In August of 2020, I received a letter from my high school self. As an assignment for the first creative writing class I ever took in my senior year, our teacher had us write a letter addressed to the post-college version of ourselves, with whom she promised to one day reunite us. She’d made good on her promise.

The years dividing my two selves didn’t go how I had imagined, to say the least. I graduated from Vanderbilt University wearing my cap and gown alone in my kitchen. I drank champagne and cried. The pandemic had wrecked my senior year and robbed me of the closure the final months of college were supposed to offer. I decided to take a year off between college and graduate school. I needed some time to recenter, to grieve and process and figure out what I was supposed to do with my life.

Enter: letter from my high school self. Three months into the year I had allotted, I was faced with a reckoning between the future I had imagined and the one I was living. No, I had not graduated with a degree in zoology, nor was I making my way to Africa to write about large cats for National Geographic. Instead, I had failed out of organic chemistry my sophomore year. No, I wasn’t moving into an apartment in some big city with my best friends as we began our new, adult lives. I had moved back in with my mom; my friends were scattered across the country. And no, of course, I had not even begun writing, let alone completed or published, my first novel. In those months following graduation I couldn’t even get myself to write a story. I am an extrovert through and through, and suddenly writing had become lonely. I felt disconnected from my craft. I kept starting pieces but not finishing them.

It is the closing paragraph of the letter that stands most vividly in my memory now. I had ended with a reminder that first and foremost; I am a writer. Go where the writing goes. That is where you are meant to be. And wherever you are, I hope you are happy.

What to make of myself, both past and present, in light of this?

To the version of me that took the letter to heart, that let it motivate me to rise out of my sadness and anger and push myself to start fighting for what I loved, I am so proud. It was a long year of applications and decisions to get here, but I have made a place for myself in a program that feels like home after only a few short months. I am full of writing again—not just stories and essays, but ideas for books too. I feel myself growing and changing in ways that make me excited for the future.

And to my high school self, that eager optimist, I am so thankful. I took the advice. I followed the writing, let it lead me to the mountains of Colorado and a community of writers that has welcomed me with open arms. I am happy—happier than I thought I could ever be. My days are bright, and my heart is full. And on the horizon are good things, as far as the eyes can see.

Lo Furman is a first-year fiction candidate in Creative Writing at Colorado State University.