Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Letter to Self

I went to a super small private Catholic high school with sixty people in my graduating class (yes 60!). The entire high school was around 240 people with a middle school of 90. It had its advantages and its disadvantages which I'm sure will be well documented as this blog progresses. One of those advantages that I'm going to look at today was our yearly retreats and our letters to self. Because our school was so small (and tuition so high) we had the advantage of taking a retreat each year with our class.

Freshman year was at the end of the year to a retreat center to get to know everyone better and reflect on our first year. Sophomore year we did a service retreat and explored the coast of San Francisco to bond a bit. Junior year was the famed Tenderloin retreat where the junior class did a service retreat in a neighborhood in San Francisco by delivering food to apartments, sorting clothes in a thrift store, and serving food at a soup kitchen. The junior retreat also spends the night and my class was lucky enough to spend ours in a hostel at Point Bonita, a beautiful and secluded part of the coast in the Bay Area. The senior year retreat is something to be coveted. I can't write about it much here because there are many secretive traditions that make the entire retreat very emotional and special, but seniors spend the night at the beach relaxing and reflecting.

One tradition of these retreats that begins when students start going on retreats during middle school is a letter to self. Letters to self are pretty self explanatory. Each year on the retreats, there is time devoted to slowing down and thinking. Students are given an envelope containing a letter from the previous year if there was one. We all open our letters and read them. Many of these letters are emotional and lead to tears or make us nostalgic. After, we are all given a piece of paper and a pen and are instructed to find a space to write. This was always a special time for everyone and something I always looked forward to. I recently was mailed the letter to self that I wrote my senior year of high school. I had completely forgotten about it, especially since I wasn't looking forward to a retreat this year. It was a pleasant surprise and it encouraged my to continue the tradition.

I completely believe that everyone would benefit from keeping a diary or writing a yearly letter to self. Diaries can be hard to keep but writing in one every now and then or writing a yearly letter to self is better than nothing at all. Some people think diaries are silly or annual reflections are just a waste of time, but you'd be amazed at what you forget in a year. You'd be astonished by all the changes that have occurred and surprised by how much stays the same. One of my favorite parts of the school year was opening this letter to self and I am committing myself to continuing this tradition on. These letters are personal, just for you, so I won't be posting my letter to self here, but you bet I'll be reminding you about it a year from now.

Until then, get writing!

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