Emerging Scholars || Letters to My Future Self

Active Minds
Active Minds



Ryan’s research project “Aggies Talk” examines the impact of stigma and attitudes on peer-to-peer helping behaviors among first-generation students.

Dear Future Ryan,
Your strength is your compassion for others.
Your weakness is your self-criticism.
You were born worthy. (You were the only person who was ever unconvinced of this fact.) A flashlight’s beam cannot make a star shine brighter.
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.
Always yours, 20 June 2019
North Omaha, Omaha, Nebraska, USA



Rebecca developed a book called “Begin with Pieces” on creative coping mechanisms based on research and creative writing sessions for first-generation students and student-athletes.

Dear Rebecca (of the future, let’s say June 2020),

I hope that you are taking decent care of yourself. I have rewritten this letter a handful of times trying not to come off as “too overbearing.” I just want so much for us. It feels natural to quickly jump into a list of things that I hope that you have completed by now, but that isn’t healthy.

It is June 16, 2019. If you are able to recall – life has not gone as you planned for it to. You have no next plans for what your “job title” will be. You just heard back from job interviews – no luck. It is a hard feeling. You so sharply conditioned yourself to plunge into the big “next” thing that this calmness you are experiencing right now feels like punishment. But do not be mistaken, being stuck in this place is an important fragment. I am working on sitting in stillness and to stop controlling whirling thoughts and aching pain, I hope that we have mastered it by then.

I have already witnessed in my life how so many wildly impressive and successful people entirely breezed over their struggle. As I sat in these large atriums for conferences I read the bio on the back of the pamphlets for the presenters and it was 50 words. That was it. I sat in numerous funerals as I read over obituaries each detailing where they went to high school, college, who they married, and when they died. I can’t help but ask myself, what is it that you want to accomplish in this hard, fleeting life?

I want to write a book. I can see it. I see myself with a suit on proposing the idea in a top floor office with lots of windows and lots of men staring back at me. I see myself going on tour and signing the books of fans who are fond of the characters that I worked to develop. I can see each fragment of it so clearly that it hurts too much to think about, because the only part I cannot imagine is where to begin.

I was so devastated not to have made it into an MFA program that I can’t etch myself to write. So that is what I hope that you do. I hope that you write, feverishly. I hope that you hold no recollection of the pitfalls or gauntlets and walk forward. Give yourself a break.

The last 6 weeks I thought that I was a lost cause. I didn’t know what I wanted, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, or who I wanted to be with. I thought that my resolution would come in finding the answers to these questions. The more I lose and the more I love the clearer it seems that the final response is still being constructed.

I don’t know myself entirely, but I attempt to seek myself and picture what she wants in everything that I do– that has changed my life. I don’t challenge myself to prove my worth anymore. A measuring contest isn’t going to predict the future. The control is nonexistent, and the happiness is within each of our reach to create abundantly. Lay those dizzying worries to rest, they are tired. Fill your cup up. Take in this life and all of its miseries and retreat into love.

Love and Luck,




Gary’s “A Letter to Future Me” is a digital portal where first-generation students majoring in social work can engage in expressive writing to explore their personal stories based on therapeutic techniques.

Dear Future Gary,

First, congrats on the big achievement – getting your PhD! It must’ve felt good when your hard work has finally paid off. Take time to celebrate. But remember this is only the beginning. Here is some advice I thought you might need: 1) Stay on course, don’t forget what brought you here – remember the reason why you’re pursing what you are pursing. Sometimes things like money and fame, the comfort of a big research grant, may steer you toward something else. You may try to talk yourself into doing it. In the end, you’ll be living with regret looming in the background. Build a legacy that matters to you, not just any legacy. 2) Don’t be lazy – your work is not finished and you need to keep trying. Continue to advocate for people around you. Don’t get weary or distracted by success. You’ve already failed if your success comes before the work or the people. 3) Don’t neglect those who are important to you – a solid foundation at home energizes you when you’re at work. Just remember even if you love your work, the work doesn’t love you back; you’re only loving yourself. Your family loves you and will be glad to know they are your priority. That’s pretty much it. I am sure you will gain more perspectives along the way. Always be grateful for what you have and only chase things that are truly meaningful to you and your loved ones. Always sacrifice to become the best self you can be.

Sincerely yours,
Gary in 2019



Hannah created “Unguarded,” a documentary dance inspired by interviews with student athletes on help-seeking and accessibility barriers to mental health services.

Dear me,

What a true pleasure it was to be a part of the Emerging Scholar’s program. It seems as though each time you think there won’t be another opportunity to get to dance, you find yourself immersed back in it. This has been your passion project and has continuously brought you such joy and fulfillment. No matter where you end up, make room for dance and storytelling. Yes, everything is crazy busy and it can feel stressful and overwhelming, but choosing to add in activities and projects that fill your bucket has always sparked more energy in you. So, throughout graduate school, don’t loose your love for dance, need to be silly, drive for fitness and always put people first. Yes, you should go on that trip. Yes, sign up for that race. Yes, you do have time. You make time! Something you really hope to continue to grow in is patience with yourself and with the process. It’s a long haul in this program. Remember not to just get to the end but to milk out each learning opportunity, chance to make a connection and moment of growth. As Dad continues to remind you, look where you are and how far you’ve made it.





Mariella created a dance performance in efforts to share a personal account on how help-seeking and availability of resources has positively impacted her life.

Dear Self,

For the past 6 months, you have been working hard to shape yourself into a better person than before. You got into nursing school, you graduated from UF, you are feeling much healthier- physically and emotionally, you have connected with meaningful and like-minded friends, you have a great boyfriend, and your relationship with God has improved. So far, so good!

Twenty-two years seems like a lifetime, but if you compare it to your eighty-year-old grandmother, twenty-two years is nothing. You still have a long way to go: lessons to learn, milestones to achieve, people to meet, and more. Consider to strive for improvement each and every day, and never become complacent. From your past experiences, you have felt the reward of hard-work, dedication, the positive effect of prayer, and slashing out the bad and maintaining the good.

As your current self, I hope that you remember these list of personal principles to keep your life healthy, happy, and balanced:

● Remember to smile :)- This has always been a noticeable trait from others, and your happiness is quite contagious, as others have often said about you.

● Do not compare yourself to others, however, compare yourself to who you were yesterday- The latter has granted you many blessings and achievements. Do not try to be anyone else, except for yourself. I like how you’ve developed so far, and you still have a lifetime to develop even further.

● Keep in touch with those who make you grow- Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who won’t hinder you from achieving your dreams and more. Learn from those people, and they’ll probably learn from you.

● Stay curious- Curiosity keeps your interest moving. There’s always something to learn, even if you think you’ve mastered the subject.

● Be firmly kind and kindly firm- Don’t let people see you as a pushover, but at the same time, treat everyone as you would like to be treated.

● You can’t change what God has illustrated for you- God has written your life story, and it’s beautiful so far. Keep your trust in Him, and you will be continued to be blessed. All things happen for a reason.

● Never forget about your family- Immediate, extended, family friends, UF, IMDP…Every person has taught you a valuable lesson or two. Never forget those that have helped you along the way and be grateful for those that have truly touched your life.

These principles have brought you many accomplishments. Keep them, and you shall succeed in anything that you do. I hope you read this in the future and still find these values significant in your life. I’m sure you’ll become more wise and mature as you grow, but never forget your foundation.

Love, 2019 Mariella