The Poetry Shed

A Virtual Classroom
One Year Later

Dear Bethany

Dear the me of last year, Hello! I assume you have a lot of questions. Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you want to avoid thinking about the nebulous future, to pretend that it exists somewhere you can’t reach. I understand that, I do. I don’t want to lie to you, but at the same time, I know you, although perhaps you may not know me just yet, so I won’t come out and say that there’s nothing you should worry about. You probably know, deep in the same place where you’re hiding your fears about your future, that this pandemic is something more serious than you would like to admit out loud. (That’s the ghost of last fall’s antagonist stirring. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that later.) You may still be surviving on the ichor of blissful ignorance that you had fueled yourself on while you were in Oxford, so I suppose the kind thing to do is to wait for those stores to drain before easing you into the next year. However, since I can’t remember when those feelings finally run dry, I will be honest instead.

You don’t know it yet, but your health anxiety is going to show its face again. It will not poison the coming season for you, not like it did before, but I am still sorry I must tell you this. Sometimes, it will appear in short bursts, like the way your cat suddenly decides to use the living room as an obstacle course. Sometimes, it will linger like a scar, and the urge to pick at it will have you spending more time awake at four in the morning than you ever thought you would after you gave up taking fine arts classes in high school. There will be nights when it feels like those thoughts are inescapable, and that’s alright. Just remember to give yourself time to decompress. That is easier said than done, I know, but like all things, it becomes a habit after a while. There is more that will happen that I could tell you, that I could prepare you for, but all I will say is that I am proud that you’ve handled those moments well. I hope you remember that most.

Not all coming up ahead is hard, though! You don’t know it yet, but you will have a picnic tucked under a tree in the park near your house with two of your best friends. You will face your fear of heights as you scale up and down the hiking path you’ve never traveled before. You will reconnect with people from high school that you had forgotten you once considered close friends. You will figure out your senior thesis, and no, it won’t be on one of the topics you’ve been considering, although you will enjoy it all the same. You will spend a lot of cool summer evenings chatting about nothing and everything with your best friends until even the mosquitoes are too tired to attack your skin. If it’s not obvious, you will grow comfortable with calling people your best friends in your mind, a phrase I know you’ve always refused to use out of some strange need to protect yourself. (Although you won’t admit that for some time.) There’s a lot you are going to miss in the next year, but there’s a lot you’re going to gain, too. Perhaps none of those things can fully compensate for the unsettled uncertainty brewing inside you. I know you don’t expect it to. But they will help, even if you don’t know that yet.

Good Luck,