"Thus began my self-care love affair with EmailFuture me"Amy Krai for Varsity

In the run up to June 21st, it seems as though the end of the unprecedented times is but a deep breath away. Yet the following four long months (along with the previous twelve) is still an inordinate amount of time. In a year characterised by loneliness, self-reflection, and sentimentality, reconnecting with familiar pastimes: banana bread, knitting and long walks became our raison d’être.

“My coping mechanism for turbulent times came into fruition at the age of thirteen”

My coping mechanism for turbulent times came into fruition at the age of thirteen. While scrolling through a fittingly empty Gmail inbox, populated largely with old club penguin subscriptions and infrequent smiley-face adorned emails from friends, I came across a fool proof way of ensuring regular inbox pings. I giddily put ‘email myself’ into google. Thus began my self-care love affair with Email FutureMe.

Here’s how it works: you compose an email to yourself, choose a date and time in the future and the email address you want to send it to. At the appointed future date, providing the email server still exists to do its job, you will receive a message from yourself written in the past. There are levels to membership that allow you to see what you’ve written, but in its simplest format you have no access to the words once sent off.

"‘Whenever I get gloomy with the world, I check my inbox"https://www.futureme.org

Obviously, these contain whatever you like, and inspiration can be found via the ‘public but anonymous’ page, where other letters are published. Topics range from speculations about the future: ‘will books still be in print?’ ‘Have I been proposed to yet?’ ‘What did I get in my A level results?’. Some are heart-warming, sinister, tear-jerking and funny. If this strikes you as infantile and sad, read the published letters page for the sheer literature and intense speculation over the stories and outcomes of the emails being received.

The site was created in 2002, so there are people this year hearing from themselves almost two decades ago, in arguably the most change ridden period in history. The current upper limit is 2071. It presents a duality between micro and macro temporality of correspondence. During my first term of university, I regularly checked in with myself almost week to week, making sure that I had a motivational message on essay days and wondering if the friends made in freshers were still present.

In a period where there is an inevitability of loneliness, distance from home-friends and family and an unavoidable lack of check-ins, building up this self-reliance was paramount to getting through the winter months. The mood of hope conveyed from August to how my first term would end read like Hugh Grant’s opening speech in Love Actually: “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport.” Whenever I get gloomy with the world, I check my inbox.

"Thus began my self-care love affair with Email FutureMe"https://www.futureme.org

During first lockdown these messages came in handy again: I would email to the next review, each time Boris updated us on the next three-week extension. I’d ask myself what I’d done, how I’d been doing; offering messages of support became a source of small triumphs and grounding. It was also an intense reminder that pre-pandemic, the style of these emails had been getting increasingly harsh. Sometimes a public letter will say something like ‘you better have X amount of money by now’ or ’did you get that promotion?’, and you cringe internally as you think of the poor soul reading their emails; they sit at the desk of the same job, with the same amount of money in the bank and no longer with the partner that their past-self had been dying to know if they were still infatuated with.

“Offering messages of support became a source of small triumphs and grounding”

There’s been a recent TikTok trend where users have speculated about what they would feel like if their younger self woke up in their body now, peachy background music plays as they tell themselves ‘yes we do now have a boyfriend, this is the house you own, yes you made it to university’. Things that may seem trivial to everyday life, particularly in the last year, when change has been so sparse, can be so easily overlooked, and the desire for public appreciation of goals and achievements is not always fulfilled to the imagined extent. It therefore seems a much more productive lifestyle choice to consider the freedoms and achievements that have led up to this point from a self-congratulatory point of view.


Mountain View

The importance of taking breaks

A technique often used in cognitive behavioural therapy turns the negativity of self-monologues into an imagined conversation with your ‘inner child’: would you berate them the way you berate yourself? This is quite literally played out here. Physically typing harsh self-beratements and labels of belittlement is much harder to do than sounding those sentiments out in your head.

Particularly in times of isolation it’s incredibly easy to get caught up and harder to edit and monitor these self-flagellating thoughts. A big part of having these growth mindsets is the ability to rephrase negative self-talk to your child-self and adapt it to something forgiving and encouraging.

"Particularly in times of isolation it’s incredibly easy to get caught up"https://www.futureme.org

Email FutureMe isn’t the only site to offer this service. Others include The Self Club and Emailfuture.com and it seems to be gaining momentum: published letters often mention the pandemic, well-wishing for the future and signalling a self-dialogue that engenders a reflective and resilient shift from past into future.

A blast from the past just got a whole new meaning.