (the church that is now your home), and when the pastor said “This is for those in their 20s,” the young person beside you whispered, “That’s not you anymore,” which was brilliant and terrible all at once. Even though you were 30, you were about to go into a whirlwind five years of getting two more Masters degrees, publishing a book, getting ordained, going to Europe and Vegas, doing three incredible mission trips, and then proposing in Disney with some serious betrayals thrown in and losing your second youth pastor job because the church couldn’t afford you anymore (the next church you joined as a member was shut down… so you may be cursed). Those five years were exciting and terrible in the ways someone typically experiences in their early 20s, which basically meant you were ten years behind growing up. Fortunately, despite making poverty level income and experiencing some serious hurts, which made you resent this time for awhile, you’ve been able to relook at it now as such a huge blessing from God as it was great preparation for you to become a solid psychotherapist.
The second half of the decade was just as crazy, but completely different as you were married, moved out from your childhood home for the first time, took whatever job you could to help fill in the gaps while completely renovating your house and developing your therapy practice, which was booming before the virus hit. Before your 40th birthday you had your house paid off and were trying to decide what to do next house wise (or Alyshia was trying to figure out what to do next because you wanted to stay debt free). You had performed a lot of wonderful weddings including one for Jim Carrey’s nephew and Doug Gilmour (they married women, not each other), which were lifetime highlights for you. You also were mostly done putting together your fifth book, which meant you were close to being ready to publish four books, but you were trying to figure out how to best do that. In this decade you met up with your favourite actor, Zachary Levi, four times because God presented some unique opportunities including having coffee with him at Starbucks in New York City because you had the courage to ask and he was nice enough to say yes. You had hoped to convince him to do a book with you; he clearly wasn’t interested, but it was pretty incredible how you even got to meet him. These experiences reminded you to keep persevering and try new things even though you can’t help but get really discouraged at times as everything you dream about like with your books fall flat.
People say I’m a positive person and I’ve worked hard to be as positive with myself as I am with others because in my 20s I was equally as negative with myself as I was positive with others. The change has been wonderful, but I’m going into this next decade with an underlying fear I have to fight from thinking about too much because I have no control over it and it can really bring me down. This fear is the high chance of people I love dying. This past decade you almost lost your sister to cancer, but she’s fortunately still here and as vibrant as ever. This coming decade, however, will at least see the passing of Alyshia’s grandparents and who knows who else? For instance, there’s a fear of something happening to the Jones because of their ages, but more than anything, I am afraid of losing Mom. She’s 74 and she will either be gone when you read this letter or very close to passing or having dementia kick in and that thought can bring me to tears. Of course, there’s a chance of anyone in the family dying, especially with this virus going around, but I have a strong fear of losing Mom because she’s always been a foundation for me and her age is in the danger zone. Fortunately, we do well to fight these fears and enjoy as much time having family meals as we can and pushing things like going to Disney last year together, which was a true gift from God.
On the more positive side, one of the notable things we’ve done is come up with our list of what we want said at our funeral. It took several years, but the list is now complete and posted on the fridge as a reminder of how I ultimately want to live. Alyshia said that my list was all things I’m already doing, which was a wonderful compliment and a sign that I’m on the right path. I guess you’ll know if I’ve stuck to this path and/or changed any of the goals.
What Chad Wants Said at His Funeral
(Without people needing to lie)
- I walked with God in an inspiring way
- I was a light to the world making where I went better
- My family knew they were a priority
- I surrounded myself with good people
- I developed and used my talents well
- I had some really cool experiences and accomplishments
- I used my time and money well
- I was a role model of being emotionally healthy
- I was wise (e.g. I bit my tongue when I should, spoke well, let people have emotions)
- I was a safe person (i.e. I was patient, kind, and self controlled)
As you should know, when we were a youth pastor, we wrote letters to selected young people every Christmas including a list of seven compliments to encourage them. For this letter I’ve decided to do the same. Alyshia helped me with this list and these are compliments we believe God would give me if He was writing this letter.
- I’ve grown my sense of self worth an incredible amount as I’m better at treating myself as well as I treat others.
- I’m very good at taking responsibility for my part in a conflict and pursue ways to improve.
- I have been very responsible with what I’ve been given, especially money.
- I have developed healthy humility where I observe without judgement and acknowledge my own mistakes and successes in a fair way.
- I’m very good at forcing myself to see the positives in all situations even though my natural tendency is to only see the bad.
- I’ve become very good at being thankful in all circumstances as God commands (although I’m aware this ability is at risk of being destroyed with something traumatic like the death of a loved one).
- I’ve developed a sense of wisdom – I’m not smart (no argument from Alyshia), but I am very good at seeing things from a more Godly perspective and breaking things down to simpler things.
Whatever has happened, I hope you continue on this path of developing your faith and strength and can be a role model of what God intends people to be like. I also hope you can regain some of your ability to dream that’s been lost over the last few years and to be in a position where you can better accomplish them (like being a bestselling author). Your future isn’t written, so live right and make it as best as possible. After all, God is cheering for you.
With much respect and hope
40 year old me
Rev. Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)